Why you don’t need to starve yourself before a night out
You’re worth more than what you look like in a club photo
When I came to university in first year, I ardently believed that eating before a night out was a cardinal sin.
This may sound dramatic, but I was so fixated on the notion that I had to go out in skin-tight clothes in order to look good that I feared even the slightest bit of bloating.
I would eat next to nothing on the days when I planned to go on a night out and looked at myself with pride in the mirror when my bodycon skirt was not stretched by a bloated stomach.
Looking back at myself two years ago, in all my innocent naivety, I feel upset and irate. Upset because I continued to starve myself in pursuit of the "perfect" figure for almost a year and a half and irate because of the patriarchal societal narrative that told me I had to look that way.
Part of the reason I got so drunk and did stupid things during my first three semesters at uni was because I didn't eat before a night out. I didn't line my stomach in preparation for the excessive amounts of alcohol I drank and so had to deal with the disastrous consequences.
I don't want this to happen to any more young women so I refuse to accept that it's an age-old norm and brush it under the carpet anymore.
Women are force-fed a narrative that tells them that their worth lies in their appearance. We are taught from birth that in order to be loved and successful, we must be skinny. Therefore, women go through their lives desperately trying to contort their bodies into this increasingly narrow mould, no matter what the cost.
Starving yourself before a night out to achieve a patriarchal physique is another side-effect of this toxic narrative, with dangerous repercussions.
We need to change our perspective
I believe that unless we start talking about the problem with a view of making a change, things will remain the same. It's all very well writing articles about the problem, but not offering practical advice and solutions is counter-productive. So, this is my attempt to offer a new perspective.
Going on a night out is, for a lot of women, a mixture of exciting and daunting. You're looking forward to socialising with your mates and having a good time but simultaneously stressing about your appearance.
In my experience, it's hard to get completely excited for something when it's underpinned by a whole day of stress and starvation.
I changed my perspective on preparing for a night out by accident. I developed severe stomach pains as a result of drinking without eating, and was forced to start fueling myself properly to prevent the crippling pain. I find it ridiculous in hindsight that it took physical pain to make me eat again.
I want to change perspectives without this having to happen to other women.
One club photo is not worth all the stress of not eating
Simply put, not eating before a night out WILL get you drunk quicker and put you in potentially dangerous situations.
Is one club photo worth all the stress it causes to both your mental and physical health? Trust me, it's really not.
There's nothing wrong with wanting to look good, but there is something wrong with hurting yourself to do it. So here are some ideas for what you can do to help yourself:
• Gradually start eating normally before a night out – I realise shifting your habits overnight is unlikely but by slowly reintroducing your normal meal patterns, your body will adjust better and stop you feeling so self-conscious.
• Challenge your thoughts – if you catch yourself thinking you're "too bloated" to wear something, challenge why you think that and if it really matters.
• Think about all the things your body does – at the most basic level, your body keeps you alive and allows you to go out and do the things you love, so by starving it in the pursuit of beauty standards, you're potentially stopping yourself from doing those things in the future.
• Know that you are worth more than what you look like – I know how hard it is to think like this, but I promise you that your worth is based on so much more than how flat your stomach is, no matter how much the mainstream media tries to tell us otherwise.
It's not easy to change your behaviour, especially when it has become your way of life, but I can say that once you start making small changes to stop starving yourself in the pursuit of an unrealistic and damaging beauty goal, the nights out you go on will be filled with so much more joy and excitement that ever before.
To learn more about, or even find advice on how to help friends or loved ones who may be struggling with eating disorders, visit Beat, the UK's eating disorder charity.