The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

Taking Measures


Prom season brings shame for both dieting and weight.

Every morning at 7 a.m. after brushing her teeth, senior Elizabeth Zhang stands on her scale. She looks down at the number on the small screen, gets off the scale and eats breakfast. Instead of eating a bagel slathered with cream cheese on both sides as she used to, Zhang says that she now cuts back on her portions, putting cream cheese on only one side of the bagel. This routine has been a part of Zhang’s mornings for the past two months, since the beginning of her diet in preparation for senior prom.

In fact, changing one’s body size has become a global obsession. An article written for the journal Pediatrics for Parents by Dr. Gail McVey and Dr. Manuela Ferrari suggests that teens face pressure from a number of sources, mostly stemming from their family, friends and most significantly, the media.

Prejudice based on weight

When Michael Jeffries, Chief Executive Officer of clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch, was recently asked about the company’s marketing strategy, his answer was simple.

“We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends,” Jeffries said during an interview with Salon reporter Benoit Denizet-Lewis. “A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong.”

Jeffries’ comment characterizes the prejudice against those who do not fit into the clothing sold at Abercrombie & Fitch, where the largest women’s size is a 10. Thus, the company alienates a large market of consumers and discriminates against the average American woman, who wears a size 14.

The statement sparked global controversy and prompted a national petition for the company to make clothes for “plus-size” people. Some have written letters to Jeffries addressing the issue and demanding reforms.

MVHS class of 2009 alumna Brittany Hopkins is one of many angered by Jeffries’ comment.  She posted a letter on her blog, Recovery is Everyday, discussing how Jeffries propagates negative image and weight issues. The matter is of a personal nature for Hopkins, who once battled eating disorders and has since learned to follow a healthy lifestyle.

Hopkins now records her recovery progress on the blog, where she and her friend Becca write about their experiences and make a general commentary on society’s view of weight loss. As Hopkins discusses in one of her blog posts, the idea of dieting is ridiculed despite the negative societal connotations of being plus-size.

Society has not only criticized weight, but has also developed another stigma: one against dieting.

“People should be happy with the way that they are and learn to just accept themselves,” junior Elena Huang said.

Such concerns with one’s outward appearances are perceived as synonymous with vanity and shallowness, causing many people who diet to feel ashamed of their actions. According to Zhang, the shame associated with openly dieting becomes more evident around prom season.

“It seems kind of superficial to only improve your health to look good at a dance. People don’t really [talk about it], so you have to ask them, and they might not be comfortable saying it,” Zhang said. “It’s not a bad thing, going on diets. It might be embarrassing because you’re ashamed of your weight.”

Making healthy choices

Although popular criticism of dieting is based on the drastic measures involved in “binge” dieting, not all diets are unhealthy. Senior Catalina Huang, Elena’s sister, started a wheat-free diet last August after reading that too much wheat can irritate the digestive tract. Although she has made lifestyle changes in preparation for prom — like going to the gym more often — Catalina doesn’t diet for the reason of losing weight but rather to be and feel healthier.

“I don’t look at the scale,” Catalina said. “I don’t weigh myself because it is a negative motivation because then you’ll feel like, ‘Oh, I’m not losing any weight.’ Change is really gradual, so when [some people] start out things they feel like it’s not working because they don’t see an immediate change, [but] you have to keep working at it.”

Dr. Nirmala Gopalan, a physician at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, believes there are two main motives to dieting: maintaining health and altering physique. In an interview with El Estoque, Gopalan said that although it is more common among teens to diet in order to lose weight and become “skinny,” they can still maintain a healthy lifestyle if they choose to follow a balanced diet.

“It’s something to help me take care of my body,” Catalina said. “I don’t want to lose weight, because that’s not my goal. I just feel like it helps me feel better.”


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