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By Emily W.
What if society was different and women were taught that there was no such thing as an “ideal body?” What if instead of always longing, yearning, and working for the perfect body, we could just accept who we are? I believe that we can be part of making that idea a reality!
As a high school girl, I face words and thoughts daily that make me question my body. Am I pretty enough? How can I look more like that one person? We all know that voice inside that makes us think we’re not good enough. But I’m here to tell you that there is no such thing as good enough because life would be boring if we were all the same, and our imperfections are what make us beautiful!
I love my body! Sometimes my mind tries to convince me otherwise, but when I truly think about it, I am so blessed to be who I am.
I love my legs that can carry me from place to place, leading the way in my life of adventure. I love my arms that can be strong to help my parents carry in the groceries from the car but also soft to embrace someone in a hug and let them know how amazing they are. I love my eyes because they can take in the beauty all around me, from landscapes to animals to people. I love my ears that hear beautiful birds chirping in the morning and can listen intently to people who are talking to me. I love my hands that can gracefully play the piano and break open pistachio shells. I love my feet that can withstand thousands of steps during my long runs and carry me during the times when I realize that the body is capable of unbelievable things! All in all, I just love the fact that because of my functioning body, I am able to reach out to the lonely, find people to spread love to, laugh, smile, learn, run, dance, jump for joy, and chase my dreams to my heart’s content!
The body is an amazing machine, and there is definitely no such thing as an “ideal body.” I think that if more people join me in reflecting on all of the great things our bodies can do, we will be one step closer to realizing that unique is beautiful and complete contentment is attainable. Even just writing this blog has made me happy and thankful for the body I have. I hope you can realize how imperfectly perfect you are and join me in challenging our society’s standards! It’s not about attaining the perfect body. It’s about believing that your body is perfect just the way it is. 🙂
On April 5th, 2017 The Emily Program Foundation and scholarship recipients traveled to Washington D.C. for the Eating Disorders Coalition’s National Advocacy Day. Below are the reflections of our award recipients from their first experiences on The Hill.
Award Recipient Jamie Margetta:
This past week I was given the privilege to attend the Eating Disorders Coalition Day on the Hill. I was graciously awarded a scholarship from the Emily Program Foundation to fund my travels to Washington, D.C. to advocate alongside EDC members who are as passionate as I am about eating disorder advocacy. I expected to walk away with a new experience and a sense of accomplishment from advocating, but I ended up walking away with so much more. My experience at EDC’s Advocacy Day was eye opening, exciting, educating, and overall an experience I won’t soon forget. I was given the opportunity to meet with House and Senate representatives and express my passion to eating disorder research, early intervention, and education. It was very empowering to be able to express not only my passion on this subject, but why others should care. Presenting fact sheets, personal stories, and evidence that eating disorders matter and they need help was very gratifying. I am so thankful the Emily Program Foundation gave me the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. and truly express my concerns and needs for the eating disorder community. I met the most amazing group of people and learned so much from the advocates. This is definitely an experience I will not forget, and I am so grateful I was able to advocate on behalf of friends, family, and loved ones who have experienced the challenges of an eating disorder. Your voice matters!
Award Recipient Molly Britt:
As a university undergrad, I did not believe that I could make a difference in the political world without any experience. My experience at the 2017 EDC Advocacy Day completely changed my view of that. While working alongside women and men of all ages, I got to meet with congressional staffers and spread the word about the importance of eating disorders and how the political world could help. It was the first Advocacy Day since the passing of the 21st Century Cures Act which was the first time in history that specific language regarding eating disorders was written into policy. Our mission was to prompt the members of congress to put this policy into action. I was overwhelmed by the support that so many of these staffers conveyed toward our cause and felt as though I was really making a difference. To top of the great day, I got to hear Amy Klobuchar – one of Minnesota’s senators and a driving force for eating disorder policy – speak and thank us for all our hard work. This day has motivated me to participate more in policy change surrounding eating disorders and all other mental health causes.
By Amy Hastie
Anorexia gave me a magic number over a decade ago and it stuck. I remember the exact moment when I received this seemingly positive gift. Whilst at university, I had an important job interview to attend. My friend at the time kindly offered to lend me some of her most professional-looking clothes. I used her dorm room to try on everything she had laid out on the bed for me.
I slipped on the first skirt — it wouldn’t zip up. I tried on the first shirt — the buttons just couldn’t make it through the hole. Skirt after skirt, shirt after shirt ― none of them fit me. None of them. I stood there alone in my friend’s room in utter disbelief and shame. I picked up each item of clothing and checked the label. They all had one thing in common ― a number. The same number on all the clothes stared me in the face as if to say “you’re too big. You’re not good enough”. For the first time in my life, I had this confronting awareness that I was in a larger body than someone else. Suddenly, my sense of self-worth was based on the size of my clothing.
That day at university was the beginning of a long and exhausting journey down a dark tunnel. For so many years after that and only up until recently, my life revolved around the pursuit of that magic number. It was all that mattered ― even if it meant food deprivation, obsessive and punishing exercise, social isolation or scaring my family and friends with my poor state of health.
For Anorexia, if I was fitting into the magic number, I was succeeding. Anorexia instilled in me a sense of pride to the point of arrogance for how well I could adhere to its demands. The magic number was mine and no one else’s. I would even go as far as to leave clothes lying around with the label sticking out so friends, family and my husband could marvel at how “good” I was to fit into that size.
Shopping for clothes was a pressure-filled test of worthiness. If I was not able to fit into the magic number, I would often refuse to try on a larger size and deny myself the purchase entirely. On other shopping trips, I would begrudgingly buy the larger size but then cut the tags off so no one would know my shameful secret. Only Anorexia and I knew that any clothes without tags were the ones I had failed in.
Each time my world was taken under the control of Anorexia, I would excitedly go to my wardrobe where I kept all of the magical clothes. Whenever I slipped them on, these particular clothes gave me a rush – a sense that I was an amazing success by adhering to Anorexia’s wishes.
Anorexia was in and out of my life so many times, but one thing stayed consistent – my fear of going beyond my magic number for good. It was only after an unexpected, frightening and significant relapse in the lead-up to my wedding that I realized enough was enough. I was finally ready to push anorexia away in the pursuit of happiness, health, and true contentment. I decided to embrace, not a number, but a feeling. That feeling was comfort.
Before I moved over to America from Australia, I did something I had wanted to do for so many years but had been too afraid. I removed all of the clothes that had fit me when I was at my most ill and donated them to charity. As long as those clothes stayed in my wardrobe, Anorexia would have continued to haunt me. I had finally reached a point where I didn’t want to fit into those clothes anymore. Having them in my house was just far too damaging and it was time to get rid of them for good. I saw past the illusion of their value and released myself from the cage they had been keeping me in.
I cannot express the immense relief and freedom I felt when I packed all of those clothes up, threw them into big garbage bags and drove them away from my home. They were no longer a
part of me. They were no longer something to incessantly strive for. They were no longer magical.
Now I am enjoying gorgeous clothes that are comfortable. I am learning that it is ok to have clothes of all sizes – whatever feels best in a particular style. My jeans, dress or shirt size have no bearing on what kind of wife I am, what kind of daughter or friend. They have no relevance to my ability to skate or to be a helpful and supportive colleague at work. There are so many attributes and complex layers to what makes me who I am and the number on my clothing tag is certainly not one of them.
I had never been very good with change. A new routine, an unfamiliar environment, a brand new job ― anything different, really. Despite my awareness of this, I decided last year to pack up my life in Australia and move all the way here to Minnesota ― seeking adventure, freedom and self-fulfilment.
For a lot of people, this kind of choice would be considered bold and brave — something to be admired, but for me, it was also a potential risk to my mental and physical health.
In times of change and uncertainty, Anorexia would come to me as a friend, providing an evil shoulder to lean on. Years ago, when I moved out of home to attend university, I felt completely out of my depth, overwhelmed and terrified. I was away from my hometown, my family, my friends, my bedroom. Everything that had provided comfort and stability was suddenly gone and I was left sitting alone and frightened in my dorm room.
I wasn’t at university long before Anorexia introduced itself to me for the very first time and provided ― what I thought ― was some much-needed comfort and company. It initially spoke to me with reassurance, introducing goals to strive for, giving me the illusion of regaining some of the control that I had lost since moving away from my safe-haven. Suddenly I had routine, structure and purpose.
Of course, what I had also gained was a severely poor state of health. I was constantly exhausted, unable to concentrate in class and the pressure to continually push myself to the limit rapidly took its toll. Anorexia’s assessment of my initial success did not last. Suddenly I was not good enough. Despite all efforts, I could never quite reach the standard its evil voice had set for me. I soon learned that Anorexia was no longer a friend, but a harmful enemy.
Years on, with family support and medical care, I slowly began to fight back. I realized what my health was worth ― what I was worth. As I grew mentally and physically stronger, Anorexia’s voice weakened and became a faded memory in the back of my mind. Its voice, more often than not, was replaced with one of kindness, encouragement and compassion.
With my continuously challenging progress of recovery, last year’s decision to internationally relocate was always going to be a potential risk. It could have been the ultimate opportunity for Anorexia to crawl its way back into my mind, to once again take advantage of me being out of my comfort zone. However, to my astonishment, something entirely different has happened since being here.
Instead of eating the same calculated meals every day, I have been eagerly trying a wide variety of amazing, unique American foods. For the first time in years, I am excited about which meals I will be able to enjoy next. Nothing is ever off-limits, nor measured, tracked or compared. It is all savoured.
Rather than enforcing a relentlessly rigid schedule, my new job requires rotating shifts which means with every week comes a freshly renewed lifestyle. Sometimes I have to work late so I sleep in and enjoy an afternoon walk. Other weeks, I get the chance to get up early and move my body in the cool morning air. It is wonderfully impossible for weekly comparisons to be cruelly drawn.
The desire to experience cultural events, to connect with people or enjoy a thrilling sporting match means I frequently choose to attend a Wild game or have dinner with new friends over forcing myself to work out or stay at home with a “safe” meal. Living life and seeking meaningful relationships now take precedence.
The foreign, but exciting experience with ice and snow this winter has been encouraging me to seek alternative ways to relax. I have been allowing my body to stay indoors and be still through reading books ― a pastime I had lost in childhood. I laze, I read and I watch movies without any nagging obligation to do otherwise.
What I have come to realize since being here in Minnesota is that change is not something to be feared. Embracing change, no matter how big or small it may be, has the potential to encourage a mindset of self-care, freedom and power over punishment. It can lead you on a path to truly loving who you are, inside and out.
I have been exposed to so many changes here in Minnesota and yet my body is nourished and my mind is clear. For the first time in years, I really believe that I am beautiful, worthy and free. This sincere belief within myself is truly the most amazing and important change of all and one that I would encourage anyone to aspire to.
By Claire Prendergast
Many years ago an English teacher of mine was lecturing about the different connotations of words. For instance, although young and juvenile are synonyms, describing a person as young gives a very different impression than calling a person juvenile. Adjectives in particular tend to have very distinct connotations. The word skinny, as opposed to thin, often implies being thinner than thin. Theoretically, it is used to indicate a person weighs too little in a negative way, but with warped standards of beauty it is often perceived of as a goal. Skinny is a word associated with skin deep beauty: a standard based merely on the outside of your body, both physically and metaphorically. This word is so prevalent, but it does not consider the essence of a person. Although it may sound cliché, it really is what is on the inside that makes you so incredible. Step back and truly think about how amazing your body is.
You have a muscle the size of a fist which pulses in a such a way that seven liters of blood are circulated throughout your entire body each day. (To put this in perspective that is almost thirty cups of coffee.) It supplies everywhere, from your toes to the top of your head, with nutrients, oxygen, and hormones.
Then you have cells that through a difference in electromagnetic potential send messages to every nook and crevasse of you. Just from the flow of sodium and potassium ions, your brain is notified that your pinky finger is touching a very hot pan. Think about how quickly that message is not only relayed to the brain, but is then delivered to the pinky which is pulled off the pan. All in a second.
Your pinky is pulled up off the scalding hot pan by skeletal muscles. Thanks to these, not only can you salvage your would-be burnt finger, you can run, jump, dance, and smile. The filaments that make up these muscles are merely sliding past each other, making the structure tighter. By strategically contracting some muscles and leaving others relaxed, your legs can kick or you can wink your eyes. Muscles allow you to give hugs, climb up a mountain, even type on a computer.
On top of all of this you have all of your sensory organs. Your eyes detect light rays, your nose has receptors that bind odor molecules, and your ears channel sound vibrations, all of which are transformed into electrical impulses that can somehow be understood by your brain. Just think about how incredible that is.
This is only a very basic, overly-simplified description of how a small portion of your body functions and the more you learn, the more jaw-dropping it becomes. Your body is truly magical. It is a complex machine that completes seemingly impossible tasks. You do astounding things every day and it is thanks to your body. Every cell, every joint, every muscle, is working so you can be you. Take advantage of the astonishing machine you are. Love your body more than just skin deep. Love it for the impeccable life it allows you to live. Do not be defined by such narrow descriptions like skinny, you are much too remarkable for that.