by Binna Kim, ’13
This piece originally appeared on Binna’s personal Tumblr.
I’m aiming for 500 calories today. I had a glass of water for breakfast, and a glass of tea for lunch. I’m going to run for 30 minutes to lose that water weight. I’m 5’3” and I my net weight gain has been -3lbs (yes, negative 3) since freshman year of high school. I’m a senior in college now.
If you search “#thinspiration” “#thinspo” “#ana” etc. on Tumblr, you’ll find thousands of posts that resemble my little quote up there. My heart goes out to everyone who is striving to achieve that ideal body because I, too, have struggled and fought that battle against my body. I’m still struggling, and I’m still fighting, but in a different way today than I was before.
This Beast has many names: Imperfection, Shame, Guilt, Fat, Ugly, NotGoodEnough, NeverGoodEnough, Unlovable. Failure.
- The gap between your thighs
- The collarbones
- The flat stomach
- The muscle tone
- The slender frame
- The bony shoulders
“Once you have that entire list checked off, then you can feel good about yourself. Only then can you be perfect.” This was the battle I fought every day for a year. People would talk about this “Beauty,” but it seemed that I had missed that train. I felt that I had to fight this Beast before I could enjoy Beauty. With every pound I lost, I was triumphing over this ominous presence in my life. With every bite I didn’t eat, I was letting the Beast inside die a slow, burning death.
Funny thing is, you can’t kill Beast without killing Beauty. Food became numbers; they were the only numbers I was ever good at. I could look at anything and tell you its caloric content, as well as nutrients and fats. These numbers were a fetish that quickly turned into an obsession that quickly turned into a nightmare. Every calorie consumed translated into minutes on the treadmill, the drops of sweat that needed to escape my pores. I was really good at this game, too. I lost a considerable amount of weight, given my already-small stature, and I could’ve kept going. I think I could’ve continued to live that way, had it not taken away the Beauty. I lost interest in hanging out with my friends, out of fear they would see the Beast (read: Fat) within me. Desserts were a fantasy too high in calories even for dreaming. Class to gym to class to gym to sleep was all I had left of life.
You know what the worst thing about this is? Society normalizes this kind of thinking. The lifestyle I described above is not only accepted; it’s even encouraged. When will we be able to stand in front of the mirror and not feel inadequate? When will we be able to hold someone struggling with this Beast and comfort them with love and acceptance? When will we stop this cycle of putting out the fire of life so we can achieve an unattainable ideal of a skeleton delicately covered with a layer of skin?
Fighting the Beast and coming out on top doesn’t have to end in death. In fact, it will only kill you. I’m still fighting the Beast today, as I mentioned, but from a different stance. Take care of the Beauty, and the Beast will tame on its own. Be there to foster this Beauty. Be there for someone else to foster this Beauty. Fighting the Beast is not an individual problem; it’s a societal problem. We all have a responsibility in making sure that we preserve the Beauty and cope with the Beast. I’m not saying the journey will take a 180 overnight. As with all problems, it takes time. Time heals, though, and we can do something about the Beast before it damages our society’s soul and self-worth.
Love Beauty. Cherish Beauty. Embrace Beauty.
And this Beauty has only one name: Ourselves.
Binna is in her final year at Stanford, studying Psychology. Her passion lies in how culture shapes the way we think and interpret one’s own behavior as well as others’ behaviors. She loves to drink coffee, blow bubbles, listen to music, and laugh. After graduating, she wants to be happy.