Girls, let's give ourselves a breakANNA TURNER
Dresses strewn on the floor, cheap bernadino being poured, pop pumping on the stereo - it was just a standard night at university where a group of us girls were getting ready for a party together.
But I remember this night vividly. A couple of us were making self-deprecating comments about how we felt fat.
"Check out my cottage cheese cellulite thighs," one of my friends moaned.
"You think that's bad," I retorted.
"I look like a pregnant whale in this dress!"
We examined ourselves in the mirror, pinching skin and sticking our stomachs out dramatically.
One of the group - who was a few kilos heavier than the rest of us - suddenly interrupted, shouting: "If you think you guys are fat you must think I'm a disgusting pig."
It shocked me - I never dreamt that my comments about myself could have such an effect on her.
The incident came back to me this week when I read about a new study which has shown women feel more pressure to be thin from their friends, rather than from the images they see on television and in social media.
A few days later, I was reading Stuff nation and came across the story "I starved myself for 14 years". It was a scarily common tale.
The woman's eating disorder began after she began thinking her peers were skinny and tall, where she felt "short and fat".
It became worse when her mother nicknamed her "chubby" and her grandmother told her she was a "bigger girl".
Fourteen years later and she's still struggling with her weight.
Attending an all girls high school, I know how females can feed their body issues off each other.
Competitive dieting was common and I can remember several occasions when a close friend's weight loss would spur me to diet.
Looking back, none of us needed to diet at all but we were constantly talking about who was looking slim and who was "fat".
It created a toxic atmosphere where your weight was somehow linked to your self worth.
Of course, I don't think the media is completely off the hook.
Magazines and television saturate us with images of the "thin is beautiful ideal", but the opinions of our friends and family reinforces those ideals in ourselves.
Sometimes, of course, it is important to talk to your friends if their weight has become a serious health issue.
Weight gain can often be a side effect of deeper problems, like depression, so at times we need to intervene and ask if someone is okay.
But there's a difference between supporting your friend to eat healthily and critiquing her body.
If we're less critical of each other, maybe we'll cut ourselves a break now and then too.
What do you think? Do you feel more pressure from your friends and family than from the media when it comes to being thin?
- © Fairfax NZ News