I remember the first time I decided that I wasn’t good enough. I was 10 years old and I had just been called fat for the first time. I was entering into a new stage of life and I had put on 15 pounds in a month. My body was changing, there were these things called boobs, whatever. I didn’t want any of it if it came with 10 pounds of extra baggage, so I went on my first diet. Let me just go ahead and tell you now that my diet failed. I was 10; what the heck did I know? I do know now that I was influenced by mass media and the culture that surrounded me. With a wonderful melting pot of bullying from classmates, skinnier girls in magazines and two older sisters who were in perfect shape, I wanted to be thin.
Skimming through magazines, ogling at girls in the outfits I couldn’t fit in, I became insanely envious of how their bodies looked. I tore out ads from Teen Vogue and Seventeen Magazine and hung them in my room as inspiration to become like them. As if somehow glorifying them on my walls would be a daily reminder to eat less and workout more, the images only made me more frustrated. At 13, I simply didn’t understand that my body would change and blossom on its own as I grew older. The images I hung up in my room became a mental trap, boasting how after three years I was still just as frustrated with how my body looked and that I had made zero progress to becoming thinner.
One year later and I found a support group online that I could talk to about becoming anorexic. Yes, becoming anorexic. I would post daily with these other women in the group; we would discuss how much water we drank that day, how much food we ate or how mad we were at ourselves for eating too much or working out too little. I even joined a “challenge” group that was supposed to help me lose weight: the more calories you ate, the less points you received. As I struggled on the brink of binge eating and anorexia, I figured this was the way to finally just do it. To just stop eating real food to see real solutions. The goal was to eat 200 calories or less in order to receive 10 points. This began my veggie burger and gallon of water a day challenge.
At 100 calories a day, I was finally getting to where I wanted to be: model thin. Success! Except why was I feeling so empty and unfulfilled? I was doing everything right. I exercised for three hours a day, I ate one veggie burger a day, I was losing weight and I had support from other kind women online who were struggling internally just like me. The problem was with all of the pictures I continued to see and all of the messages I kept reading. Well did that bag of chips really have less fat? Is Britney Spears’ workout plan really going to make me look like her?
The questions I asked at ages ten to fourteen are questions I still ask to this day. Except the mindset I have when I ask them now is a bit different than ten years ago. My issues with eating disorders eventually died down by the time I was eighteen, but I have been working on my confidence and self-acceptance for a long time. Working in the marketing industry, I am much more in tune with advertising way more than I ever used to be. I really began to notice all of the good work that McMahon Marketing does. One of the best things about the agency I work for is the fact that we do great work for great people. No fabricating business brands in order to gain customers, no dodgy statements about specials only to negate them later. We represent ourselves, our business and clients’ businesses whole-heartedly. Then this made me ponder, “Why don’t others do this more often?”
As I thought about little baby Jen struggling in her pre-teen angst, I also asked: When did it become okay to project how other people should look? To say that thin is in and the ideal body type is a size 2? I am continuously baffled, to this day, as to how so many fashion companies, food corporations and fitness outlets try so hard to get everyone to fit in the same box. If we were made to all be the same and to have some unified, cookie cutter world, wouldn’t some higher power have made us that way? I’m not the type to blame others for my problems, so I won’t outrightly say that “the media” is the reason why I developed an eating disorder, but it was definitely a contributing factor. It is a theme that is perpetually resonated with literally millions of girls, boys, women and men around the globe.
I wish I had more questions than answers, but I am here to tell you to take everything you see in the media with a grain of salt. You are not what you see in the magazines, the television shows, the movies or on your favorite celebrity’s Instagram. These ads, billboards, commercials and photographs are going to show everyone as tan, fit, happy and glowing because they want your business. They want your attention! When we stop “buying in” to what mass media wants, I truly feel that we will all become a little bit happier. I also would love for more people to become aware and educated on eating disorders. They aren’t just a fad or a phase that people go through. These are issues that people have in their lives and it is important to not just brush disorders to the side (I can say the same for any and all mental disorders and lack of support/knowledge for them, but maybe in my next blog).
Either way, this is why I love what I do. I put out good, honest and high integrity work and I feel that it is my personal mission to dispel the items that other marketing companies shell out as pure bull. No, I don’t know if that mascara will make my eyelashes longer and I don’t truly know if there is an extreme fat burner in that pill, but I do know now to put a wall up to all of those messages and you can, too! People are exposed to as many as 5,000 ads a day…five THOUSAND! Of course, we as humans, in all our faults and glory, are going to want more and be different. We want to be different so much that we are all actually becoming someone we probably aren’t. We are drowning in and becoming overly inundated with messages of how we should eat, what we should wear and who we should look like.
This is my message to all of you, especially to young women and young girls: you are not what you see. You are wonderful, strong, confident, capable, witty, smart and worthy all on your own. Your personality and body is constantly changing, no matter how old you get. Please remember what you want now may not be what you want a few years from now, so stick to what you know and what makes your heart happy! There will always be a new trend or a new product on the market. Honestly, I’m too tired trying to race around to keep up with it all. In the end, it isn’t the material items that we take with us when we pass on, so put that knowledge in your back pocket. You will fall in love with who you are all on your own with time. I'm currently aboard that train as we speak and it is seriously marvelous. Oh, and remember to tell the haters to have a seat in the very back as they watch you shine in all your magnificence from the very tippy top.
February 22-February 28 is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. If you are anyone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, please feel free to reach out to me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org or find more information/resources here: http://nedawareness.org/
'Til next time, you gorgeous people,