April 2002
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Graduate down a Size
By Katie Macdonald, Holy Heart High School, St. John's, NF

Sitting down at the Holy Heart cafeteria, apple cores and gym passes rest upon Slim Fast shake cans and nutrition bars. Bottles of low fat yogurt and bags of pretzels (very low in fat) are scattered across the table, not a crumb in sight. Longing for chocolate bars, nacho doritoes, and Big Macs, solemn girls at every table stay strong in their quest: for tight butts, slim waists, and flat tummies. For grad is creeping up and fears of not looking perfect in their dresses hover over....dieting has begun.

I am a senior and I've been involved in the grad excitation since September. Being as hyped up as it is people, girls mostly, would be concerned with their appearance at the gala event. Having the perfect hair, the prettiest dress, the fanciest jewelry, and most important of all, a thin appearance. Pictures of girls dressed for graduation in magazines such as "Flare", "Twist", and "Cosmopolitan" start appearing around December and the search for tips and styles continues throughout the weeks.

As you can imagine every girl in these magazines and on the Internet is 100 pounds, size 4. I'm not trying to sound gullible. I know it's not natural, I don't worry about my weight, but many girls in my school, in our province, do. Pictures of the "perfect" girl makes us feel below par, not good enough, not thin enough, when in actual fact most girls are not overweight for their size and build. Graduation seems to be an excuse to diet. All of the sudden I've noticed my friends worrying about weight. Not about their actual weight, but more about how they will look at grad. Of course if this is the boost of motivation some girls need to shed the extra dress size, or start exercising more often, then cheers to them.

I recently started exercising at the YMCA, and started to eat a lot healthier than I have in previous years. My decision to come upon this change wasn't for graduation purposes, but now that I think of it... was my subconscious mentally preparing me for that first dress fitting? Was I subject to an underground plot by SlimFast to promote their product right before grad, or was I influenced by all my friends? I've never had a weight problem. I'm active and never had to think of exercise as a chore, so why this year start eating healthy?

Maybe for a change? An easy one for me but probably very hard for others who aren't as small a build, or have confidence issues with their weight. Many people associate graduating with change, and new beginnings. I know I do. This association is often a spark to try new things : chopping off the long hair cut or coloring it, using self tanner or solariums to give your skin that radiant golden color, or the most common that I've seen - losing weight.

I spoke with my friend Jillian, who has been making healthy changes to her diet for grad and she told me something I think most of us seniors can relate to.

"Well I guess grad night is something everyone looks forward to. It's a night where everyone wants to look special, amazing even. Everyone wants to have original dresses, matching shoes , and absolutely look good in their choices. True it's only one night, but it's definitely something you'll remember for the rest of your life!"

I know that my friends who've started this new diet trend are safe about it. But what about the girls I don't know so well, or what about the ones who are good at hiding serious things like anorexia? We all know of cases where dieting has become dangerous, even fatal. Due to the "image" of sexy women a lot of young girls fall victim to diseases such as anorexia. My friends all agree that being a size 4 would be amazing, but half the time it just isn't possibly for certain body shapes and builds. When it isn't possible, that's when things can get out of hand in trying to make the impossible..possible. The images of thin girls in prom dresses in various styles could very well lead to self destruction. I've seen it first hand.

I remember last year going down to the Model Shop with a senior friend. She had asked me to help her pick out a dress for her graduation. Dresses of every color poured into the dressing room, and one by one they just didn't fit. I found out that most grad dresses are sized very different from normal attire and a grad dress size can be 2-3 times smaller then the norm. Very discouraged she told me she felt fat. I knew it wasn't true, anybody could have told her that, but when you get a certain mind set ...well nothing can change it. My friend has since been in and out of hospital for more than 4-5 months because of anorexia. Now let me say I'm not blaming this disease on grad dresses, but I know for a fact it helped lead my friend into a horrible self destructive path.

Something that should be avoided at all costs is crash dieting. Going insane a month before the grad to loose the extra size will not only leave you cranky and feeling weak, it is also very dangerous. Your metabolism can also be seriously affected. This method is not worth the trouble. If you do succeed in losing a couple of extra pounds you are depriving your body of well needed nutrients from starving yourself, and after grad are you really going to keep to that crash diet? Over 90% of people won't, and they will end up gaining back even more weight.. which can be very discouraging.

In the hype of grad I've noticed some girls will skip lunch. They might not even realize that they could have an eating disorder. Over 4 million Canadians have eating disorders and of those 10% will die. It can be as simple as skipping lunch to skipping all 3 meals in the run of a day. I didn't realize graduating could have such negative effects.

At Holy Heart High School I personally don't know of any huge problems, but then again I don't know everyone in my school, I only know my friends. A bunch of girls giddy about grad, trying to impress their dates by toning up. Laughs and moans are what I hear from my friends, and sometimes I'll utter one or too... I cut back on my most valued snack, Doritoes! Every now and again I'll see discarded chocolate bar wrappers, or an empty plate of fries - that makes me happy. Knowing that my friends are indulging every now and again, not restricting themselves to eating fat free everything. Knowing that my girls aren't going out on too high a limb for one night, that they are safely losing weight the natural way. Of course I have to applaud certain girls for the weight that they have lost, healthily. Shedding pounds by altering eating habits, and sneaking in minutes on a treadmill can do wonders. Losing weight the right way for the right reasons makes it all the worth while.

Maybe grad is a good reason to shed the extra couple of pounds? Maybe shaping up takes a motivational event. Summer is often one: to feel good in a bathing suit for swimming, and also New Years resolutions are often made around weight loss. Graduating, I guess, is just another timed event to the list. Something to drive us, if we need be driven.

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