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Saturday, May 30, 2020

OPINION: Saying no to the Thighbrow

Since the emergence of social media outlets like Tumblr, Twitter and Instagram, the digital world has been bursting with trends that make people hate the way they look.

Hashtags and body challenges present “perfect” body parts and convince the public they need to look like those representations in order to be attractive.

One of the most recent trends is the thighbrow, which refers to the fold that forms at the top of the thighs while someone sits or leans forward. While it’s one of the few trends in recent memory to idealize a bit of extra skin, its circulation is still potentially damaging, especially to college students.

Feeling pressured to change one’s appearance just to fit in with the crowd isn’t right regardless if it’s pressure to be thinner, curvier or more muscular. Change should be for one’s own health, not for a stupid meme.

But students are especially vulnerable to such pressure, as they already face an extreme amount of extra stress from classes and various levels of independence from their families.

Add rumors and fears of the “Freshman 15” and the result is a never ending cycle of anxiety and stress.

This is a large reason why the National Eating Disorder Association lists says eating disorders typically begin between the ages of 18 and 21. In the U.S., 20 million women and 10 million men will experience an eating disorder at some point in their lives.

Western has resources to help students if they ever start progressing to that point. But the problem is that not all will come forward or even think they have a problem.

When someone doesn’t think feeling bad about themselves is a problem, those negative feelings are allowed to grow. Then students might never take the time to go to the counseling center or talk to the campus dietician.

It’s easy to get sucked into the mob mentality that images of celebrity bodies in all their retouched glory are the norm. But we shouldn’t let ourselves dwell on these impossible expectations.

When there’s a story about some new photos of some celebrity lounging on a beach, avoid the link. Avoid the hashtags and the trends that diminish the value of the people on the inside of the bodies.

Take away the power of these superficial messages and put it toward being happy and healthy.

There are clubs and groups at Western and across the country that focus on promoting positive body image and health. One such group is The Body Empowerment Peer Health Educators, a section of Prevention and Wellness Services.

It seeks to promote “body acceptance through a focus on deconstructing the media, balanced nutrition, healthy forms of physical activity, and healthy stress management.” Outreach programs and events can be requested by emailing pws@wwu.edu.

College is a time to learn and pursue dreams. We are all equally valuable and deserve to feel as such.

Don’t let trends like thighbrow gain traction in your head as something you need to imitate. Make good food choices, get exercise when you can and enjoy your life.

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