Editor’s note: This article was originally published on Kallie Dalley’s blog, Smitten By. It has been republished here with permission.
This is a post I have been avoiding. It is one I am going to freak out when I hit the publish button BUT I am going to write it anyway in the hopes that maybe just one person is impacted by my words.
I have an eating disorder.
I restrict what I eat to the point of starvation. I do this when I am stressed, when I feel like I am not in control of things in my life, when I am sad or frustrated. I also do this when I compare my body to someone else’s. The majority of my life I have struggled with never feeling and being enough. I longed to be perfect and lovable because those two things go together right? For years my eating disorder was fueled by a belief, a belief that I would never be pretty enough or even just enough to be loved by someone. I knew I wasn’t pretty by the worlds standards, but I knew I could always be thin and this became what I believed about myself for 20 years.
They say that it takes 7 to 10 years to feel confident enough to say you are recovered from an eating disorder. I am only 3 years in to my recovery and what feels like an eternity lies ahead of me. I am in a much better place now but everyday I have to make choices to stay healthy. Just like with any addiction there are psychological triggers that can send you right back down the dark path you just walked and eating disorders are no different. There are triggers everywhere and those triggers are what I want to talk about in this post.
A trigger is something that sets off a flashback, which transports the person back to the event of her/his original trauma.
Triggers are very personal; different things trigger different people. A person may begin to avoid situations that they think triggered the flashback. They will react to this flashback, trigger with an emotional intensity similar to that at the time of the trauma. A person’s triggers are activated through one or more of the five senses: sight, sound, touch, smell and taste.
True to this way of thinking one of my biggest triggers is sight. I am triggered by photos of people who have skinny, rocking, hot bods, who are beautiful and seem to feel enough and comfortable in their own skin. These pictures trigger me to hear all the voices of the people who made fun of me and called me ugly when I was young. I have heard people say that pictures are not a trigger and I would beg to differ on this. In fact, in treatment we were advised not to share photos of our weight gain or weight loss because it is such a HUGE trigger for people. I am also triggered by the words that go with these pictures. These images send me into a dark, dark hole. A hole I would never wish upon anyone. I am sharing this because I believe that awareness creates change. When we become aware I think we choose to be a little more gentle and thoughtful. I am not calling anyone out. I just want you to think about the pictures you post and products you promote.
Fix it messages are plastered all over social media through advertising campaigns. Fix it messages are found on every magazine at the checkout counter. I am sure you have seen them everywhere. The advertisement that says:
- Lose 10 lbs in 7 days.
- Get sexy flat abs with this 10 minute workout.
- Lose inches and look stunning.
- Look 10 years younger.
- Say goodbye to cellulite.
- Lose inches in as little as 45 minutes
- Wrap your way to a better body!
- Get beach body ready.
These eye-catching phrases are usually accompanied by a photo of some gorgeous, smiling, happy, person, with the perfect body to go with it, and these ads now have you hook, line and sinker. If you are like me, I subconsciously associate sexy, beautiful, happy and lovable with looking like these models and who doesn’t want to be sexy, beautiful, happy and loved? Businesses know this and this is why they advertise it in this way. They bank on the fact that you want the happiness, beauty and sexiness they are selling, and they bank on the fact you want to look just like the person in the photo. They make you feel broken and in need of repair so you’ll want the quick fix they are selling.
My question is what happens when our body will never look like their body? What happens when we don’t find the happiness we were seeking? What happens when the quick fix ends up being just that … a quick fix?
FIX IT MESSAGES
Cosmetic surgery is up 446% in the last decade.
92% of those procedures are performed on girls and women.
The majority of those procedures are breast augmentation and liposuction.
A FEW MORE FACTS
71% of women reported isolating themselves from everyday life, including school, intimacy, physical activity all because of body shame.
60% of women report being “DISGUSTED” by their bodies.
Approximately 10 million U.S. women are diagnosable as anorexic or bulimic.
Another 25 million struggle with a binge eating disorder
Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
We are a society of instant gratification and we will do whatever it takes to get it and the statistics will tell you all you need to know.
We think we are broken.
We think we are in need of repair.
We think we are not enough.
We think happiness lies in things and numbers.
We make the dieting and beauty industry millions of dollars every year and we do it in the name of happiness and so called health. We BUY into this. What we are secretly telling our friends and loved ones is they need to CHANGE and FIX themselves. We are telling them you are not enough the way you are – you need to weigh 10 less pounds; you need to fade those stretch marks; those wrinkles make you look old; those love handles are disgusting; your not sexy because your thighs touch. When we inadvertently sell these messages, we are contributing to the body shame epidemic that is running rampant in our society.
Happiness will never be defined by a number, whether that be your pant size, number on the scale or money in your bank. Health will never be found in skipping a meal, or eating 500 calories a day. Happiness will be found when you throw out all the notions that you need to be fixed, changed or improved. Health will be found when you create healthy eating habits, exercise to honor your body and not to change it, and when you quit beating yourself up mentally and emotionally for all the things you are not. Moderation in all things is something I try and live by.
I beg you to change the conversation, to change the focus on what beauty and happiness is. I ask you to consider how you feel about yourself, your body and seek the truth of why that is. Would we be OK with our daughters making the same choices we have in regards to the way we treat and view our bodies? My children were the driving force behind seeking help and treatment for anorexia and I would never wish upon my daughter or anyone for that matter the journey I have had. I look at my daughter and I look at people and the last thing they need is fixing. They need wings. They need to know they are beautiful, smart, capable, brave, courageous, kind, generous, thoughtful people.
People’s hearts change the world, not the number in which they weigh or the wrinkles in which they don’t have. The world wants you to be perfect, but the people who love you just need you to be present. They need you to realize you are lovable and enough just the way you are.
If you are in the dieting/beauty industry, I ask you to really think about the messages you are sharing and promoting. Are you contributing to the fix it messages that are so prominent in our society? Are you using pictures that objectify women? Are you promoting your business with only the extreme success story? If you answered yes to any of these questions I ask you to re-evaluate your why. These things affect people in negative ways, whether that is your intention or not it is something to think about. You are always free to choose but you are not free from the consequences of your choices.
If I can leave you with anything it is this – You don’t need fixing. The world needs fixing.
Let’s STOP promoting perfect and start promoting HEALTHY – because healthy comes at all ages, and in all shapes, weights and sizes.
Let’s not be the fixer who has to fix the broken foundation, let us be the builders who make it strong from the beginning.