The courage it takes to share your story might be the very thing someone else needs to open their heart to hope
The courage it takes to share your story might be the very thing someone else needs to open their heart to hope
by Sarah Wahid
When I was a little girl, probably around four or five, my family took a trip to Disney World, as one does when you have a daughter who has memorized entire Disney and Barbie movies and dressed up as a princess every Halloween. When I was asked by Ariel, my favorite princess, who I wanted to be when I grew up, I said, "You. I want to be you when I grow up. I want to be a white princess."
By Ashley Boldt
I love to tell people that I go to a pretty amazing school. I go to a school where students stand against social injustice. I go to a school where we rally against gun violence and raise awareness for mental illness. Students are involved and passionate. I love that my friends see their educational and organizational involvement as an investment to the world, not just their career and academic resumes. I love all these things, and I am empowered by the people I surround myself with. However, despite everyone’s big plans for the world, I witness these same big dreamers succumb to the pressure of society to take be small.
The other day I was at dinner with friends when everyone began the dreaded discussion of dieting. I listened to friends I had never thought to be self-conscious around food feel the need to explain to everyone how they generally do not eat that much. The conversation creeped into everyone discussing how they liked to graze instead of eating meals or how they only ever ate one huge meal a day and otherwise simply forgot to eat. I wish in the moment I could have told my friends how they do not need to explain their eating habits to others. I wish I could have expressed to each one how amazing they were, and that their bodies need adequate fuel to make them function. I wish I had mentioned how everyone is different and requires different fuel. I wish I could tell them that it is okay to “admit” you eat. It does not make you weak. It is okay to take in food and it is okay for our bodies to take up space, but I did not say anything, and for that, I am sorry.
Although I could not deliver the message then, I hope these words can reach my friends now. It is horrible that so many women spend so much time wondering how we can shrink ourselves. We walk with bent shoulders. We diet and exercise to be small. We tell others we do not eat because we see this as morally superior. We agree with opinions that we don’t necessarily embody to avoid conflict. In a society where women are already delivered the message that we should take up less space both physically and emotionally, it is more crucial than ever that those of us who are privileged, whether by race, income, education, etc. take a stand to show that we are deserving. Not only are we deserving of equal pay and respect in society and the workforce, but we are deserving of food to fuel our minds and bodies. We are deserving of the right to feel confident and to feel unashamed to express our realities and beliefs. Despite how simple and innocent it seems, my little dinner dilemma may symbolize a much larger issue. However, this issue is one that I believe we can face as long as the already incredible women I know make the effort to take up the space they deserve in all aspects of their lives.
by Embody Co-Founder Colleen Daly
To the girl at Trader Joe’s,
I remember watching you float through the aisles, gravitating to each item with gentle hesitation. Pick up. Analyze. Return. Repeat. Pick up. Analyze. Return. Repeat.
I remember seeing frustration and fear take over your composed countenance as item after item failed your test. I remember watching you, almost in tears, venture on and out of sight. Disappointed. Angry. Afraid.
I felt your pain.
I too, walked these aisles in anguish, aware of the eyes following my weak frame with looks mixed with concern and disgust. I remember feeling unworthy of food, of indulgence, of compassion.
I remember laying in bed, begging for sleep to come. A dull but persistent ache coursed through my body, keeping me from rest. Frustrated, I tossed out about a dozen possible explanations before I realized I had completely lost connection with my body and its senses - that the pain was hunger.
I remember wasting my life away on an elliptical, stamping my insecurities deeper and deeper with each pedal stroke, trying to take up less space in an overwhelming world.
I want to hug you. To laugh with you. To remind you that you are loved beyond measure.
I want to tell you that your body is the mechanism by which you engage with the world - and that the world needs you. There are so many adventures that lay before you, if you could pry free of doubt, of shame, of anxiety, of the voices that scream that you are NEVER ENOUGH. You are always enough. You always were.
I want to sit with you and commiserate. People just don’t get it. I want to cry and laugh and yell, throw our heads back and roar.
I want to hold your hand as you walk into your first therapy appointment. I want to sit through “scare food” meals together, and catch your tears as you hold strong through the anxiety that follows.
I want to remind you each and every day that you are inherently and innately worthy, simply for being.
But I do none of those things. I watch you fade away. I wish I prayed.
I don’t know you. I don’t know your story. But I know that you are strong. You will recover. I know you will. I have to believe you will.
It has been 8 years since my eating disorder first burrowed deep in my brain. He robbed me of my happiness, my relationships, my health, my dreams, hopes, and desires. Determined to step off the treadmill and run my life based on my dreams and desires for the world, I fought like hell. I fought and I fought and I fought.
Recovery feels like a treacherous journey. You’ll climb out of the pits of your disorder. You’ll leap out of your comfort zone. You will fall - over and over and over. But you won’t be alone. You’ll have people around you who love you. They’ll be there to pick you up, brush you off, and follow you every step of the way. And when you get to the top, you’ll take in the view, and know freedom.
Over the last 8 years, I have felt the disorder slowly fade away. I can barely remember the sound of his whispers, the harshness of his voice, the roughness of his clutch on my shoulders. I don’t believe him anymore.
I listen to my body. I move it in ways that are beautiful, meaningful, and fulfilling. I eat foods that nourish my body and bring it joy. I live. You will too.
Intuition is freedom. Recovery is possible. Fight for it.
By Ashley Broadwater
I am a white, young person within the “normal” weight range (whatever that means). I am cisgender and middle-class. In other words, I am privileged. When I tell people I’ve struggled with an eating disorder, they tend to believe me. When I go to stores, I find clothing in my size. No one tells me to go on a diet. In other words, I have thin privilege.
In Embody, we talk about how eating disorders are a social justice issue. But what does that mean, exactly?
To talk about social justice we have to talk about privilege, meaning we have to talk about stereotypes. People with eating disorders are assumed to be one kind of very specific person -- white, young woman, usually a teenager or young adult, who is underweight, cisgender, and middle or upper class. But the reality is, people within every single intersection of identity are affected. What’s worse, those who fall outside the stereotype, those who aren’t believed, are at higher risk because they can’t afford treatment or fear they won’t be believed or understood. Many people with eating disorders don't see themselves as "sick enough," which can only be exacerbated by not fitting the mold. Furthermore, did you know that eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, which includes depression?
Statistically, as far as those who don't fit the stereotype, we’re talking about 13% of women over 50. 16% of of transgender college students. One in ten men. These statistics only account for a few of the identities affected. It’s scary.
When it comes to eating disorder advocacy, we must adhere to the paradigm shift that calls eating disorders to be a social justice issue. If we aren’t, then what are we doing? If we aren’t advocating for those who aren’t advocated for, then who are we helping?
So what does advocacy through a social justice lens look like? It looks like this:
Someone in Embody made the interesting point one time about people who post about the struggles of bloating in eating disorder recovery on their recovery Instagrams. They talk about how they can handle the bloat because they know it’ll go away by morning.
That’s totally valid, and I feel that, and I’m happy for them. But, the point was, some people’s everyday bodies look like other people’s bloated bodies. We have to keep that in mind when we post about our struggles because for some people, that bloat doesn’t go away. And the recovery and feelings of those people are just as valid and important. Not everyone in recovery goes back to a "normal" weight, and that’s okay. We have to support their recovery and body just as much, trusting that bodies know what they’re doing, and at the same time, can get thrown out of whack after struggling with eating disorder behaviors.
This is why we Embody. We Embody because we need all intersections of identities at the table. We need all people to understand and be supportive of those struggling. Eating disorders unfortunately embody all groups of people, so by looking at them through a social justice lens, we must as well. Let's keep that in mind as we make 2018 a better year.
For resources and information, see http://www.embodycarolina.com/resources.html and https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org. To get trained in how to be a compassionate and effective ally, see http://www.embodycarolina.com/upcoming-trainings.html. To learn more about Embody Carolina, see http://www.embodycarolina.com/about-us.html. The above statistics were provided by http://www.anad.org/get-information/about-eating-disorders/eating-disorders-statistics/.
By Gillian Fortier
I’ve never seen so much caffeine in one home in my life. Coffee, Mountain Dew, Kombucha, and Five Hour Energy – even straight up caffeine pills. There’s only one possible explanation: finals season is upon us.
We’re all struggling here. There’s no lie and no shame in it – finals are hard. Everyone knows it. We sleep less, and when we do, it’s often in strange places. We drink more coffee and wear the same outfit – leggings and a comfy sweatshirt – three days in a row. We cry in the open and disappear into the library for days at a time. When our mothers call to ask how we’re doing, we respond “I’m alive.” And we wear it all as a badge of honor, a competition among students to see who has it the worst, who is going the craziest.
By Edwina Koch
7 minutes left.
With each passing second that approaches midnight, the 8th-floor lobby suddenly fills with more and more students joining in camaraderie, some entering in groups and the really brave ones entering alone.
6 minutes left.
People make awkward small talk. Those who are first timers think briefly about running away, but the spirit of veterans helps fill the room with the calmness required to pull such a stunt.
2 minutes left.
The energy suddenly becomes maniacal. Spontaneous and perhaps impulsive last-minute stragglers run into the lobby to join us. Clothes start to come off, fabric hits the floor and the final countdown begins.
It’s one of my favorite traditions at Carolina and I now make it a point to participate in the Carolina finals-week naked run every semester. The first time I did it, I felt like a SUPER-HERO and now, I try to get as many others to participate with me. Here’s why:
People always tell me that they want to do it with me and that they are 100% on board. But then, the hours before we’re supposed to run, the ‘should haves,’ ‘could haves,’ ‘would haves’ arise.
“Ugh, I can’t I’m so bloated this week.”
“I’ll do it next semester when I’m in better shape.”
“I don’t feel good about the way I look right now.”
Well…here is my New Years Resolution: I want to call BULLS*** on those SHOULD haves COULD haves and WOULD haves. Happiness and body-confidence can be had right NOW.
People think I must be so confident about my own body in order to run in front of the school naked. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
I’m broken. I’m self-conscious about my body. I’ve lived 5 years in and out of eating disorder behaviors. I look in the mirror and as much as I put my best efforts forward to be body positive and feel beautiful every day, I fail. I fail every day.
THAT is why I streak.Call me crazy, but running alongside one hundred other naked people reminds me of my own beauty. In those moments as we count down together and people start shedding their clothes, I realize that I am standing in a room full of naked imperfection and THAT is beautiful.
Seeing others smiling in their own exposed skin makes me smile. The excited energy in the 8th-floor lobby as we count down those moments leaves no room for self-conscious attitude. People of all shapes, all sizes join in the tradition and suddenly, any negative self talk—“I’m not shape for this” or “I’m too bloated for this” or “I’m bigger than I want to be”—all of that disintegrates into fight or flight. As my mind enters this charged, primal state, I realize our bodies are something to celebrate and scream about.
SOOOO, reader. Welcome to 2017.
If you don’t want to run across UNC’s campus with me naked… I GUESS I can understand that but please look in the mirror and just remember how gorgeous your ‘imperfections’ are—all of them, mental and physical. Our funny ‘imperfections’ aren’t imperfections at all. They make us who we are.
My, crazy, nudity-loving, free-spirited self just wanted to remind you that YOU are beautiful. YOU are enough. YOU shine in your own skin and YOU don’t need to change a single thing about how you look. When it comes to “shedding the holiday pounds,” the end goal should never be just weight loss, it should be health— physical and mental health.
That is a note to you all as much as it is a note to myself. Peace, love, and continued joy to all of us! Happy New Year. Bonne Année mes belles.
BY: EMBODY CAROLINA TEAM
We at Embody know how difficult this time of year can be for so many people, so we worked together to crowdsource our best tips for y'all this holiday season. We also took the time to reflect on why we're so thankful for recovery and why it's worth every difficult moment. If you need additional Thanksgiving resources, please visit this page. The Embody team wishes you lots of joy, peace, and love this Thanksgiving!
1) Eat as much as (or whatever!) you want without feeling guilty or pressure to explain yourself
^and know we all support you in that!
2) Know that no one else has the power to make you feel inferior
3) Take time during the break to practice self-compassion
4) Don’t let food-related thoughts take away from enjoying being with family and being thankful
5) Try to change the conversation if you hear any form of fat talk/muscle talk/etc
6) take care of yoself / listen to your body!
7) If you’re having ED thoughts, try to distract yourself by talking to friends/fam/etc and being mindful / enjoying the moment
8) If a family member makes a comment about food or body image, know that you do not have to validate them by agreeing or laughing along
9) It’s so much more fun to look back on the holidays and know you enjoyed time your family/friends rather than worrying about food/exercise, so keep telling yourself that!
10) Share all your new cool college knowledge on body positivity with your friends from home!
11) Have a plan for who to call if you get overwhelmed with anything
12) Treat Thanksgiving like it’s any other meal
13) Create a mantra that you can use, such as “I can get through this” or “I am stronger than a meal”
14) Read up on body neutrality (See this past Embody blog for an awesome reflection on body neutrality by Gillian Fortier!)
Why we're thankful for recovery:
Most of all, this Thanksgiving, we're thankful for this beautiful life and the opportunity to share it with all of you.
BY ASHLEY BROADWATER
The holidays and family can be amazing, don’t get me wrong, but Thanksgiving, for example, can be a tricky holiday to navigate. From comments about weight gain/weight loss/muscle gain/muscle loss to being single/whom you’re dating to questions that mirror your existential crises, interactions with others can be stressful. Combine that with comments about how little/how much you’re eating, or whether you
got too many potatoes/carbs/stuffing/gravy, or how someone “hasn’t eaten all day” or “will be working out the entire day tomorrow to ‘make up’ for today’s eating,” my empathy goes out to us all.