Operation Beautiful: Hindsight is 20/20

As I’m back to walking the familiar hills of my campus, I can’t help but think about how much my life has changed in the past year.

Rewinding to fall 2009, I thought I was doing everything right. I ate as few of calories as possible, ran as far as possible and said “yes” as much as possible.

On my birthday last year, I ate a side of vegetables for the meal. When choosing a dessert, I remember looking for the "healthiest" option.

I was pursuing an image of perfection, but I was falling short of happiness.

Now, the image of my life is much different.

I know I’m not perfect. I accept I’m not perfect. I even revel in the fact that I’m not perfect.

This is because, despite all my imperfections, I have the one thing that eluded me last year: Happiness.

Eating a fully white-flour pretzel at 11 o'clock at night, just because I wanted to.

If I could go back and avoid all the difficulties I faced, I’d be seriously tempted. Battling my ED undoubtedly one of the most emotionally, physically and mentally straining battles of my life.

Why shouldn’t I just erase it all?

Because, for better or worse, hindsight is 20/20.

My experiences come with the consequence of sensitivity. I notice subtle signals of girls who are dealing with similar torments.

While sitting in the food court, I see girls order salads, only to push their naked lettuce around and feign fullness.

As I fit in a whole workout of running, weight lifting and stretching, I see girls pounding away on treadmills.

When I get to class, filled up with breakfast and looking forward to lunch, I overhear girls talking about having “no time to eat.”

I see all these things through a magnified lens. I understand the logic (or lack thereof). I’ve been there…

Unlike most forms of sympathy, I don’t feel the urge to “forgive” or “overlook.”

Instead, every time I see someone exhibiting signs of disordered eating or low self-esteem, I want to shake them and say, “You deserve better!”

I resist, lest I get kicked out of the university with allegations of abuse.

Still, I can’t let it slide. I just have a little voice inside of me, which nags me to no end.

“If I can help one girl feel a little better about herself…”

“If I can let one girl know that beauty isn’t based on waist circumference of jean size…”

“If I can demonstrate to one girl that she is her most disapproving critic…”

Then, I have succeeded.

Just as recovery, I take this mission one day at a time. One blog at a time. One conversation at a time. One connection at a time.

I didn't have a post-it, but I had a voice. That's what matters.

Questions: What have you learned from struggles in life?

To learn about how you can pass it forward, check out the Operation Beautiful website or buy the recently released book by Caitlin Boyle.


4 responses to “Operation Beautiful: Hindsight is 20/20

  • Jessica @ lacesandlattes

    This is a beautiful post; thank you. You have amazing inner strength to not only not be triggered by the disordered behaviour but to want to help them. You have come so far!!

    All the best as you go back to school- happy and healthy!

  • Dana Meredith

    Hey Emily. This is Dana from school. Scanning through your blog, I have been reminded of my own struggles with an eating disorder. As a freshman in high school, I developed anorexia nervosa. At my worst, I weighed 89 pounds; I am 5’4″. Thankfully, I recovered and have been healthy and happy with food for several years now. But your blog reminds me of my own struggles and hard it was. If you ever need to talk, I’m here.

    Also, I wrote this column for my high school newspaper my junior year of high school. It was never published, but looking back on it now, I stand by what I wrote. I hope it can help you as well.

    This week was National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Or for the female population here at West, “the-week-when-they-cover-over-the-bathroom-mirrors-and-I-have-to-use-the-paper-towel-dispenser-to-put-on-my-lip-gloss.”
    How annoying, right? I mean, can’t all those anorexic people just eat a hamburger or something? They should just get over whatever it is that’s bugging them and eat like a normal person. Honestly, how hard is it? And why do they cover up the mirrors anyway? I could be having a majorly bad hair day and be in dire need of a mirror third block. Maybe I’ll just tear a little hole in the paper when no one is looking.
    Having personally experienced the struggles of living with an eating disorder, attitudes like the one above – which, by the way, I hear expressed on a regular basis – can be as harmful as the disease itself. It’s easy to make casual jokes about anorexics or bulimics, but I don’t think the people making these jokes realize the extent of the harm they’re causing.
    Recovering from an eating disorder is a long and painful process. There’s no magic pill, no quick fix, no easy way out. My recovery process has been on going since the end of my freshman year and will probably continue throughout my young adult life. I not only have to overcome psychological struggles with food, but the ignorant attitudes and jokes of my peers and the portrayal of thin celebrities in the media as “healthy” and “sexy.”
    The fact of the matter is, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Mortality rate. 10-20% of eating disorder patients aren’t going to get better. They aren’t going to get married, have kids and retire to Malibu at age 60. And if you think these diseases affect someone else in some other school in some other place, think again. Nearly half of all Americans know someone with an eating disorder. Chances are this includes you, even if that person you know hasn’t officially recognized their disorder yet.
    So in honor of this week of eating disorder awareness, I’d like to share some tips from NEDA (National Eating Disorder Association) on how to fight eating disorders and become more comfortable in your own skin.
    Put away or throw away your bathroom scale.
    Weight is just a number! If you like the way your body looks, don’t feel pressured to achieve that “magic” number on the scale. Focus on maintaining a healthy body shape and lifestyle, not three little digits on a screen.
    Start each morning by saying something nice to yourself while looking in the mirror.
    Confidence is power. Find something you love about your appearance or personality and remind yourself of this attribute before heading out the door to catch the bus or start your car.
    Choose to avoid making comments about someone else or yourself on the basis of body shape or size.
    It’s easy and ignorant to dismiss or judge someone based on the way they look. Focus on learning about someone’s personality and hobbies and make an effort to overcome the need to discuss your or someone else’s physical appearance.
    Throw away all your diet products.
    Crash diets are dangerous and can easily lead to the development of an eating disorder. The only way to effectively and safely lose weight is through a permanent lifestyle and dieting overhaul. Don’t become dependent on a “quick fix.”
    Donate clothing that no longer fits comfortably to charity.
    Don’t starve yourself to fit into jeans you bought two years ago! As we age and mature, our bodies change and what fit last year may no longer be appropriate for your body type.
    These are just a few ways you can personally make an impact in the fight against eating disorders. Speaking from experience, I can say that the support of my family and friends at the beginning and throughout my struggles with anorexia has been invaluable. You can be invaluable to someone else by becoming educated about eating disorders and their ravaging effects and by making an effort to focus on the inner beauty of others. And those covered up mirrors? They’re covered to promote acceptance of our body types and appearances, not to foil your third block grooming attempts. That, at least, I can promise.

    • pursuitofhealthfulness

      Dana- Thank you so much for sharing. All too often, struggles of self-esteem are quiet and swept under the rug. Personally, I am in a really good place with recovery, but I know that many other people continue to face similar issues. Support is so essential!

  • 2010 in review «

    […] Personal reflections on eating disorders: “Hindsight is 20/20.” […]

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