From the Newsstands: This story appeared in The Eagle's December 2023 print edition. You can find the digital version here.
Editor’s Note: This story contains references to disordered eating.
For as long as I can remember, I have had a complicated relationship with the mirror. As an insecure teenage girl, I would often scowl at my appearance. At 16, I was prescribed mental health medication, and as a side effect, I saw my weight increase. There was a parallel between my lowest weight and my highest: despite the number on the scale, I still found myself scowling into the mirror, wondering what it would take for me to feel beautiful.
I am somewhere in the middle now — somewhere between my highest weight and my lowest one — and I have witnessed the effect of the world on plus-size girls first-hand. At clothing stores, we cannot find pants that fit both our thighs and hips. In dressing rooms, we find ourselves sweating and panting, hoping that a dress in the wrong size will fit simply because the store does not have a bigger one. Now, there’s a new social media trend meant to demonize curvy women: the glow up.
On TikTok, under the search section, the weight loss hashtag has a preambulatory warning: “You are more than your weight. If you or someone you know has questions about body image, food, or exercise, it is important to know help is out there.”
It’s an admirable attempt by TikTok, but it doesn’t absolve the platform of the harm caused by body morphing filters and unhealthy body standards it perpetuates. Under the hashtag are audios like, “Would you date her? No she’s fat.” Still, the problem isn’t just TikTok, but our Internet-driven society as a whole.
Who among us hasn’t scrolled online and seen celebrities, micro and macro, advocating fad diets? Who among us hasn’t seen comments praising people for their “weight loss glow up,” despite not knowing if it was done in a healthy way?
We live in a society that demonizes our bodies with the expectation that they are monolithic, or the expectation that all bodies are meant to look identical. We are meant to grow and expand, not remain the same. When I was 16, I could not help but hate my body because I did not look like the other girls. Now, at 20, I lament the fact that I did not find joy in that body. We are not meant to have the body of a 16-year-old forever. We are not meant to look one way forever. There is an expectation in society that to be beautiful is to be skinny, but if you are fat, the only way to look beautiful is to have stereotypical curves. Where is the love for the big bellies, the chunky arms, the round faces? Why is one part of me demonized while another part of me is praised?
Fat girls, curvy girls, mid-size girls and the like, I write this article for you. If being skinny is the only way to glow up, how can we ‘glow up?’
- 1. Prioritize your mental state and remember that one definition of healthy is different from someone else’s. We are not monolithic.
- 2. We are meant to wear clothing. Clothing is not meant to wear us.
- 3. Live a life worth remembering — not a life spent hiding.
I think as fat girls, we often think we need to shrink ourselves. We think we need to be an “acceptable” level of fat — think of the Kim Kardashians of the plus-sized world with large breasts, perfect hips and tummies perfectly tucked away.
Fat girls, own your shit. Own your tummies. Own your thick thighs. Own your beauty.
I used to hate that I have a round face rather than a “gua sha-made” narrow face, but this body — the one I have now — is the one that has nourished me, has loved me and has kept me safe through it all. If we do not love our bodies for what they are, then who will?
Society’s expectations of a glow up are painful. Whether emphasizing surgeries, medications or the newest fad designed to make you look like someone else, society has damned us. But I have never been one to believe that someone else is the teller of my tale. Girls, write your own damn story — because the one we’re in right now is not a fairy tale. Fat girls deserve prince charmings and happy endings — not to be evil step-sisters. The only way we can do that is to reclaim our own glow up.
If you or a loved one is suffering from an eating disorder, please reach out for help. American University’s Wellness Center has many resources. There are also several resources outside of AU at this link. You are not alone.
Sophia Joseph is a sophomore in the School of Public Affairs and a columnist for The Eagle.
This article was edited by Jelinda Montes, Alexis Bernstein and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis and Luna Jinks.