In May 2021, I wrote about body neutrality. In essence, body neutrality means rejecting the idea of having to love or hate our bodies and instead, just accepting the fact that they’re there. Rather than celebrating the way our body looks, why don’t we focus on what our body can do? After years of body positivity (the concept of loving your body, no matter its shape, size, etc.) being at the forefront of conversations about self-image, body neutrality felt refreshingly realistic—and sustainable. (Body positivity is fine, in theory, but in practice can create a mindset that’s toxically black and white: If I don’t love my body, I must hate it.)
But recently, I and many other folks have noticed a concerning crop of trends geared toward the pursuit—and glorification—of thinness. There’s the recent influx of TikTok creators speculating that certain celebrities have been taking Ozempic, an injectable medication meant for patients with Type-2 diabetes, as a means for rapid weight loss; the proliferation of buccal fat removal, a cosmetic procedure that removes fat from the cheeks; and even the return of fashion trends, like low-rise jeans, that harken back to a time when thinness was prioritized over almost all else.
Dr. Erin Parks, PhD and co-founder and Chief Clinical Officer at Equip Health, a mental health platform focused on eating disorders, says, “It’s exhausting to see the influx and popularity of these trends. I was feeling optimistic that we were finally rejecting diet culture as Gen Z brought the body neutrality movement. While I'm disappointed, this whiplash back to the ‘90s will teach us something that will make our next battle against diet culture more effective.”
To learn how we got here—and try to figure out where we go now—I tapped experts in the physical and mental health fields to get the scoop on these alarming signs of a pendulum swing toward ‘90s-era skinny.