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What You Don’t Know About Having the ‘Perfect Body’

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It’s that time of year again — the annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is about to premiere. Millions of people are expected to watch the Victoria’s Secret “Angels” walk the runway on December 8. I have always been outraged by Victoria’s Secret. They are known for promoting unrealistic body images to women everywhere; their “Perfect Body” campaign is one example. But this year, I have a new form of disgust for the society that’s objectifying women.

In January, I was diagnosed with gastroparesis, a gastrointestinal disorder that leaves my stomach paralyzed and unable to digest food. By June I’d lost enough weight that my thigh gap was huge, and all of my bones were clearly visible. I must’ve felt great about myself, right? I finally met society’s unattainable beauty standards!

My summer vacation consisted of twice weekly infusions, countless doctor’s appointments and long hospital admissions. I was so malnourished that it was hard to get out of bed, let alone party with my friends.

When I did go out, I got lots of comments like, “I wish I had your problem,” “You look like a supermodel,” and “I love your figure.” I wish those people knew what it really felt like for me to be that skinny — weak, nauseous, isolated, unable to do what I loved. I wouldn’t wish this kind of malnutrition on anyone, but it’s promoted by the media daily.

Of course we’ve all heard the arguments for positive body image. Everyone knows you can “be your own beautiful.” But do we want to be? “Love yourself” campaigns only go so far when society’s ideal body is continually defined by one body image type. I believe it’s almost like we’re saying, “These girls who are under a size 2 — they’re beautiful. But I guess you’re beautiful, too — for someone your size.” As if anyone above a size 2 is in a whole different category! Plus-size clothes are on the runway, but they’re completely separate from other clothes. You rarely see a runway of all shapes and sizes. No wonder not everyone is happy with society’s “acceptance” of other body types.

Now that I’ve experienced it firsthand, the Victoria’s Secret Fashion show is absolutely nauseating to me (or maybe that’s gastroparesis — haha). I wonder how those girls feel as they strut down the runway in stilettos and lacy underwear. I doubt they feel as beautiful and sexy as they look after the “training” they might’ve been through. There are stories of modeling agencies pushing their clients to be anorexic. Some supermodels admit to fasting for days, eating cotton balls, even going hours without water before a big show! Any teenager with a smartphone can find these unhealthy diets and replicate them — just look at any “pro-ana” blog or hashtag. That’s right, there are “anorexia lifestyle” websites all over the Internet. They’re filled with “thinspiration” pictures and tips for training your body to starve. Anorexia is a serious mental illness, and it shouldn’t be promoted by the media.

I got my GJ feeding tube in August, and I am still building back my strength in physical therapy. I had become so weak that it was hard to walk. But in the eyes of society, that was beautiful. Now that I have nutrition I can drive, go to half-days at school, spend time with friends and volunteer. I don’t look like I’m starving anymore, but I feel remarkably better. I’m back to doing what I love — and that is so much more important than looking like an “Angel.” After all, is the perfect body really that perfect?

Author’s note (added September 12, 2016): Since this piece was published, Victoria’s Secret’s “Perfect Body” campaign has been amended. I hope that this is a step in the right direction for fashion brands around the world to uphold healthier beauty standards.

Editor’s note: This story has been edited since publication.

Originally published: November 30, 2015
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