Love Your Tree contest

With NEDA week complete, I’m moving on to new parts of my project in order to keep the eating disorder awareness momentum going. My first order of business is introducing my school to the “Love Your Tree” contest. The contest began at a rehab center and the objective was to paint a picture of a tree and label it “Like a tree, my body is _____”. The blank can be filled with words like strong, unique, beautiful, etc.

Instead of just introducing this contest to art students, however, I’m expanding it. The contest will also be open to writers, so students also have the option of writing a poem based on the same idea. My mentor is offering $500 in total to go to the winners of the contest, so a winner from each contest will get $250. I’m excited to see how many creative students, whether or not they have had experience with an eating disorder, will partake and put their creativity towards raising awareness and promoting self-acceptance!

Practicing what I preach.

When you’re an 18 year old girl and you’re in charge of an anti-eating disorder/pro-positive body image capstone project, you start to realize how hard it is to practice what you preach at times.

As much as I tweet/talk/blog about positive body image and loving the body you’re in, I’m not perfect and I don’t intend to trick my audience into thinking I am. From age 13 to 16 or so, I was in a serious battle with my own body. It’s like I didn’t realize that stretch marks and weight gain and body fat are normal aspects of growing and being a normal human being. Then one day, I began to understand that no matter how much weight you lose, how much make up you wear, or how many brand-name pieces of clothing you buy, happiness begins when you gain full self-acceptance, not when you become someone you’re not. This starts with taking care of yourself; treating your body as your biggest prized possession. It starts with feeding yourself lots and lots of the right foods, but not beating yourself up when you indulge in a slice of cake or some fries. Once you learn to love yourself, you begin to help others love themselves as well, which is one of my biggest motives for this project.

Although I do act as a watchdog sometimes, correcting friends and peers on negative comments about their appearance or the appearance of others, I won’t try to act like I’ve never been critical of myself, or that I’ve never judged someone solely based on their appearance. However, I will say that this project really has helped me grow and mature in my thoughts towards my own appearance. I no longer stand in the mirror and look for imperfections, like I did two years ago. Instead, I appreciate what I see and feel proud of myself for taking good care of the healthy body I’m in. No, I haven’t gotten to the point of throwing out my scale (mainly because I’m an athlete and muscle mass matters a lot), but I no longer obsessively weigh myself multiple times a day.

Growth takes time. Change takes time. Learning takes making mistakes and going through dark times in life. For every negative comment I’ve made about my body in the past, I strive to make three positive ones. I challenge everyone reading this to do the same.

“I had no idea…”

Each year, NEDA (National Eating Disorder Association) comes up with a new theme for NEDA week (the last week of February). This year, the theme is “I had no idea…” Although a seemingly vague or indirect title for a campaign, the saying, “I had no idea”, definitely rings a bell for anyone who has either had an eating disorder or known someone with an eating disorder.

The point of this title is to bring light to the fact that there’s so much the public doesn’t know about eating disorders, and might never know, unless a strong effort towards the education on ED’s is made. This is why NEDA and NEDA week exist; to help people understand and be aware of eating disorders and their severity. This is also why my project exists, but on a much smaller scale.

In addition, the broadness of “I had no idea” leaves so much room for people to share their personal experiences, breaking down some of the stigma that follows the topic. Some may say, “I had no idea that my passion became a problem”, if they’re sharing their experience with excessive exercise or unhealthy dieting. Others may say, “I had no idea that recovery was possible”, to share their inspiring story of how they finally overcame their struggle. No matter who you are or how much experience you have had with eating disorders, the saying applies to everyone, making it so versatile and relatable.

So how will I work this into my own project? I plan to use the term as a base. Maybe writing “I had no idea” on sticky notes or index cards and letting students fill them out based on what they learn about eating disorders throughout the week, or what they previously learned from personal experience. This will create a much more interactive environment for students, creating an open, honest conversation about eating disorders throughout the school. In addition, I will use NEDA’s posters, flyers, brochures, etc. (all of which will have the slogan) in order to bring in the presence of a real organization that students know they can contact if they ever have questions about eating disorders/are concerned about themselves or others.

As NEDA week approaches, I feel more and more ready and excited to bring a new focus on self-acceptance and health (not weight) to our school. I hope this campaign and the new push to educate students who don’t know about ED’s, and help those who may have one, will leave a positive, lasting impact on this community.


Fat Talk Free Week

Fat Talk Free Week, an event designed by Tri-Delta, is a campaign geared towards positive body image. More specifically, it deals with getting rid of negative body talk, called “fat talk”. Fat talk includes statements such as “Ugh, I look so huge in this dress” or “Wow I need to lose 10 pounds before I can wear those jeans”.

This kind of talk not only lowers self esteem, but also spreads quickly. A comment from one girl to another can turn into a chain reaction of negative thoughts and talk. Because this “fat talk” is so common not only at my school but my generation of young women in general, I decided to bring FTFW to Silver Creek.

With the help of my mentor, I set up pledge cards, stickers, table tents and flyers (all including the FTFW logo and mission statement) With the help of some volunteers (thank you!!) , we collected over 200 signed pledge cards during A and B lunches during the course of 5 days during the week. The pledge cards had a statement saying that by signing the pledge, the person agrees to remove fat talk from their conversations, and to focus on themselves through a more wholesome perspective, not focusing so much on their external features. In return for signing the pledge, each student received a sticker promoting FTFW. To my surprise, many people commented on how great and relevant they thought the campaign was. From personal experience, I know students aren’t always eager to take time out of their lunch to sign a pledge or learn about a campaign, but the students at SCHS proved otherwise. I feel as though I truly had an impact on many people.

I’m very happy with the turn out of the event, and feel much more prepared for NEDA week due to the experience FTFW has offered me.

My story

My experience with eating disorders and the terrible things they can do began at a young age.  As a synchronized swimmer, I was taught to be body-conscious since day one of practice, we all were. Everything is about perfection; being on count, being strong, and doing all of it with grace and a smile.

I walked into a meet one day, glancing at all of the familiar faces I would usually see at a home meet. However, one face didn’t look the same. It was hollow and ghostly. I looked down and noticed an equally hollow and frail body. I was in shock, all of us were. But no one said much about it. Being only 13 and confused, I resorted to simply talking to my friends about it, brushing it off. She was on the opposing team, and it had nothing to do with me. She, thankfully, got the help she needed and is now in full recovery.

But it didn’t stop there.

A couple years later, a girl who was on my own team was forced to later drop out of college synchro and seek help. This was a girl who I was sure was confident with her own body, and I admired her for that. Hearing that “she has a problem…” made me question everything. How could that happen to HER? I realize now that it could’ve been anyone. I look back and remember my own experiences with body-image related stress, and I’m thankful that I, despite everything, was lucky enough to never get to the point of hospitalization. Or having to drop out of school to seek help.

I also realize that the reaction most people have towards someone with an eating disorder is a problem on its own. Instead of gossiping about it, we need to be out there doing something. We need to offer support and patience, because the process of recovering is not simple, and the process of prevention is not quick. My goal is to educate the public, to end the stigma behind eating disorders, and to offer support and help to those in recovery.