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Beth's Story: Challenging the Media

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… Challenging the media to stop showing airbrushed, fake women but rather "real women"—cellulite and all!

I am a 25-year-old who is currently involved in a therapy program to overcome my struggles with an eating disorder. My problems with body image began in high school, where I thought being thin would make me happier and more accepted. I did not enjoy high school, and was very quiet and reserved during those years. I was battling depression and anxiety on my own. My mother thought that keeping a journal would help, so that was the only way I could get the self-deprecating thoughts out. I began taking diet pills and metabolism boosters my senior year of high school, and lost 15 pounds that I didn't need to lose. I began to exercise after every snack or meal, fearing the weight gain if I didn't.

I was happy to go away to college and start a new life with new people. I thought my problems would stay behind, but the dreaded "Freshman Fifteen" crept up on me. All those late-night pizzas and drinking at frat parties made me pack on the pounds. Whenever I visited my parents during a break from school, I seemed to lose the weight. I concluded that I was a social eater, and I no longer listened to hunger cues, but ate when someone else did. I had no idea when I was hungry and when I was full. I would sometimes decline going to parties after looking at my profile and being disgusted at my large stomach or fat thighs.

This led to bingeing and purging beginning my Sophomore year. I would get stressed out about exams, drive through fast food places, stuff my face, and find a deserted area to throw it all up. I liked how I felt after ridding myself of all that food; it was like I was in a daze, and numb from all my concerns. I would then go into an exercise routine—going through the motions without much thought.

After graduation, I thought everything would change. My weight had always been up and down, and when I moved away I was determined to keep it down. I joined a fitness club and lost the first 10 pounds pretty easily. I then plateaued, but I knew I could be thinner. I began throwing up whenever I thought I had too many calories, no matter what my body was telling me. I began running long distances and working out twice a day. I liked seeing results, but at the same time I was so afraid of gaining even a pound back that I became obsessive about cutting out fats and exercising every day. If a social event interfered with my workout schedule, I just wouldn't take part. I withdrew into my own world where the only thing that mattered was food and being thin.

I finally decided to get help when I would cry over the toilet bowl, not wanting to put my fingers down my throat but feeling as if I had no choice. I couldn't stop bingeing on those "forbidden foods," and I was causing imbalances in my body and undernourishing myself. I went to an Eating Disorders Institute and am on my way to recovery.

My major challenge is accepting my body as it is. Everywhere you look there are messages about losing weight, cutting down on fats and calories, and the need to be thin. The internet, TV, radio, magazines—everywhere we see the message that thin is pretty, thin is happy, and thin is the ultimate goal. This obsession has ruined many lives, and I think it's time the media start taking responsibility for many of these messages. Why do models need airbrushing? No one is perfect. Why do we need to see waifish, computer-altered women in magazines? I personally would like to see images of strong women who are real. We are beautiful as we are—without airbrushing, with our cellulite, and muscular thighs. Let's see some real women on TV and in magazines, and stop perpetuating these obsessions with our bodies and our weight. I don't want my daughter to have to go through what I went through.

– Beth K.

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