A illustration of a woman looking in the mirror and putting on lipstick

Do you spend hours on social media each day comparing your body to photoshopped images? 

Are you spending nights Googling “the best pills for weight loss” and then handing your hard earned money into the hands of the most greedy and deceiving diet industry? 

Are you searching the web for exercise routines that will “get rid of your gut in five simple steps”?

Maybe you’ve been looking into one of those all liquid diets that some celebrities tell you they do before a special event to “flatten their tummy.” 

Don’t worry, you aren’t alone. This seems to be what our society has somehow morphed into, and it is exactly what these companies promoting this ludicrously want. Unfortunately, these disordered behaviors are indications of low self-esteem, body dissatisfaction and at times signs of a severe eating disorder.

My hope for myself and everyone else in this world is that one day soon I can turn on my television, go online and log on to Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook and not see what I see on a regular basis. You know what I’m talking about, right?

The thigh gap pictures.

The juice cleanse diets promoting weight loss. The before and after pictures of a transformed body. 

The ads for pills that claim to help you shed body fat.

The television shows owned by Disney making jokes about bulimia and/or anorexia.

The men’s magazines telling men that women should be full figured, the women’s magazines telling women that men should be muscular and every magazine telling both genders to be thinner while they ignorantly and obnoxiously pick apart and compare ones body to another’s.

The eating disorder I live with every day is torture enough, and the society in which I am forced to live in hasn’t yet acknowledged what few of us have:

That these harmless acts promote harmful eating disorders

Well enough is enough.

I am mentally and physically so sick from all of this, that I am beyond tired and frustrated with all of it. It is all complete and total nonsense. How dare anyone else tell me and any other person for that matter what we “should” look like, while, simultaneously telling us that we “should” be different from one another. Well I say f*ck their shoulds and f*ck their desperate attempts to empty our wallets and steal our inner peace.

Now, I know this message cannot be directed towards everyone. And I have no intent to do that. I know that there are some people out there who are standing up to this clear cut injustice in our society. People like Melissa McCarthy, who invented her own clothing line for plus size women when she herself was unable to find the clothes she wanted that fit her body type. People such as Demi Lovato and Zayn Malik who openly speak out about their own struggles with eating disorders and  mental illness. Brands like Aerie and Dove who use un-photoshopped images and plus size models. People like the founders of incredible organizations such as The Mighty, the National Eating Disorder Association, Where I Stand, Project Heal and Healthy Is The New Skinny, just to name a few. But it can’t just be some people. We need everyone to stand up and say that we won’t let ourselves be subject to this anymore. 

I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid I didn’t spend my days and nights dreaming of being “beautiful” and I definitely didn’t dream about having “the perfect body.” I dreamt of becoming a doctor who saved lives. I dreamt of becoming a writer and the next Lisa Leslie of women’s basketball. I wanted to be a comedian and spend my life making others laugh. I dreamt of far better things than what I’m now told to dream of as an adult. My newsfeed on these social media sites should be flooded with strong, powerful men and women making real differences in this world. 

I wish the people who contributed to this misconduct understood my eating disorder isn’t a phase or a diet and it isn’t a lifestyle I want, but rather a lifestyle I can’t seem to break free of. I wish these people would reflect back to a time when they were 8, or 12 or 25, and connected with the feelings that they felt looking at these “picture perfect” images shoved down their throats 24/7. I wish these people would open their eyes to the incredibly hideous epidemic swallowing all of us whole.

Of course, there are many other major factors that contribute to any complex eating disorder, and I do not mean to suggest or imply the images and messages thrown at us from our society are fully to blame. Eating disorders are about way more than appearance and wanting to fit into a specific pant size. There are many people who struggle or have recovered from eating disorders that will tell you body image plays no role in their eating disorder behaviors at all.

However, I do intend to make clear that our society can choose to have a more positive impact on not only the young and impressionable youth, but the self-conscious and apprehensive adults, as well. We shouldn’t have to continuously and constantly have drilled in us that our bodies aren’t good enough as they are.

Eating disorders aren’t glamorous! And it should no longer be normalized nor accepted as a social norm for anyone to treat their body, their mind and their soul with such little respect and downright hatred. This is a serious and life-threatening mental illness that has taken too many lives.

Enough of the Thinspiration and Pro-anorexia websites and social media accounts.

Enough of the marketing lines such as “what will you gain when you lose?” 

Enough of the cleansing and the detoxing.

Enough of the weight loss pills, supplements and shakes.

Enough of the propaganda. 

If we want our society to change, we need to be the change. 

Enough is enough.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

 Image via Thinkstock


A woman in eating disorder recovery shares how her friends can help or don’t help her cope.

Read the full story.

One of the most frustrating things about recovery is that it’s really, really hard to throw yourself full force into the exact opposite mindset and lifestyle as what you’re used to. Once you’re there, it’s even harder to stay there.

Blog post after blog post after Pinterest quote after Pinterest quote tells you when you’re struggling, you must keep going anyway. They tell you in recovery you can’t always see the light at the end of the tunnel but you must push forward anyway. And they’re right — push forward, but not because you’re waiting for some light. The light is now. The light is all around you.

The light is my friend, who laid with me on my bed at three in the morning and let me complain to her that I still had calories left to eat today, even though “today” ended three hours ago.

The light is snow that’s fluffy and delicate and still inexplicably strong.

The light is my friend’s mom whom I had never met, but who offered me support when I was down.

The light is hot chocolate with my mom while watching sappy Christmas movies.

The light is the boy from my team who asked me to look at him, who called me by name, who asked me to believe it wasn’t my fault we lost.

The light is my dog, who always finds something to smile about.

The light is an email from dad telling me he loves me.

The light is the guy who let me make a left turn during rush hour.

The light is finding a song that speaks to you.

The light is being homesick because it means you have a home.

The light is when an anxiety attack is over and you can breathe.

The light is my sister, who has seen every part of me and still loves me exactly as I am.

When I struggle in recovery, I don’t wait for the mysterious light at the end of the tunnel; I look for the light around me. It is everywhere, and it is beautiful. Put your faith and hope in that.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

For a highly intelligent woman, I have made some awful decisions. I treated myself with a complete lack of respect and love that almost led to my demise. There is no easy way to say what I’m going to say, so forgive my bluntness. I had anorexia for seven years. From ages 12 to 19, I starved my body to the point that I barely lived to tell you about it.

I spent the first 18 years of my life not in the closet regarding my sexuality but in the closet regarding my entire self. I took each part of me that wasn’t flawless and obliterated it until just a carcass remained. Then, I took that carcass and forced it into my idea of my best self. I embodied perfection. I was well-mannered and respectful. I was a straight A+ student. I was a rock in the tumultuous lives of my friends. I was a nationally-ranked athlete. I was striking to the eye.

The only thing I wasn’t, however, was a person. I was all but dead. I locked my body and my soul in a dungeon together and fed neither, so they ate away at each other until nothing of either remained. And no one noticed because, why would they? How could someone so high-performing harm herself from the inside out?

You see me, my accolades and my easy-going personality and sense of humor, and assume you know me. You assume I am the perfect person I present to the world, just like you assume of everyone else. And that makes you feel insecure. You know what I’m referring to — think about that person you stalk on Facebook and think, “God, why is their life so perfect and I can’t even get a text back?” You look at everyone as though they are their Facebook profiles.

Wake up!

I wish this disease upon no one, but I vacillate between resenting it with every fiber of my being and regarding it as a blessing. I have insights most 19-year old women do not, but I’ll shout my realizations from the rooftops if I think it’ll make a difference in even one person’s life. So, listen up:

As humans, we are not one page of a book nor are we one lone book — we are libraries. Our bodies are shelves upon shelves of the books that make us, us; the fiction and the nonfiction, the memoirs and the encyclopedias and textbooks and diaries. Some have dusty covers and that new-book smell, and others have well-worn covers and dog-eared pages. However, we all make the mistake of thinking of others as just one single page, whereas we are the only library in the world. So we hide our libraries deep inside and only show others that one piece we’re proud of, the one epic page with the perfectly polished sentences and appropriate metaphors. We keep the worn and the poorly written and the dark and the embarrassing ones for ourselves, bringing them out only at night to read by candlelight stealthily, as though we commit some mortal sin by even recognizing their existence.

This is absurd. Everyone is multi-faceted. We ostracize ourselves when we think we are the only multi-faceted person in a world of single-faceted people. We think, “I am the only one facing this challenge, and so I must hide that because there is something wrong with me.” Gather a room of one hundred people, and ask them if they’ve ever thought, “I am the only one struggling.” Nearly everyone will raise their hands. You will be shocked. Everyone will be shocked. If everyone feels alone, is anyone really alone?

You are not alone.

I know I am not alone. After 19 years of reading just from my perfect novel with the pristine cover, I have read aloud (to select people, that is) my dustiest and darkest and saddest volumes, and they have read me theirs. I never believed it was possible for me to connect with others, but I was wrong. Authenticity is not an attribute of a relationship — it glues together relationships. We believe flaws repel us from others, but they really draw us together. Everyone has their imperfections and insecurities, and if you think you don’t, do us all a favor and call a therapist because you’re the most messed-up of us all.

You take the first step to healing when you recognize that struggle is an inevitable part of life. So if you have learned anything from my ranting, let it be this: struggling does not mean there’s something wrong with you. Struggling means there’s something right with you — you’re a person. So, embrace it. Welcome to this planet, where everyone struggles every day because that’s what makes us people.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

This story was originally published on Project Heal.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo by efks

In the depths of my eating disorder, I couldn’t imagine life without it. It was my lifeline, my constant companion. The first program I entered was an outpatient one at the request of my doctor, and I reluctantly attended to make the people in my life happy. I said what I had to, to get through the appointments, and then I went home to my behaviors. My interest in recovery didn’t exist. Ten years later, after multiple programs, I had a deep desire to recover, but I was still playing the same game. Attending appointments, crying about why nothing ever changed, and going home to my behaviors. My passive approach to recovery left me stuck, unable to move forward — but I was too afraid to face the unknown.

As I attended different groups over the years I met many others who struggle with eating disorders. I watched, one by one, as some had a complete shift of the mind that took them from passive to active recovery. It was the moment they got angry at their illness. It was the moment that everything would change.

After years of being stuck, I prayed for this moment to happen to me. I begged every inch of my body to find that motivation, that anger, that strength. I imaged what my life would be like when it finally happened — all sunshine and roses. I could now dream of a life without my eating disorder.

Well, that moment finally came. I had to recover. I got angry, really angry, and nothing was going to stand in my way. I could never go back.

I used to pretend I didn’t know what shifted. But the truth is for years I had believed if I were smarter, prettier, skinnier, if I had a better job or a boyfriend, I would be happy, and if I was happy, I would recover. So here I was, with a promotion, with the new boyfriend, happy — yet I was spiraling backwards. Backed into a corner and fearing I would lose it all, I found that fear, I found my motivation.

The life I wanted to live was down a different path, and it couldn’t coexist with my eating disorder. So I cut my exercise down, moved a ton of foods from my so-called “bad” list over to the “good,” and actually started enjoying them. I threw out my scale, I stopped counting calories, and I started working on liking my body. I paid for therapy and fought for the support I felt I needed. I felt good, strong and inspired. I was doing everything I thought it took to actively be in recovery, and life was just going to get better and better.

Sunshine and roses was so far from my reality. A new darkness set in pretty quickly. My very own little storm cloud followed me wherever I went. I felt an incredible sadness that I couldn’t seem to control. I realize now I was grieving. Grieving letting go of my eating disorder.

But why mourn something that had stolen so much from me over the years? I was a slave to it, ruled by a monster that called all the shots and controlled every aspect of my life. Yet I was missing that monster, that cruel voice inside my head.

What was behind the sadness? What was it I missed so much?

My eating disorder took up space. It filled my time and stole my focus. With it, I numbed the pain of not feeling good enough, worthy enough, or deserving of love. It dulled the ache of not being successful enough, being in my early 30s and not married, no kids, in debt. Now, without it, I had to feel.

The feelings were overwhelming. I felt powerless to the emotions that flooded my mind. I was drowning in years of avoided pain and self-hatred. It might have been easy to run back to the monster, but this was no longer an option. I had to fight back, and I had to actually put into practice what I had learned in treatment over the years.

I forced myself to sit with the feelings, the discomfort. A yoga instructor once said in class, “This is training for life.” We were five minutes into downward dog, my arms were shaking, blood rushing to my head. She was right; this was all a metaphor for the uncomfortable feelings and emotions we face on a daily basis. I had trained for this. So I sat with them, and it was strange at first, but eventually the feelings passed. By staying present, I allowed myself to cry, to experience anxiety, to feel my anger.

I pulled out my binders from various programs and I practiced the tools I had learned. One that helped a lot was deconstructing my negative thought patterns. I explored the root of what was behind them. With every negative thought, I countered it with a positive.

I learned how to practice self-compassion. I spoke to myself the way I would speak to a loved one. I took the advice I gave to others and actually practiced it. I stopped beating myself up. Dr. Kristin Neff offers a great series of exercises on her website that I’ve found are excellent in learning how to find compassion for yourself.

Recovering from my eating disorder is one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. It was also one of the best things I have ever done. We each take our own unique journey through recovery. Yours may not look anything like mine. But wherever your journey takes you, remember to allow yourself to feel and be present with whatever comes up. Whether it’s pain, discomfort or sadness, in the words of my great grandfather — this too shall pass.

Image via Thinkstock.

A version of this post originally appeared on the Looking Glass Foundation’s blog.

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Holden smiled at me when I got to the dining hall and hovered slightly behind while I selected nourishment. I’d appreciated he was so quick to answer my text about needing an eating buddy, but desired some alone time while picking the tools of my soon-to-be surrender. It was going to be a bad day. I was operating in a haze and when it became 11 a.m., my only concern was how many calories I could burn by pacing in my room. I knew texting Holden was my only option. We sat down and I carefully peeled open my yogurt, hoping it would render me hungry and I’d snap out of it. This didn’t happen, as each spoonful burned my throat on the way down and my stomach retched in shame because I just couldn’t give myself what I was needed to live: food. Holden asked no questions and I gave no answers, we ate in silence. The kindness I felt from him grounded me to the task at hand, but the funeral march continued in my head. One more bite, one more bite.

Recently a good friend remarked she was afraid of how easy it was to have an eating disorder in college and even more startled at the rate one might reemerge. Like it ever went away in the first place. Stuck between the good days and the bad days, the languishing effect of always feeling like “too much.” Do I take up too much room? Do they want me to take up less room? The start of college saw good days that slowly crawled out of what I thought was an impossibility of delight. We collaborated to vanquish the bad days into brief periods where leaving bed felt like giving up and my surroundings taunted me. Too fat, too much food, too much space. Though, I was feeling better than I had in years, this was frustrating. It felt like enough to completely heal, but wasn’t. Like all the time I had been screaming into the void had culminated in the void sending a microphone back and asking me to speak up.

In all honesty, I couldn’t tell you when I started existing between spaces of disordered eating. It happened years ago, in patterns of self demise — planned and unplanned — all with the goal of disappearing. Do I take up too much room? It worked, soon my jeans fit loosely around my hips, like I’d always wanted and people started to treat me differently. Heralding my terrorized accomplishment as someone who appeared to have beat laziness and actually “put the fork down.” I was the high school heroine, who finally shed the weight and now the rest of my life awaited me. How could I not love what disordered eating had done to me when they believed I was succeeding?

Things are not as hard for me now and the more I talk about my relationship with food, the easier moving on has become. I am lucky enough to be surrounded by friends who do nothing but love and support me, along with the most wonderful parents. After some visits to the therapist, I’ve learned other ways to manage hurt and tie these emotions to the intangible instead of food. Now, whenever I am caught in thinking about my old ways, I see the love I am surrounded by and though it’s not enough to exist on love alone, it makes trusting in tomorrow and my ability to carry on worth it. After Holden said goodbye to me that day, he texted periodically to check in, ending with one final message before dinner. “Please eat Cozy, you deserve it.”

My life is no longer categorizable into dark and light as both have taken up residency in my being, for the better. With this came the confidence of recovery and the purpose of the nothingness that ignited the question of what else I would experience and carry with me. There are no more good days and bad days, with both having merged into a steady pace of existence. You deserve life Cozy, in all its complexities and emotions. Only lately have I realized this means living with an eating disorder. That’s OK, because I can conquer it and that battle is not something anyone should face alone. We can do anything and I am alive.

Contributor photo "you deserve recovery"

This post originally appeared on The Forum.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

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