I was deeply saddened to read about the death of Isabelle Caro, a French model and actress. After coming across her obituary, I sought out her story and found pictures of a frighteningly thin woman who, in her darkest days struggling with anorexia, weighed only 55 lbs.
Eating disorders are rampant in our culture. According to the website for Love Your Body Day, 10 million women in the US suffer from anorexia or bulimia, and 25 million more suffer from binge-eating disorders. And even if they don’t have an eating disorder, the vast majority of women struggle with what they see in the mirror – 8 out of 10 women are unhappy with their reflections.
Advertisements and magazines bombard us with the message that thin is beautiful. But the irony is that the women we torture ourselves to look like, the women in those magazines that tell us how to lose 20 lbs so we too can fit into that size 2 dress, are often torturing themselves to maintain those “perfect” bodies. The list of celebrities who have spoken about battling eating disorders is extensive: Kate Beckinsdale, Sharon Osborne, Sally Field, Jane Fonda, Lady Gaga, to name a few.
I totally identify with that 80% of women – for the first 25 years of my life, I fought a fierce battle with my own body image. I was born into a world that was not safe – I lived in fear of an abusive father – I used food to feel safe. When I was not eating, I was thinking about food or when I could get my next meal. I got very fat and by 4th grade my mother took me to an obesity clinic.
As I got older, I started using bulimia to control my weight gain. In these dark days I was blessed to meet a role model who changed my life. She taught me that my body wasn’t the problem – my body image was. My salvation lay not in “fixing” my body by making it thin, but in learning to love my body.
It was after this life-changing encounter that I was able to end my decades-long struggle with food and my body. I’ve made it my life’s work to help women in my situation; (I developed OnePinky, an online community dedicated to women who want to replace dieting with self acceptance.) I now coach women how to own and love who and what they see in the mirror.
Eating disorders and body image issues have a variety of causes, but I’ve found one thing to be true of all the women I’ve worked with – they aren’t happy because they don’t love themselves. One of the greatest myths, perpetuated by pictures of skinny, smiling celebrities, is that thinness is happiness. Portia De Rossi, star of Ally McBeal and Arrested Development, put it perfectly in an interview with Oprah about her own eating disorder: “Always feeling like if you weighed a little less, somehow you’d be happier, your life would be happier – it’s a horrible way to live.”
What is this year’s New Year’s resolution is not to change our bodies, but to change how we see our bodies?
I’m not a doctor, but I am someone who overcame years of binge-eating and bulimia, and all of my techniques are things that helped me along my journey to recovery. I’m thrilled to share a few OnePinky tips on how to love your body and treat it well every day.
The road to self love is not an easy one, but following these three steps will put you on the right track. How do you keep your inner critic in check? What do you do to celebrate and appreciate your body? I welcome your replies and wish you all the health and happiness you deserve.
Laura Fenamore, CPCC, is a Body Image Mastery Coach and Mentor, and creator of OnePinky.com. Learn more about Laura at her newly relaunched site, OnePinky.com.
Laura Fenamore, CEO
If you want to like WHO and WHAT you see when you look in the mirror, then we need to talk.
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