I still remember the first time I went on a “diet.” I was about 12 or 13, and one summer break, my friends and I sat sprawled out on one of their bedroom floors; the burgundy carpet littered with copies of YM Magazine, Teen Vogue, Teen, and Cosmo Girl! The more that we flipped through the glossy articles, the more I noticed that none of the models staring back from the colorful pages looked like me. I was already noticeably different – the only one out of my friends with dark, chestnut skin, almond-shaped eyes, full lips, and kinky, coily hair that threatened to spill out of my slicked-back bun at any moment. But it wasn’t just my hair or skin that didn’t look like the pictures in the magazines – as I looked through each of the pages, I struggled to find bodies that looked like mine.
In that room, my friends and I made the pact that we were going to “get skinny” before the new school year. We surmised that if we looked more like the thinner, more slender girls in the magazines, we could gain the attention of the more popular crowd (and particularly, our crushes). Together, we decided that this new year would bring the “new and improved” versions of ourselves.
There was no discussion of eating more healthy, flavorful foods, spending more time playing outside in the neighborhood, or the beauty and uniqueness of our own bodies, which were still growing and developing. “Body positivity” wasn’t yet a term within our pre-teen vocabularies.
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