Running on a hamster wheel: Why your body will never be perfect


Lizzy Wan

For many, stepping on the scale can determine one’s self-worth, but these numbers do not define you.

Lizzy Wan and Amanda Nolan

Below is an article written by staffers Lizzy Wan and Amanda Nolan. It combines both shared and individual experiences of the writers. To keep some anonymity, the story uses the pronouns “I” and “me” throughout when referring to personal experiences. Trigger Warning: Eating disorders 

Coming down the stairs after putting together an outfit, my mom turned to me and said, “that shirt looks like it’s getting a little tight.” This wasn’t the first time that I had heard passive-aggressive comments about my body. I tried not to take these words to heart, but after a while, I believed they were right. 

Not only do teenagers feel pressure to maintain a certain body for friends and family, but they battle toxic comparisons to influencers and models on social media. Gen-Z, the generation that has grown up with social media, now faces an even bigger dilemma: these platforms have brought people closer, but they have led to internal damage by generating unrealistic beauty standards. 

Forbes cited a study by Dr. Simon M. Wilksch of Flinders University that researched the connection between undereating and social media. It reported that eating disorders were present in “51.7% of girls and 45.0% of boys, with strict exercise and meal skipping the most common. A total of 75.4% of girls and 69.9% of boys had at least one social media account where Instagram was the most common, used by 68.1% of girls and 61.7% of boys.”

This constant stream of idealistic bodies on users’ feeds has brainwashed their minds to believe they need to look a certain way. Not to mention, it has become ever so common for users to edit photos, whether it be removing a person from the picture or completely altering their body. Our perceptions of what is real have lost all meaning. 

When making resolutions at the start of a new year, weight loss is often at the top of the list. After outings over the holidays, relaxing vacations and cookies at every meal, the new year becomes the perfect time to start over and introduce the new you. 

‘This is the last time I will get to eat carbs,’ we tell ourselves right before the clock strikes midnight. ‘I better eat this now because I can’t in January.’ This “last chance” mentality of getting your final “cheat” food creates a vicious cycle of restriction. 

As a teenage girl, the pressure of maintaining the smallest figure is always looming. I created restrictive diets and used MyFitnessPal to count every calorie that entered my mouth, all while making sure I burned enough calories on my Peloton. This was only the start of my unhealthy relationship with food. 

Was it worth losing my period and hair? For months, I believed if I stopped eating breakfast all my problems would be solved. Going to the doctor was terrifying, as I feared someone would notice my unhealthy weight.

I felt like a hamster running on a wheel — no matter what I did, it was never enough. As the number fell on the scale, I came to the realization that I was never satisfied. While this mentality engulfed my entire existence, ultimately accepting myself and what I looked like was my only option. 

The skinner version of me did not make me better. It did not change who I was. The only thing I did was waste months by restricting birthday cakes and pasta dinners. 

So why did I do this? Quite frankly, I don’t know why I wasted those months of my precious life worrying about something that doesn’t define who I am. No one is friends with you because you look a certain way; they are friends with you because you’re intelligent, funny, kind, loyal and so much more.

My appearance is the least interesting part about myself. It’s okay if you aren’t feeling your absolute best one day because ultimately, it is what is on the inside that matters (cliché, I know, but still very true).  

  Memories and relationships will bring you joy… not going down a pant size. So as 2022 progresses, please remember to give yourself some grace and not fall into the pressure of looking like those Instagram models.