The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday February 3rd

Column: "The perfect body" has changed over the years

DTH Photo Illustration. The idea of the "perfect body" continues to change through the years, with a more recent emphasis on weight loss.
Buy Photos DTH Photo Illustration. The idea of the "perfect body" continues to change through the years, with a more recent emphasis on weight loss.

Content warning: This article contains mentions of weight loss.




My New Year’s resolution since age 12 was always “get fit.” Each year I scribbled those words onto a piece of notebook paper and sealed it with an envelope addressed to my future self. While my goal remained the same over the years, the societal definition of "in-shape" evolved many times during my upbringing.

“Fit” in the early 2010s was long torsos and washboard abs, thin legs and broad shoulders. Just a few years later, we collectively abandoned low-rise jeans in favor of Fashion Nova shape wear designed to mimic "King Kylie’s” perfect, artificially-obtained proportions. The new ideal body was a confluence of features that rarely coexist for most women: tiny waist, big butt, thigh gap, etc.

Fast forward to 2022 and the media lost it over Kim Kardashian’s infamous two-week weight loss for the Met Gala. I remember thinking, "It’s happening,” as I scrolled through one TikTok after another about how she shed weight to fit into Marilyn Monroe’s iconic dress. 

While one could easily chalk up Kim K’s weight loss to just that — weight loss — I argue that she may have, perhaps unknowingly, started a new body trend. Soon enough, reports emerged detailing stories about other celebrities who reversed their Brazilian butt lifts and restructured their workouts and diets to achieve a thinner look. Out with slim-thick, in with heroin chic. 

Me? I am tired of contorting my body into unnatural shapes every three years to appease the male gaze. As a college student, I don’t have the time or money to spend on a personal trainer and high-protein whole foods that won’t keep in my fridge for longer than three days. 

My experience is not unique. Most college students struggle to exercise regularly and consistently eat a balanced diet. Studies show that many students experience decreases in activity levels between the transition from high school to college. This decline is likely due to the demands of a busy social life, rigorous academics and, for many individuals, a part-time job.

Food insecurity among college students presents an even greater problem when it comes to achieving these unrealistic ideals. According to Health Affairs, an alarming 30 percent of college students experienced food insecurity at some point while in college. That’s why so many students resort to cheap, but filling “struggle meals” (i.e., instant ramen) in place of healthier alternatives.

Don’t get me wrong — I do what I can. In recent years, I turned increasingly to the gym as a positive outlet to cope with anxiety. I try my best at the grocery store to purchase both healthy and filling products, but I am also not perfect. I recognize that having the time and ability to do both of these things is an immense privilege, and one I do not take for granted. 

While balance is key, no one — especially college students — should beat themselves up for not attaining an “Insta Baddie” body. Besides, half of the time those pictures are just filters. While writing my New Year’s resolutions this year, I came to the realization that I needed to de-prioritize looks and focus upon other aspects of myself I wanted to improve. 

So next time you’re scrolling through TikTok after TikTok of weight loss inspiration, meal prepping and red carpet looks, keep in mind that you are more than enough.


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