‘That Girl’ stereotype creates unrealistic expectations for teen girls

Courtney Habermehl, Staff Writer

You know that girl. The one with the watery green juice and overpriced coffee. The one who preaches about an early morning routine and wears expensive yoga clothes. The one who eats only “healthy” foods and never misses a pilates class. She is fully committed to school and fills in her four different planners every morning and night. This is the girl who seems to have a perfectly put-together life and manages to post her every move in an aesthetically pleasing fashion. You know her, and there is a likely chance you might have tried to be her.

Being an active social media user, my feeds are constantly bombarded with the “That Girl” culture. I’ll admit that I too have attempted to take part and failed miserably. I utterly despise mornings as it is, and the thought of drinking salty celery juice has alienated me from the idea completely. It’s safe to say that the lifestyle was short-lived for me.

But what often goes unnoticed is the toxicity deeply rooted in this way of living. The culture romanticizes unrealistic conditions and frequently promotes dieting in a destructive form. Some of the most dominant influencers advocating for this constant self-improvement have over 1.2 million followers mimicking their every life choice. With how widespread the trend is, there’s no doubt it’s reaching more impressionable audiences and teaching young girls that eating a few double-stuffed Oreos once in a while is utterly terrifying. If it’s not organic, overpriced, and only one serving, it’s unhealthy. 

What once was Tumblr’s anorexia inspiration is now TikTok and Instagram’s perfect lifestyle. Many content creators and influencers preach their idea of wellness. While most nutritionists advocate for the 80 percent healthy and 20 percent indulgence rule, “That Girl” makes it clear to avoid artificial sugar altogether. Also, many users partake in the “what I eat in a day” trend and publicize their nutrition degree or occupation further skewing the expectation for viewers. 

If they are exposed to supposed experts in health, viewers are more likely to fall into the trap of disordered eating. Moreover, viewers may no longer be glorifying anorexia as the days of Tumblr once allotted for, but orthorexia is now raging throughout young lives. Orthorexia nervosa is an eating disorder in which those who struggle with it are obsessed with healthy eating. This usually entails placing restrictions on foods deemed unhealthy like non-organic, artificial, inflammatory, processed, and so forth. People may still be eating, but the fixation on food begins to devour them. In a study conducted by The Refuge in May 2017 (Pre-TikTok), as many as 71 percent of college students engaged in behaviors associated with orthorexia symptoms. This number has likely skyrocketed since.

But, the exclusivity of the culture doesn’t stop at food.

Rarely are women of color featured as top influencers for this life and habits. With thin, white girls being the predominant poster children, there’s hardly any body inclusivity. This narrows the scope of what people learn to consider “healthy.” The TikTok guidelines are infamous for censoring plus-size content. As noted in an article by redefy.org, singer Lizzo found that videos of her in a bathing suit were taken down numerous times and accused the app of body shaming. Although body positivity movements have swarmed social media in the past few years, advertising only one body type counteracts the whole purpose of naming every body as valid.

On top of that, these accounts often promote and sponsor absurd brands. They forget the impact their voice has over their many followers, and proceed to rave about anti-bloat powders or activated charcoal juice shots. The majority of the time, these products are a waste of money and can even result in adverse effects. Many influencers have partnered with the company, Shein. The online clothing store has over 28.8 billion views under the hashtag “#shein” on TikTok. But according to medium.com, what many fail to realize is the company feeds off of its fast-fashion tactics. While 700-1000 pieces are dropped daily as revealed by their CMO, Molly Miao, the designs are often stolen and of incredibly low and not environmentally-friendly quality. 

But the most deceitful threat of the “That Girl” idea actually hides in the uber-productivity it stresses. It’s far from healthy to be forcing yourself against extreme expectations to get each task checked off your to-do list every single day or feeling shame and guilt for taking a break. Yet, that’s precisely what this culture spotlights. If you’re not working around the clock, day and night to achieve your goals, you are failing. You’re falling behind, and you’re giving up. If your alarm is not set at six a.m. or earlier, you might as well quit now. This is the most detrimental flaw to the entire concept because what works for one person, might not work for the next. Yet as a society, we fail to recognize the importance of meeting individual needs and differences. You can be just as successful waking up at eleven in the morning and eating cold pizza from the night before as you can following the “That Girl” routine. Rather than staying true to the mentality it started off with, the culture became based around physical habits that misguide viewers into believing that they too need a matcha latte and lavish açaí bowl to be successful during their day.

Instead of striving to attain an impossible stereotype, we should all tune in more towards our personal needs and loosen our grip on rigid regimes that can be more straining than restoring. Energy and motivation are gifts that should be used with utmost care and not overspent. Everything is best in moderation, and rest is absolutely necessary for recovery and maintaining stamina.