November 2002
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Students Struggle with Their Appearance
By Shannon MacKinnon, Roncalli Central High, Port Saunders, NL

Being beautiful and thin is what some teenage girls worry about, and some of them spend half their lives struggling to look a certain way. It's obvious that they don't realize the person they are becoming, most of them only care about how they look. Some teenage girls wake up every morning to do their hair, put on some make-up, some nice stylish clothing, and go to school to impress, not worrying about their grades. They think to get anywhere in life they have to look good on the outside, not realizing that the only thing that should matter is what's inside, and what you have in your head. Your brains should get you places in life, not your body. Even though most girls know this, most of them still worry too much about how they look, and work hard to get what they think is the perfect look. And to get this perfect look, a lot of girls develop eating disorders, not realizing the harm it will do to them.

Mental Health Addiction Worker, David Sparkes, commented "eating disorders are common among teens, mostly girls, and young women. They seem to have a higher risk of developing an eating disorder then anyone else." Girls appear to have higher views on how they look more so than others. Most girls are concerned about how people see them, and try to make themselves more presentable to people. "Girls have a lower self-esteem, as well as self-worth and self-confidence," states Mr. Sparkes. They think less of themselves, because no matter what they will always make themselves think they still aren't good enough. They strive for something that doesn't really exist, perfection. "Girls just need to believe more in themselves, and stop abusing their body. If they can't help themselves, they should see a physician, someone who can help them," pleaded Mr. Sparkes. Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are two common eating disorders.

Anorexia Nervosa is when you always feel fat, no matter how skinny you are, and how much you are told you are skinny, to you, you are still fat. Bulimia Nervosa is when you eat food to help cope with your problems, and then later realize that you shouldn't have eaten so much, and make yourself throw up. A former student of Roncalli High School in Port Saunders, Newfoundland who was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa admits "I would always look in the mirror at myself, and cry because to me, I was huge. It seemed like the harder I tried to lose weight, and the more I lost, the bigger I looked." At first this student wasn't looking for help, she was looking for more ways to lose weight. But one day, help found her, she was playing with her little cousin, she began to get really light headed and passed out. Her body couldn't take anymore of the abuse she was giving it, she was dying on the inside, and didn't even notice. All she cared about was looking good on the outside. She was immediately brought to the hospital. "If I had gone any longer without eating the doctor told me my body would have given up, it couldn't take any more of the abuse," informed this student. "I realized the person I was turning into, and I knew if I didn't try to get over my fear of eating things would get worse," the student reports.

Anorexia is very hard to fight, and takes lots of time to overcome. You need to really want to overcome it before you can. If you don't want to eat, and are just forced to, it will make it worse. If you don't admit that you have a problem, and try to get help, you won't survive it. Without help and support from the student's family and friends, a lot of them probably would not have survived. "After a month or so I was back to eating healthy, and putting on lots of weight. It didn't even bother me, I looked healthy, felt healthy, and that's all I cared about," recalls the anonymous student.

"For as long as I can remember there has always been an issue with girls developing eating disorders to try and stay thin," claims Danielle White, former student of Roncalli Central High school. Pressure is usually laid upon girls to look a certain way and act a certain way. Magazines, movies, television and music videos have always been a big influence on girls. They see all the thin, beautiful girls, and think well if I looked like her I could be just as popular. So they diet, exercise and do anything possible to try and get that certain look. "I think it's ridiculous that girls look at the thin models in those magazines and movies, and think that they should look the same. Every individual has their own look, it's their individuality, what separates them from everyone else," claims Ms. White. Everyone has their own image, if people were meant to all look alike, they would have all been the same since birth. Ms. White also comments "guys also have a big impact on the way girls portray themselves. Guys usually go for the big breasted, skinny, pretty girls, so most girls think that in order to be liked by guys they have to look a certain way." You'd think that as girls got older, they would realize that they don't need to be perfect, and why stop trying to be someone they're not. "Even now in university there are lots of girls who have eating disorders, and strive very hard to stay thin and beautiful. My first year of university, I lived with a girl who had bulimia. She was very pretty, and thin, but she just didn't think she was good enough," proclaims Ms. White. Eating disorders have been around for a long time, and will most likely be around for a while. Until girls reach the point of knowing they don't have to be perfect, eating disorders will always be common.

Instead of worrying about the "perfect" look, girls should spend more time thinking about school, family, work and most importantly, their future. Girls need to concentrate on becoming an individual and not a Barbie doll. Being perfect is impossible, so why waste time trying to be perfect, when you may be doing more harm to your body then good.

If you know anyone who has either anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, you should seek out help by talking to a local physician, or someone who knows about these diseases.


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