Of All the Hats I Wear…

February 26th through March 4th. National Eating Disorders Week. A little known week of awareness I’m sure, but one I could not let pass by without some acknowledgment.

20 million women and 10 million men of all ages suffer from an eating disorder. Eating disorders do not discriminate, and every 62 minutes, at least one person dies as a direct result from an eating disorder. As a result, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.

Why do I bring this up? Why do I care so much? Because I am an eating disorder survivor, but, like any addiction, every day is a step in recovery. And I’ll be the first to admit, every day is NOT perfect. Some days I take steps back and fall into the trap of my eating disorder, succumbing to the voice of negativity that exists in my head. Some days, I lose power to the sickness. An eating disorder is an especially tough addiction because you can’t go cold turkey. You cannot cut the trigger, food, out of your life. Well, you can, but that’s what makes this illness so deadly…

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August 2007

To the outside eye, I look every bit as normal as anyone else. I am not gaunt and weak. I maintain a full-time job. I pay my bills. I socialize on the weekends with friends and family. But on the inside, I work really hard every.single.day. to make choices to not let my eating disorder win. And, honestly, it’s really flipping hard and really flipping exhausting. But, it is worth it. I am worth it. I am worth the fight, and so are YOU.

April 2013

Eating disorders, and addictions in general, hide, and that’s often what makes them so difficult. They are not easy to talk about candidly. They are taboo. Many people see an eating disorder as an act of vanity, a choice a person makes because they want to look a certain way. While some choices early on brought me to this journey, I would never choose to continue on this path. That, I believe, is a common misunderstanding. There’s a physiological and psychological wiring inside of me, and any person with an eating disorder or addiction, that makes it feel impossible to stray from this path. It is more than a choice.

What is a choice, though, is working towards recovery. Medication, regular therapy, journaling, self-care, exercise, family and friends, all of these things take work and effort, but they also make recovery possible.

I hope, that by sharing my story, I am putting a human face to eating disorders. They come with so much shame and hopelessness, but the reality is, we all likely know someone who has been affected by one. Someone who is hiding behind this thinly veiled mask, wishing they could come clean about their personal battle. And if that someone is you, you are never alone. If you don’t think you have anyone in your life to talk to about this, talk to me. I’ve been walking this path for 11 years, and will for the rest of my life. It is a badge, perhaps not of honor, but one that I wear proudly.

I am Katherine. I am a college graduate. I am a Financial Analyst. I am a daughter, sister, aunt, and friend. I am an avid Tar Heel and Panther fan. I am an Instagram fanatic. I am a volunteer. I love Trader Joe’s. I believe walking is a sport. I am so many things, and I wear so many hats.

April 2017

I am Katherine, and I have an eating disorder. And every day that I am lucky enough to wake up and experience the world once more, I am working to not let my eating disorder overtake me. I am nowhere near perfect in this, but as long as I live, I will try.

XOXO

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A Decade of Dove

If you know me, or even if you’ve read my past blog posts, you know how I feel about the media’s portrayal of women – I don’t like it. I don’t like that the media tells us that what is beautiful is a stick thin model with a perfect tan, straight teeth and amazing clothes. Simply put, that is an unattainable ideal and I am sick of it being the norm.

So, I’d like to take everyone back to 2004, when the Dove brand revealed its findings from a major study it conducted called The Real Truth About Beauty: A Global Report.  This study found that only two percent, yes two percent, of women would consider themselves beautiful. That’s a startling and sad statistic, one that is rooted in society’s narrow definition of what beauty is.

So, in 2004, 10 years ago, Dove launched its Campaign for Real Beauty. The campaign is considered to be one of marketing’s greatest success stories as it has opened the world to discussion and conversation about the limiting definition of beauty in today’s culture. Below is a brief timeline of some of the major events of the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty.

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2004: The campaign launched with an ad featuring women whose looks challenged society’s traditional definition of “beautiful.”

2005: Dove launched the most iconic phase of its campaign, with an advertisement featuring six women with real bodies and real curves, aimed at knocking the idea that only thin is beautiful.

2006: When Spain announced that overly thin models would be banned from fashion runways, Dove felt that it had to respond, as this was an issue at the heart of their campaign. They produced a short film titled Evolution that showed the transformation of a real woman into a supermodel. The movie aimed to show viewers just how unrealistic this idealized version of beauty really is.

In the same year, Dove founded the Dove Self-Esteem fund which was created to inspire and educate young girls, and to help them recognize a wider definition of beauty. As a result, they released a commercial titled Little Girls at the Super Bowl, which reached approximately 89 million viewers.

2007: The third phase of the campaign was a major global study called Beauty Comes of Age. This study revealed that 91 percent of women ages 50-64 believe that society needs to change its views on women and aging, to grow more accepting of the beauty of aging. The campaign celebrated women over 50, with wrinkles and gray hair, reminding the world that beauty knows no age limit.

The same year, the company launched an online film called Onslaught as a reminder that the media sensationalizes an unattainable, unrealistic perception of what beauty really is. The women we see in magazines are photoshopped and have an army of makeup artists and personal trainers, and are far from representative of real women.

The Dove campaign for real beauty continues to grow and expand, and it continues to draw attention to the fact that the media’s portrayal of such a narrow definition of beauty has harmful effects. According to research, today’s fashion models are 23 percent thinner than the average female.

With so much exposure to advertisements, starting at such a young age, it’s no wonder that a study by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that children under 12 who were hospitalized for an eating disorder increased by 119 percent between 1999 and 2006. But, it is disturbing.

Like Dove, we each need to challenge the idea that what the media portrays women to be is all that is beautiful. With such unattainable ideals come consequences, risk of eating disorders and mental health problems. In the end, is selling through sex worth the destruction of someone’s self-esteem or self-worth? The answer is obvious, and Dove has proven that.

Let’s start a movement. Let’s shake the advertising industry. Let’s shake society. Let’s shake ourselves. Let’s change our definition of beauty.

Radiance from Within

Have you ever read something that stops you in your tracks and brings you to tears? I know I have. For instance, My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult and Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall & Denver Moore, to name a couple.

Now, have you ever read an online blog post that moved you to tears? As of a few minutes ago, I can now say I have.

This letter written by Dr. Kelly Flanagan, a licensed clinical psychologist and father of three, had me weeping in my university’s library. This letter, addressed to his young daughter, takes a stab at the beauty and entertainment industry, whose skewed views on what it really means to be beautiful have seeped into the minds of young women across the world, destroying the self-confidence of many, one photoshopped magazine at a time.

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These industries have led people everywhere to come to believe that central to a woman’s beauty is her body, rather than her mind or her heart. I myself have been torn down by the world’s flawed definition of beauty, allowing the media to brainwash me into believing that being skinny is better than being healthy and that it’s what’s on the outside that matters more than what’s on the inside. I still have a lot to work on in this regard, don’t let me fool you, but this article made me want to change my ways all the more.

It is words like those from Dr. Flanagan that give me hope and bring me back to the reality that the media and the beauty and entertainment industries are the ones with the problematic definition of what it means to be beautiful. It is the media and these industries that are reinforcing these toxic pressures on women to be “perfect,” when perfection does not exist.

We, as a society, need to challenge the media to change the way it talks about beauty. We need to remind both men and women that your own beauty lies inside, in your soul. Sure this beauty can be outwardly displayed, but not in how you dress or what kind of makeup you dawn, but in your actions and your words, in how you choose to live your life.

Your true beauty has nothing to do with your haircut, your nail polish or your weight. Your true beauty lies in your strength to go after what you believe in, to live passionately and happily, to chase your dreams, to strive to make a difference in the world. Your true beauty lies in your ability to love yourself and to love the people and the world around you. 

It’s time to take a stand. It’s time to stop letting the media, celebrities, the fashion industry or anybody else tell us what it means to be beautiful. It’s time to embrace that everyone is beautiful in their own way, each with something unique to offer this crazy and wonderful world. It’s time for us to start changing the way we talk about beauty, and to stop making it about our bodies (thank you, Kenan, for this wonderful link).

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Remember, today and every day, that you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are worthy. And most importantly, you are the only you there is and there ever will be. Embrace and treasure this gift, a you that is once in a lifetime. 

Thank you, Dr. Flanagan, for speaking up and reminding your sweet daughter, and all of your newfound Internet friends, what beauty is really all about.