The past few years have seen an onslaught of healthy eating trends, from acai-everything to paleo diets to kale obsession. But then people started to rebel: We have seen an equally strong pushback against them in the form of a crusade against the fitness bloggers and avocado-lovers. We love to publicly proclaim our love of junk food. Now the “cool girls” aren’t Instagramming their smoothies and spaghetti squash pasta, but their greasy, late-night indulgences. Chicken nuggets have become a meme sensation, Forever 21 basically has an entire line of pizza-themed clothing, and supermodel Gigi Hadid even ate a cheeseburger on live TV to show her disdain for the preoccupation with clean eating.
What’s wrong with the war on salad? Nothing, when it represents a genuine move towards more flexibility and inclusivity when it comes to eating and body image. But what’s really happening is food preference is used as a proxy for chill-ness. Ordering a burger is a point of pride, an indicator of your easy confidence and nonchalance, a way to distance yourself from the nagging, high maintenance, salad-eating women. You, the ravenous pizza eater, unlike them, are one of the guys, a “cool girl.” Amy Dunne of Gone Girl, certifiable sociopath though she may be, might have said it best when she defined what it means to be a “cool girl”:
“Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot.”
Amy touches on the second issue with the cool-girls-eat burgers-myth: A cool girl must subsist exclusively on junk food, but she better look hot while she’s doing it. Instagramming pictures eating cheese burgers is adorable and quirky, as long as you look like Gigi. The Cool Girl is a paradox: it creates an impossible, unattainable standard. It is so damaging to tell women over and over that they better be thin, but they better not let anyone know that they have to work at it. Looking effortless takes a lot of effort. It is a clear case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t.