“Girl Dinner” or Disordered Eating?

How a Playful Trend Turned Sour

I’m sure we’ve all heard the viral Tiktok audio “Girl Dinner.” In case you haven’t, it’s an audio accompanied by videos of women showing off their mismatched dinners consisting of non-nutritious ingredients and/or snacks.

It started out as a way to make fun of the chaotic snack dinners women tend to gravitate towards, poking fun at how these dinners are sometimes deemed as more satisfying than cooking an actual meal.

This trend started out as one of my favourite trends of the year on Tiktok, because I felt seen. However, watching it unravel made me seriously think about the ramifications of taking trends like this too far. 

Working in a restaurant, I am no stranger to girl dinners. Coming from work having just had a slice of birthday cake, fries, half a salad and a comically large Shirley Temple, I’d say I’m a near expert. Not the healthiest, I know. It is, however, healthier than what this playful trend has morphed into.

Showing off handfuls of fruit to a single glass of wine, it quickly went from showing off full plates of mismatched foods and snacks, to glorifying disordered eating. 

According to Healthline, disordered eating is defined as: “food- and diet-related behaviours that don’t meet diagnostic criteria for recognized eating disorders (EDs) but may still negatively affect someone’s physical, mental, or emotional health.” 

Usually disordered eating manifests itself in seemingly harmless ways that are actually precursors to full-developed eating disorders.Examples of disordered eating include binge eating, fasting for weight loss, fad diets, obsessive calorie counting, etc. 

Now I get it, why does it matter? It’s just a trend online that’ll disappear within two weeks, it’s not that big of a deal. The issue, however, is that it is. As I’m sure you’re aware, eating disorders have been a serious issue on the rise since the dawn of social media. Trends like this only encourage it further. 

Young girls are now seeing the older girls that they look up to, seemingly bragging about eating nothing but a handful of chips all day. Think of how you looked up to the young adults in your life. 

My boyfriend has sent me girl dinner videos that imply the only thing I’ve had in my system all day is an iced coffee, and there are days where that’s not wrong. At the end of the day we’re all (at least for the most part) broke university students. We can’t exactly always afford to make the healthiest nutritional choices.

I just ask that we don’t share it on social media as if we’re winning some sort of award for barely eating. The issue has only grown as social media has become more intertwined with the fabric of culture and society. I understand that eating disorders are painfully normalised and joked about, I only worry about the influence we hold. 

If you have little siblings, cousins or even nephews or nieces, would you want to see a video where they joke about the fact that they’re borderline starving themselves? 

Because at the end of the day, Tiktok’s demographic is split between young adults and easily influenced children/teens, and now they’re being inadvertently influenced to not eat. Shouldn’t we care more or be more conscious of what we post?

Now, if you don’t exactly love the constant girl dinners but money is the issue, we do have resources open to you on campus. Places like People’s Potato at Sir George Williams (SGW) campus provide healthy, sustainable meals at low prices.

Other options include The Hive’s free lunches on the Loyola campus everyday from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. The Hive on SGW also has a pay it forward program where you can get meals that were prepaid by fellow students or faculty. Concordia also has more information on off-campus food resources on their site. 

The occasional real girl dinner dinner aside, let’s all be healthier for ourselves and for the younger generation watching and learning from us. Let’s not instil our own bad habits in them too. 

Student Life

Dealing with an eating disorder during COVID-19

*Disclaimer:  I understand and respect the fact that each experience with eating disorders is unique and serious. I am not a specialist and I am not currently being consulted by one for this disorder. This is a personal essay.

I was in aisle 12—the chips one, obviously—of Métro, on Mont-Royal Avenue and Fullum Street last Friday. My mind went blank; there was nothing. I stood there, staring in silence at the remaining Doritos. If I allowed myself to think, for just one second, I would be consumed with guilt and shame.

On March 12, Premier François Legault announced the first strict measures resembling the start of a lockdown against COVID-19. A week later, public places such as gyms, libraries, bars and schools closed indefinitely.

Inevitably, people rushed to stock up on food. And frankly, so did I. The difference is that I calmly walked to get there; I didn’t rush. But also, I don’t normally stock up on food because I have a binge-eating disorder.

Pausing and staring at food for ages while I do my grocery shopping is not an unusual thing for me. The inner dialogue makes it harder for me than it is for normal people to choose what to eat. I have to battle my binge-eating disorder while I decide what amount of food I really need.

Talking about these behaviours can be really hard. The only time I brought it up in therapy was in my early 20s. I had been living in Montreal for two years and I was so nervous about feeding myself that I wouldn’t eat for hours and then would binge on everything, most often alone.

But, as I’ve grown older, I’ve learned to cope with my inner demons by keeping minimal amounts of food in my apartment, while also trying not to buy anything that triggers my disorder, such as sugary or fast foods. Going out to exercise when I feel overwhelmed has also played a huge part in dealing with my eating compulsion. And it has worked—until now.

In a time of self-isolation and social distancing, it can be petrifying for me to think that $130 worth of groceries that are supposed to last me two weeks, could very well only last me two or three days.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, binge eating, which is regularly eating a lot of food in a short amount of time (bingeing), could be a response to low mood or depression, anxiety, stress or feeling “numb.”

Truthfully, recently my days have been like this: I don’t eat from morning until dusk. But then I’ll go into bingeing episodes at night, finding myself alone with family-sized pizzas, fries, deep-fried pickles, and finishing it all off with a bucket of ice cream, topped with a cherry made of guilt. When that happens, I shut my phone off, too embarrassed to answer my friends simply asking me what I’m up to.

While binge-eating disorder might affect only about two per cent of all Canadians, stress-eating for comfort is something most people can relate to. And, in times of crisis like this one, the uncertainty of food availability or accessibility taps into our deepest primitive fears and makes us act irrationally.

I don’t need official data to know that most people are feeling increasingly stressed right now. People are afraid of being bored or not knowing what to do with their own children. We are so used to having tight schedules and constant stimuli around that when we pause, we find ourselves lost. Our exterior lives are filled, yet our inner selves are an unexplored void.

Surely, what the isolation from COVID-19 is forcing us to do is an introspection of our daily lives. How do you interact with and treat yourself? Are you uncomfortable spending time with your family? Do you know how to respect your partner’s space and boundaries?

In all honesty, the mechanisms I’ve designed for myself to deal with my eating disorder over the past years were only a bandage on a wound that hasn’t healed properly. But the bigger picture here is that this process is not abnormal, yet we are never confronted with our unhealthy coping mechanisms—until a pandemic comes along and changes the entire game. Unfortunately, the result of being unable to find our bearings in all this confusion can be quite distressing.

In truth, worldwide, psychologists are warning of the effects of isolation on mental health. “One of the biggest risks, particularly at a time like this, there’s a tendency to get lost in negative thinking,” says Art Markman, professor of psychology at the University of Texas, in an interview with Health. Markman adds that there’s no way to stop the cycle when you can’t verbalize your fears or be checked on by others.

The goal is to avoid feeling distressed by the loneliness that comes with social distancing. I might be protecting myself and others from a virus, but this shouldn’t leave me battling my own mind. It then becomes even more important to reach out to friends or support groups such as ANEB Quebec, who offer services by phone for people struggling with eating disorders.

Undeniably, we are social creatures. Self-isolation is not an easy experience. But the pandemic is offering a challenging opportunity to learn to be comfortable with ourselves and face our own darkness, whatever that might be, instead of repressing it.

COVID-19 will eventually be a thing of the past. Isolating ourselves with our demons should be too.


Graphic by @sundaeghost

Student Life

My personal experience with anorexia

One Concordia student talks about her struggles with body dysmorphia and self-esteem

At 14, I was diagnosed with anorexia.

It all started during the summer of 2008. My family and I often visited the Old Port and went to see movies together. During these family outings, whenever I wore a tight-fitting T-shirt, my sisters and brother would comment on my belly fat. I started to feel extremely self-conscious. “You need to stop eating junk food because you are getting fat,” they would tell me.

Thinking back, yes, I had gained a bit of weight in my stomach area, but I wasn’t overweight. Yet back then, I was disgusted with myself. I would stand in front of the mirror and push my belly in, hoping it would just disappear.

People sometimes don’t realize how the things they say can hurt someone. I felt as if there was something wrong with me because of my obsessive thoughts about my body, my weight and my physical features.

I just wanted to feel “normal,” and feel good about myself. When I started grade eight that September, I slowly stopped eating—I used to skip breakfast and lunch. At night, I would only eat a small snack, like an apple or yogurt, just so that my stomach would not growl all night.

I used to admire the models in magazines, and I wanted more than anything to look like them. I wanted to be skinny—I equated that to being pretty.

I also equated skinniness to being healthy. But at 15, my family doctor told me my skinniness was far from healthy. At 5’2, I weighed only 90 pounds. “You need to start eating or else you’ll die,” he told me. That was my wake-up call. He made me keep a food journal to keep track of my eating habits, and to make sure I was eating.

He also advised my mom to watch me, to make sure I was eating three meals a day. At that time, I was getting bullied at school. People would say I was too skinny and ugly. Those were the darkest days of my life. I felt frustrated when my mom started supervising me. However, even though she had never given me emotional support, I knew this was her way of showing she cared about me. My brother used to call me names because I was skinny. My second sister was actively supporting my recovery, though.

The second wake-up call was when my eldest sister cried. “You are malnourished, I can tell just by looking at you,” she said. At that point, somewhere deep down, I knew I wanted to get better. I wanted to be in good health.

At 16, after over a year of following a strict food regimen, I attained a healthy body weight. I was eating healthy and exercising, so not only was I in my healthy weight range, but I was also getting fit. During my recovery, I started swimming. It was very therapeutic for me, a kind of escape.

I was proud of myself: I was eating well, exercising and overcoming the things that had been tearing me down. At first, it was hard to not hate my own body. After every meal, I felt fat. But when I started gaining a healthier weight, I looked at myself in the mirror, in a swimsuit, and I felt beautiful.

If there is one thing I’ve learned about my experience, it would be that life is short—it’s better to live a long healthy life than die young because of anorexia. You should never feel ashamed of your body. You are beautiful. Health is beautiful. Happiness is beautiful. Always remember that you are not alone and that you are worthy.

If you are feeling down about your self-image, or experiencing obsessive thoughts about your weight, body or food, please speak up or call for help.

Graphic by Thom Bell

Student Life

My experience with mental health

Dealing with depression, binge eating disorder and attention disorders

I used to try to pinpoint when it all started, but I have come to realize that there is no precise beginning to my experience with mental illness.

In my case, it was just an accumulation of things, like drops that accumulate in a glass until it inevitably overflows.

I grew up in Annecy, France, surrounded by mountains, lakes, nature and caring friends and relatives—a perfect environment.

Everything began crumbling apart when my parents divorced.

I first met with a psychologist when I was seven, to help me understand and accept my parents’ situation.

My parents eventually remarried, and I ended up moving to Paris with my mother in the eighth grade. That is when I truly started to feel my glass begin to overflow.

I faced rejection. I faced rejection because of my fashion style, because of the place I came from. Most importantly, I faced rejection because I made the mistake of being open about my homosexuality. I dealt with daily looks of disgust.

At the age of 14, I began binge eating. It started as a nasty habit, and turned into an addiction that I still fight. I would come home, walk straight to the kitchen, sit on the floor with my bag and jacket still on and stare at the wall as I compulsively stuffed my face with food.

I developed perfectionism and attention problems in high school. School has always been a challenge for me. Seeing my grades drop due to all my emotional struggles only generated more stress linked to failure and limited my attention span even more. I found myself in a vicious circle. My glass was overflowing. It was too much.

During my last year of high school, I asked my mother to help me find a psychiatrist who could help me, at the very least, with my attention deficit. The psychiatrist ended up diagnosing me with depression, and I was prescribed a daily dose of antidepressants.

It was then that my life started to slowly piece itself back together.

After six months, I had stopped taking the medication.  The pills helped and I started focusing on the things I loved in my life again. I started feeling better.

During my healing process, I talked to friends who could relate and help, or at least listen.  I eliminated toxic relationships from my life. I focused on doing things I truly loved. I did photography and drawing. I watched anime. I skateboarded and baked.  Over time, focusing on my hobbies and passions made me feel better.

These were all things I had left behind during my dark time. It took me time to realize that these things were what I was missing to help myself heal.

Most of all, I wouldn’t have gotten better without working on self-love. It took baby steps to gain back my confidence but every day, no matter how hard, I would tell myself that I should love myself for who I am.

I still have downs, and I have accepted that I always will. I don’t believe there are any immediate or magical solutions to mental illness. It was little and then progressively bigger steps that helped me towards remission. That’s what it takes. Open up to someone, surround yourself with the people who love you, do what you enjoy and work on being healthy.

Graphic by Florence Yee

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