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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.
Many teenage girls in the U.S are faced with media that hurts their self-esteem and this may lead to anxiety about their appearance. The company Dove is taking a stance against this, and is in full swing with its new self-esteem project. Using helpful resources and tools, Dove is giving young girls an opportunity to realize their full potential, and look at their bodies and subsequent self-esteem in a new light. Dove’s website quotes,
“At Dove, we believe no girl should be held back from reaching her full potential. However,anxiety over appearance keeps girls from being their best selves, affecting their health, friendships, and even performance at school. For more than 10 years, we’ve been helping young people with self-esteem education, reaching 17 million of them so far. Join us, and help reach even more.”
With three goals of improving school performance, gaining confidence, and teaching girls to aim towards higher goals, Dove provides resources for teachers, parents, and youth mentors. All three of these groups can participate in creating better self-esteem in teenage girls around the country. It is believed that once these girls have higher self-esteem, they can be their best selves. When they have less appearance anxiety they are truly their best self, leading them to do bigger and better things in the future.
Follow Dove in their journey towards helping young women create higher self-esteem and develop positive body images to achieve amazing things.
By Katie Glerum
I am a competitive dancer on a high school dance team who between the months of October and February spends 13 hours or more a week practicing. Dancing is my passion and it brings me great joy. It is the only sport I participate in and it provides me with a great workout every day. It allows me to be in top shape during the season and during the summer when we have pre-season practice as well. Overall, it is a great way to get into shape, but I didn’t always see it that way.
I struggled with the idea that the only way to actually be in shape meant I needed to go to the gym and run on the treadmill or do countless ab workouts that I looked up on Pinterest. My idea of having perfect workouts was intensified by family youtubers with thin figures. I saw them post videos of themselves running or lifting weights on their Instagram and Snapchat accounts. When my friends and I saw these, we would feel “inspired” to work out like them. Even when I had an hour of personal training, I would often stay after my sessions to workout with friends because they were feeling that motivation. I fell into the trap of the “perfect workout”. Don’t get me wrong, working out at the gym is a great way to exercise, but it’s not the only way to be healthy and in shape.
Thankfully, I finally understood that I don’t need to go to the gym all the time in order to be healthy. Dance is a great way for me to workout and it keeps me in shape for the who year. It is also an activity that I love to do, which makes the intensity of the workout almost unnoticeable. I realized that since it is easier for me to get through three our long dance practice as opposed to running for 30 minutes on the treadmill, that the longer dance workout is actually a better use of my time. I truly enjoy it!
Throughout all of this I realized, do workouts that you enjoy, and only do them because you want to do them. The more fun you have during your exercise, the more bearable it is, and the better you will feel afterwards. Exercise isn’t just about going to the gym, there are plenty of options out there. For example, go to a yoga class, take your dog on a long walk on a nice day, or dance a playlist out with your besties to get that cardio going! Don’t forget that it’s your workout routine, and your body, so have fun with it!
I am 5’9.
I am skinny.
I have a dark skin.
I used to hate all these features of my body, and every once in a while, I still struggle with them. You’re probably thinking, “Isn’t that what all females want…to be tall and really skinny, like models?” I hear it all the time. “You’re sooo lucky…I wish I had your body type.” Thing is, I never felt lucky.
In America, women tend to want to have tall slender bodies, because the media represents these features as the “norm.” This is not the case in my culture. In the African culture, my body features are considered “unattractive,” “manly” and even “ugly.” In my culture, men want women who are 5 feet tall, with light skin and curvaceous bodies. I have always felt self-conscious about my body because I am the EXACT opposite of what men in my culture consider to be beautiful.
Instead of being 5 feet tall, I feel like a giant at almost 6 feet tall. Instead of having big breasts, child bearing hips and a voluptuous rear end, I feel ugly because my breasts are barely an A cup and my torso is thin. I have felt ugly for a large portion of my life because of my body type. I do not represent the ideal of feminine beauty in my culture, which is something I know American women struggle with daily as well.
Instead of having light skin, I am dark, which is not appreciated by African or American standards of beauty. I’ve always felt like the dark skin is automatically seen as unattractive to men. As a matter of fact, many media communicators have been accused of “whitewashing” the skin of African American people by making their pictures lighter, and there is an abundance of visual evidence to prove this.
I have judged myself against the African standard of beauty for most of my life. However, as I approach adulthood, I am beginning to see that my features are unique. I am my own person on the inside and I love who I am. It is only fitting that I learn to accept the person I am on the outside. I am beginning to see beauty standards at face value. I do not need to fit into African or American beauty standards, nor do I want to. Unfortunately, beauty standards are driven into our heads from a young age, so it took me a long six years to realize that I am beautiful just the way I am.
I’ve had my ups and downs, but I made it to a place where I am happy with myself inside and out. I always used to look down on myself, despite what people told me. Every time I’d leave my house I would hear people telling me that I was stunning, beautiful, model like, and that I look like a goddess. I couldn’t hear them because of my own negative thoughts. Comments like these made me wonder why I was having all of these negative thoughts in the first place – and then it clicked. I was wishing so hard to be something that was preferred by my culture. I decided then that I would not let any cultural norm dictate what was beautiful and what was not.
It does not matter at all what people think of you – all that matters is what you think of yourself and I know now that I am beautiful inside and out despite the preference of any culture. To anyone out there struggling with your body image, just know that you are beautiful no matter what anyone says. Speak to yourself in ways that affirm your beauty.
I am a stunning 5’9!
I have a strong slender body!
I have smooth and silky dark skin!
And I love myself!