Amid the constant body positive chatter, is the access to surgical procedures, supplements, and aesthetically-driven social media dangerously normalising unhealthy beauty standards?
There’s so much Gwyneth Paltrow has been in the news for, but one thing that touched a nerve was her interview with Dr Will Cole on The Art of Being Well podcast, where she said she drinks bone broth for lunch on most days, among other revelations. The clip went viral on TikTok, and the internet smirked: “Classic case of an almond mom” – a mom who pushes toxic dieting.
This is just one of many examples of the recent ‘ultra thin’ look that is somehow, amid all the #loveyourbody speeches, creeping back in. We traced the commonality of a few instances. Besides Paltrow’s almond mom move, the lack of different-sized models on the runway for fashion month was slammed by various people, and stars showing up looking different by drastically losing weight, with the help of a diabetes drug,was highlighted. Over the last year, we have briefly discussed the return of heroin chic, as even the curvy Kardashian fam looked skinnier, giving rise to speculations about them reversing their Brazilian butt lifts. Not just bodies, even faces are under scanner, as buccal fat removal is doing the rounds, with over 252 million views on videos about the topic on TikTok.
All of these examples point to one thing: Losing weight, no matter the cost or the way, to fit a certain body type and look a certain way, is slowly being normalised again.
NO (REAL) FOOD, PLEASE
Dr Akshata Bhat, psychiatrist, delves into the eating disorder side of the almond mom phenomenon, and says that a lot of mothers of today grew up in the 90s or 2000s when the aesthetic of heroic chic ruled. Celebrities like Kate Moss made the look popular, because of which these moms had their own problems with food. “They think if their daughters are thin, they will be happy. There’s also
a significant worry about gaining weight because of medication, which translates into subjecting their child to suffering rather than taking an antidepressant. I’ve also met a few mothers who understood that their daughters were suffering from an eating disorder, but sadly, maximum focus is thinking that if their daughter is stick thin, all her mental health issues will disappear,” she shares.
The conversation about passing down eating disorders generationally is not being had actively, Bhat adds. “Girls are taught that their appearance is important from a young age, and it becomes a core belief. We need to talk about how to create awareness of the difference between a diet and an eating disorder,” she explains.
OZEMPIC & THE CRAZE
This year at the Oscars, host Jimmy Kimmel said: “Everybody looks so great. When I look around this room, I can’t help but wonder, ‘Is Ozempic right for me?’”, insinuating that many stars in the room have lost oodles of weight with the most talked-about drug this year so far.
What Jackie Goldschneider essentially called “an eating disorder in a needle” on an Instagram post about ozempic is semaglutide (available in India only as tablets as compared to an injectible in the West), a drug that helps with diabetes control, along with other benefits like weight loss or appetite suppression. Dr Paras Agarwal, Consultant - Endocrinology & Diabetes, Max Multi Speciality Centre, Delhi explains that typically, its usage is free of side effects, thus well tolerated. “However, there are certain contraindications for its use in some types of diabetes patients, and the medicine may have some individual intolerance effects in some. Thus, it should always be used under supervision. In India, oral semaglutide is yet to be approved as a medicine only for weight loss,” he informs.
Dr Minesh Mehta, Senior Physician, Shalby Multispeciality Hospitals, concurs, and adds that the drug has gained popularity in weight loss programs due to its effectiveness at causing weight loss, and the convenient once-weekly dosing schedule. How does one tackle the trend of abusing it for drastic weight loss? “There needs to be more education and awareness, alternative weight loss strategies, tighter regulation, and support for those struggling with weight management,” he says.
It’s been a while since Chrissy Teigen spoke about her buccal fat removal (pronounced ‘buckle’), but this cosmetic surgery came back in the news with a rumour about American actress Lea Michele’s snatched selfie on her Instagram. Touted as the ‘Bella Hadid aesthetic’, this prominent-cheekbone-meets-sharp-jawline facetuning has become a social media hit, and there are speculations about some of the biggest celebrities having their buccal fat removed.
Doctors opine that people between 20 to 35 years are opting for this procedure. Is social media and its trends creating a pressure to ‘fit in’ and have a certain face shape?
Dr Soumya Khanna, Consultant, Aesthetic & Reconstructive Surgery, Max Multi Speciality Center, Panchsheel Park, agrees that while that is a factor, it’s also the ease of doing it – it is a short procedure with minimal downtime, and the results are good.
Dr Hardik Dodia, Plastic Surgeon & Cosmetologist, Shalby Hospitals Ahmedabad, adds that it is important to note that buccal fat reduction is not suitable for everyone, and it’s important to discuss your options with a qualified and experienced plastic surgeon. At the same time, he recommends, buccal fat removal should be done only if it’s deemed as medically necessary.
Ultimately, we all know that it’s the vanity of it that leads many down the cosmetic surgery path. While that may not always necessarily be a bad thing, it’s the health hazards that should make one stop and think: Are you doing this for you, or for your next TikTok?
Pratishtha Rawat, Health and Wellness Coach at The White Door India, joins in and shares that due to the influence of social media and virtual access to global specialists, she has seen girls as young as their twenties undergo this procedure. Dr Ankur Sarin and Dr Jushya Sarin – Founders of Sarin Skin Solutions also comment that it’s the ‘transformation’ trend on social media that makes people feel like this is the way to achieve these beauty standards.
IT’S GIVING MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES
Celebrities endorsing slimming supplements, appetite suppressants, and unhealthy diet cultures, combined with the easy access and awareness of medication to become thin, tripled with a real-life face editing option for a snatched look – the mental health effects of this new-age thinspiration are not simple. Bhat shares cases where girls have self-harmed because they hate the way they look. “A lot of supplements are not regulated – we don’t know their long and short- term side effects – and people who can’t afford procedures take extreme steps to reach that goal. We also need to remember that aesthetics change over time. The important thing is to not focus on trends and instead, focus on self- acceptance and recovery,” she says.
An increasing culture of transparency in using supplements or other methods to look a certain way as well as the access to it is certainly normalising it, hence, re-education is the need of the hour. “The internet is a place you can find anything, terms like #thinspiration #bridorexia are there to teach you how to lose weight fast. We’ve to re-educate the youth on these things. Treat the internet like you’d treat the TV: People are promoting things they’re paid for. That’s all,” Bhat concludes.