The summer before my junior year of college, I ate nothing but berries, coffee, and raw vegetables. I ran six miles a day and I did hot yoga five times a week. I cried when friends invited me out for frozen yogurt because it didn’t fit with my diet. I thought I was doing this to myself for my health, but in reality, I was doing it because I was one of the millions of Americans suffering from an eating disorder.
Now, as a public relations professional working in Manhattan, I’m surrounded by media images, billboards and flashing lights proclaiming that I only buy a certain skin cream I’ll stay young forever, buy a certain pair of jeans and I’ll be a size two forever, buy a certain brand and I’ll look just as fashionable as that celebrity. These messages can be triggers for someone who has dealt with an eating disorder in the past, but I’m doing my best to stay strong.
I know that most, if not all, of these images are photoshopped. I’m in public relations, and my degree in Integrated Marketing Communications covered advertising and the design of ads as well as strategic communications. I know how the media operates, and I know how to interpret the media messages that constantly bombarded me. Sadly, many young women do not.
Many college-aged women seek to control their weight through dieting, many citing societal pressures as their main motivation. We teach young girls to judge themselves and hate their bodies before we teach them to be strong and proud of their uniqueness, and as a result we’ve created generations of women seeking the next big ‘fix’ for what the media says ails them.
Ultimately, building a lifestyle that supports health is crucial to long-term success and self-love. In response to my own experience with eating disorders and the societal pressures that can cause them, I’ve developed an approach to my daily life that I’m calling FEED: Fighters Ending Eating Disorders. FEED has four components:
FUEL your body with healthy, nourishing food from local farms
ENGAGE in conversations about health and wellness
ELIMINATE destructive behaviors, both mental and physical
DARE to love yourself and support your own best self
Implementing the four components of FEED has, for me, helped build confidence, health and wellness while also promoting a stronger sense of community around those habits. I keep a diary to track what I’m doing to support myself, whether it’s a yoga class on the weekend, a salad for lunch, or taking myself out for frozen yogurt. I’m not concerned about a number on a scale or the calories in my dessert, because every day, I’m daring to love myself and support my own best self.
Ultimately, FEED is about balance. And balance is not the average of extremes, but is rather the successful perch between moderation and temptation, the ability to take equal pleasure in a chocolate torte and in a sweaty workout, the ability to love yourself based on your style, service, scholarship and success rather than your size. Ultimately, it’s up to you to FEED your soul and find balance. Are you in?