Can We Not Glorify Being Skinny Again?

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— Content Warning: This article contains discussion of disordered eating and mental health. — 

Call it indie sleaze, heroin chic, or the 2012 Tumblr aesthetic — whatever it is, it seems to be making a comeback.

Kate Moss, Harper’s Bazaar | Effy Stonem from ‘Skins’, All3Media

Teens that came of age through these aesthetics are now in their mid 20s. And some psychologists think that young people at this age are more likely to feel nostalgia towards this time and aesthetics — because as we move more into adulthood, we might yearn for the days behind us. 

While this has meant the return of nostalgic trends like butterfly clips and low rise jeans, it’s also heralding the return of unrealistic body standards that reigned in the 2000s and 2010s.

How The Return Of 2000s Fashion Comes With Baggage

We can’t deny the influence that the Kardashians have had on beauty trends over the last two decades, from Kylie Jenner’s lip kits promoting a surge in lip fillers to the uptick of BBLs striving for the Kardashian-esque body shape. 

Now with Kim Kardashian’s recent radical body transformation, experts are concerned with the impacts this will have on some young women’s mental health. 

So What Can We Do To Protect Our Mental Health?

“We’ve definitely seen a rise in these voices that can counter all of the negativity that might go on in social media as well, which is great,” said Dr Toni Pikoos, a clinical psychologist who specialises in body image and mental health.

“With BDD, or body dysmorphic disorder, that’s where someone becomes obsessed or preoccupied with an aspect of themselves that they see as problematic when other people can’t necessarily see it.”

Dr Pikoos explained that 91% of people with BDD who chose to undergo cosmetic treatment don’t actually experience any change in their symptoms after receiving cosmetic treatment. And some even end up feeling worse.

“In up to 20% of cases, it actually makes them feel worse. So it’s really not a treatment that actually works for body dysmorphic disorder at all.”

Why We’re Anxious About Skinny Being In Again

For those of us who grew up in the thick of diet culture and with the overwhelming pressure to be skinny more than anything else, this trend can understandably cause a lot of anxiety. Dr Pikoos pointed out that any body standard, skinny or otherwise, can be dangerous simply for being a ‘trend’ in the first place.

“I think all beauty standards that rely on a certain type of body can be dangerous regardless of what they are. So even you know the curvy with the big hips and the big bums, even that is dangerous because it meant that a lot of people were striving to get tiny, tiny waists and then getting surgeries to give themselves big hips and big bums.

We always see that beauty ideals kind of popularise these bodies that are not possible for the vast majority of people, whatever that body type is.”

The end goal, she said, is to find something that feels authentic to ourselves rather than fitting in to societal expectations. Of course, this is easier said than done.

One tactic she suggested was to stay critical of whatever body ideal is trending at the moment — and keep in mind that these body ideals can change in a matter of years.

“Even just thinking about the last 20 years or so and how many times that body ideal has changed… by striving for these ideals, you might be happy for a year or two while that’s popular and in vogue. And then you’re going to need to change yourself again.”

If you need help or support for an eating disorder or body image issue, please call Butterfly’s National Helpline on 1800 334 673 or e-mail [email protected]