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“Body Acceptance Basics” (By: Kayla Douthitt)

Dear Body,

I’m sorry for all the times I’ve took advantage of you. I know you’ve starved long enough. You’ve been pressured into exercise, squeezed into clothes that were uncomfortable, and felt underappreciated. You never wanted to hurt me, but I hurt you. What I did to you mentally, physically, and emotionally cannot be taken back. But I’ve learned a lot about you in the last little while. You’ve always been there to take care of me, even when I didn’t feel like taking care of myself. This is why I know you are ready to heal, and that’s what we are working on together. It’s time to get better.

Remember…

That hair of yours is gorgeous. Do you know how many people want that hair?

Those eyes. They don’t need all that eyeliner, mascara, eyeshadow. Just let them shine on their own.

Those teeth are strong. Let them help you chew, and don’t forget to flash those pearly whites in pictures.

Those arms are so stout. Use them to keep waving even when people don’t wave back.

That stomach holds all the food that you NEED to eat.

Those legs are sturdy. They help you move from place to place and don’t seem to complain unless they’re overworked.

Those cute feet, keep them protected. Buy comfortable shoes that feel good, and paint those little toes whatever color you like.

As I write this letter, I think about body acceptance and body positivity.

Both equally important for our well-being, and I’d like to get back to the basics of how to accomplish it fully.

This is why I want you to know the truth.

It’s hard practicing body positivity and body acceptance all the time, I totally get it. You’re not alone when some days are harder than others. Even for the most confident people, if they were really honest, they’d tell you it can sometimes be difficult.

For myself, days where I tend to struggle, are the times I learn the most. And learning is what it’s all about. As we learn, we grow in some many ways.

Here are 5 tips that can assist you on your journey towards positivity:

  • If you start getting negative about the way you look, don’t look at it as a setback or think you messed up again. Instead, ask yourself, “What can I do that brings my body the most joy?”
  • When you get in a funk, learn to take a pause, take a breather. Write it out. (Hence writing a letter like the above).
  • Looking at why you want to become more body positive is crucial. The why will help you stay on track for the long haul.
  • Realizing your body deserves and NEEDS respect by you and by other people builds and raises your self-confidence. Diana Ross has it right. R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me….
  • Take baby steps, you’ll get there. Slow and steady wins the race!

Start today, as you are. Be real, but know it’s possible to become happy with your body. It takes time, but you got this!

Go back to the heart of the problem to truly understand the roots of how to receive body positivity. No affirmation, no mantra, or motivational tape alone will fix it.

You gotta put in the work. But I can promise you, there is nothing like embracing yourself.

Much love,

Kayla

About the Author

Kayla Douthitt is an intuitive eating health coach specializing in helping people overcome eating disorders, negative body image, and self-esteem issues. She stresses holistic health practices such as: stress management, meditation, journaling, and daily check-ins to heal from the inside out. Kayla overcame a 10 year battle with low self-esteem, anorexia, and binge eating herself. Thus, she is able to relate to others on a personal level. She understands how it feels to hide food, constantly stay on the scale, over-exercise, and compulsively count calories. She also knows the healing and recovery is fully possible. Her goal with Wisdom ‘N Wellness is to be able to inspire others on their road to finding food freedom and living their best life! Check her out on Facebook and her website!
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“You Are the Image of Strength” (By: Kelsey Albright)

A few years ago, my hair was so brittle that it constantly broke off, my skin was starting to turn gray, my eyes looked like I hadn’t slept in weeks and you could see almost every bone through my skin. I had turned into a tiny, frail, malnourished version of myself. Everyone kept telling me that I had a problem, but I didn’t see it for a long time. I was blinded by my eating disorder and unable to see what others saw. I would get irritated when people wanted to help me, as I didn’t think I needed help.

A few years later, here I am trying to help other people with the same problem I had. Many individuals think it’s as simple as deciding to not have the problem anymore and to simply start eating an appropriate amount. It’s not that simple when you’re the one with the eating disorder because you don’t see what others see. It’s almost like your eating disorder locks your mind in a cage and doesn’t allow your eyes to see the real you.

I’m finally at a point in life where I can look back and appreciate my struggle for what it was. It was I that had the courage to heal myself and to choose a different path. It was I that faced my problem head-on and conquered it without breaking. Recovering wasn’t something that someone else could do for me, although a few beautiful people did help me along the way. I was the warrior that bravely fought my battle and I was the champion that prevailed.

We wouldn’t know true strength if life was always a walk in the park. Strength is the outcome of overcoming challenges and being courageous enough to face our fears. Strength is trusting yourself enough to pull yourself through anything and everything life throws at you. I found my strength when I decided to choose myself over my eating disorder. There were and still are times when my disorder tries to take over again, but I build my strength every time I continue to choose myself, my health and my happiness.

If you are reading this because you suffer or used to suffer from an eating disorder, know that you are strong. Whether you have recovered or are wanting to recover, you are the hero in your story. You can conquer anything you set your mind to. Every step forward that you take, regardless of how large or small the step is, is a step closer to a healthier, happier you. I hope that you see how truly beautiful you are in your purest, most natural form. Keep fighting and never give up, you beautiful warriors.

About the Author

Kelsey has battled mental health issues since she was a child. After recovering from anorexia with the help of a wonderful life coach, she decided that she wanted to help others with these types of issues. She has a passion for healing through life coaching and energy work. Her hobbies include playing with her kids, being one with nature, writing and helping others.

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“Finding Your Tribe” (By: Jeremy Sosnick)

In the early days of my eating disorder, it took some convincing for me to seek out treatment. The stigma, shame, and embarrassment was real and I’m not the type of person to admit what I perceived as a weakness easily. My anorexia creeped slowly into my life and restricting became a normal habit, especially when my irritable bowel disease would flare up. The eating disorder voice was getting louder and louder. Finally, with some nudging from family and the thought of future complications looming, I decided to start my treatment.

Strength in Support

Trying to manage any eating disorder is a complex challenge but doing so on your own is even harder. I found a ton of benefits in developing my support network – my tribe, as I like to call it. This includes doctors, dietitians, therapists, counselors, friends, family, coworkers, and other members of the eating disorder community who are facing similar struggles. Many of these relationships began from personal recommendations but others were found organically through online searches. That roster may appear overzealous at first glance but the variety in perspectives and experiences has been valuable at every turn. Establishing a support group rapport in periods of recovery help to maintain that recovery for longer while that same tribe can help you bounce back in periods of relapse.

The Battle Ahead

Whether you’re a veteran combatant or a novice to the eating disorder battlefield, there is something to be learned from those around us. A communal healing process is one I’d highly recommend at any point in the recovery journey. Once entering treatment, my perspective shifted: I began viewing my anorexia as a true illness, not as a personal character flaw or something I had chosen on purpose. I don’t expect an easy path to victory but I can’t imagine doing this entirely on my own. Thankfully, I don’t have to.

About the Author

Jeremy Sosnick has dealt with anorexia for a number of years but has found stability in outpatient programs. He’s a black and white illustrator who enjoys telling stories through portraiture and sequential art. Jeremy currently resides in Nashville and enjoys game nights, museum visits, and early morning jogs through the neighborhood.

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“A Journey Inward” (By: Kayla Douthitt)

My body….Yuck! My Face….Yuck! My reflection…Double Yuck!

I gotta look like a certain way in order to be like them. By them, I mean the popular girls. You know, the perfect ones. The ones that get all the dates, all the guys, all the new name-brand clothes.

OK…

I think I’ll start a diet. I’ll start it today to “lose weight” and “look good” for everybody else. What people think of me matters most.

Let’s see….. I’m going to diet – I’m going to cut out lots of different foods! Sounds great!

This whole diet-thing is totally working! I’m definitely losing weight. I’m gonna look so good. Everyone will want to be my friend.

This mirror makes me look terrible! I must stay on a diet longer.

I must keep going even though I’m exhausted, moody, depressed, lost my periods, and mad at the world because it seems like NO ONE understands. No one appreciates that I don’t want THEIR food. I have to count all my calories, pack my own stuff wherever I go, and only eat foods that I actually hate all the time. I must weigh myself non-stop. If I gain weight, no one will like the real Kayla.

Who is the real Kayla? I have no clue.

This was me, for a long, long time. I struggled with low self-esteem, negative body image, anorexia, over-exercising, binge eating, and yo-yo dieting. This was me trying to fit into the cookie cutter mold I thought was “ideal.” This was me, body shaming, food blaming, and no self-love Kayla.

I wanted to be like, sound like, look like, talk like, and walk like, everyone else. This was me till a light bulb went off and hit me like a ton of bricks that I needed to change. I had to change.

If I wanted kids, the dieting needed to stop. If I wanted to go out on a nice dinner without fear, it needed to stop. If I wanted to be able to enjoy the holidays, it needed to stop.

I decided to seek help and go on a journey towards finding self-love and healing. I’m glad I did.

Slowly but surely, I started to see who the true girl was behind the looking glass. I started realizing my body is great, it was ok to eat, and that I was more than just a number in a white box with flashing red digits. I began to hold my head a little higher and my smile got a little brighter. I was gaining energy, I was able to eat dinner with my family, and my love of cooking came back again.

I started realizing that I am love, I have gifts, talents, and I liked my weird sense of humor. I turned inward towards meditation, journaling, and intuitive eating. I started to love me…all of me…for me.

As I write this to you, I get a bit sad thinking about my years spent in anxiety, but also a sense of relief to let you know self-love is possible.  

I’m here to tell ya, you are beautiful and loved.

I’m here to tell ya, no matter what has happened in your past, what’s going on in your present, or what will happen in your future, YOU matter.

I’m here to tell ya, self-love is NOT selfish.

I’m here to tell ya, slow and steady wins the race and the journey is worth taking.

I’m here to tell ya, be your biggest hero, even when you have stand alone.

I’m here to tell ya, I still have to practice what I preach each day.

I’m here to tell ya, if I can do it, I have faith you can do it too.

About the Author

Kayla Douthitt is an intuitive eating health coach specializing in helping people overcome eating disorders, negative body image, and self-esteem issues. She stresses holistic health practices such as: stress management, meditation, journaling, and daily check-ins to heal from the inside out. Kayla overcame a 10 year battle with low self-esteem, anorexia, and binge eating herself. Thus, she is able to relate to others on a personal level. She understands how it feels to hide food, constantly stay on the scale, over-exercise, and compulsively count calories. She also knows the healing and recovery is fully possible. Her goal with Wisdom ‘N Wellness is to be able to inspire others on their road to finding food freedom and living their best life! Check her out on Facebook and her website!
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“What You Probably Don’t Know About Eating Disorders” (By: Peggy Miller)

In honor of this month being NEDA week, I decided to write about some common cultural misconceptions about eating disorders. Ending the stigma around eating disorders and getting help begins with knowing and spreading truth, and my hope is that this post will be informative and helpful in that process.

Eating disorders are NOT solely defined by weight or body type.

Many of you have probably heard this before, but it is so true. Solely using a BMI and/or a weight to diagnose the severity of someone’s eating disorder is just not accurate. Different behaviors with food affect different people’s bodies in different ways, but they are ALL damaging to a person’s health. For instance, someone whose disorder involves bingeing or bingeing/purging might gain weight, or they might remain the same weight as their set point. Someone with a more restrictive eating disorder might be severely underweight, or they might remain a “normal” weight even though they have still lost a significant amount of weight from their body’s set point. Frequently, someone who has been restricting for a long time will eventually start bingeing, and sometimes they might continue to lose weight while other times they might gain weight as their body goes into starvation mode and holds onto all food. There are many ways that behaviors of an eating disorder can affect a person’s body, but the point is, weight alone cannot measure the severity or the presence of an eating disorder (it is important though! It’s just not the only thing that matters.)

So, doctors and professionals need to be careful to ask about the thoughts and behaviors of a person rather than just looking at the weight. The frequent comment people make of “you don’t look like you have an eating disorder!” is so damaging and can keep people from getting needed help, which means endangering their life by living longer in their eating disorder all because they do not feel like they are worthy of recovery. Also, if you are currently struggling with an eating disorder and feel that you do not deserve recovery because you don’t “look like” you have an eating disorder, PLEASE know that you deserve life and recovery. Your eating disorder wants you dead, and it will never tell you that you are “sick enough” to deserve help. Some of the worst eating disorders are in bodies that are at a “healthy weight”- an eating disorder is not solely defined by weight!

Eating disorders DO NOT only affect rich white girls.

Again, this is NOT true. Eating disorders affect people of all genders, socioeconomic classes, and races. They are also not just confined to first world countries. Eating disorders are more diagnosed and treated in first world countries, but they are present in developing countries as well. Eating disorders are ways of dealing with deep inner pain and hurt, and these emotions are not just confined to one kind of people.

People with eating disorders are NOT shallow.

I know a lot of people with eating disorders, and they are truly some of the best and deepest people I know. Even though it can seem like someone with an eating disorder only cares about their appearance, that is not the case. Someone with an eating disorder has learned to manage their emotions and their lives with food – they have deep emotional pain and unmet needs. They have a mental illness. Trust me, if you could sit in on a session or a group with clients with eating disorders you would not think they are shallow. Usually, body image is a major issue, but it is not all about the actual appearance. For instance, many people with eating disorders associate gaining weight with being a burden and being un-loveable – it is not just a shallow desire to be thin. If eating disorders were just about appearance, recovery would be a whole lot easier.

Some eating disorders are NOT “better” than others.

Our culture tends to glorify anorexia – the extreme thinness and the self-control are considered desirable. However, it tends to think that people who struggle with bingeing lack control or discipline, and this creates more feelings of shame for them as they try to seek help. The truth is that every kind of eating disorder is damaging physically, mentally, and emotionally. In any kind of eating disorder, the person is not in control, the eating disorder is. No eating disorder behavior is better than another, they are all awful.

An eating disorder is not a choice, but recovery is.

A person does not choose to have an eating disorder, but they do choose recovery. Just because they choose recovery does not mean they are immediately better, though. Recovery is so very bumpy and hard. Even if someone you know is in recovery and talking about their eating disorder and at a better place physically, continue to check in with them and be patient with them as they learn to talk about something they have kept hidden for so long. Know that they feel frustrated at themselves when they slip up in recovery – remind them to be upset at their eating disorder and not themselves.

Happy almost NEDA week!

About the Author

Peggy is a college student in Nashville, Tennessee, and hopes to one day become a therapist for eating disorders. She has struggled with some kind of mental illness for most of her life, and has struggled with anorexia for several years before choosing life and recovery by deciding to get treatment. She is passionate about recovery, and hopes to one day get to help a client find the freedom and hope that her treatment professionals helped her find. Peggy absolutely loves people, deep conversations, coffee, and most of all, Jesus. She aspires to show each and every person she meets that they are loved and worth immeasurably more than they can imagine.

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“Relapse” (By: Jessica Smith)

Relapse.

What does that word mean to you?  Defeat?  Despair?  Inevitability?

Recovery isn’t linear.  That’s what they tell us, and boy are they right.  For some of us, particularly those of us who have struggled with restrictive eating disorders, life exists in a very black and white manner.  There is no room for gray.  There is no room for anything less than our absolute best, or rather, the absolute best.  We carry on our backs the weight of world’s opinions and judgments the very moment we encounter anything less than perfection.  Immediate shame…immediate self-berating.  And like any human who is hurting or afraid, we run back into the arms of what feels safest.  Back to what feels most comfortable.  Unfortunately for me, that meant venturing back into the beckoning clutches of my eating disorder.

Several weeks ago, my husband and I were going through an incredibly difficult time.  I felt overwhelmed by the needs of those around me and of my inability to meet those needs.  I didn’t know how to cope with the tornado of emotion inside of my body.  So…I retreated.  I avoided.  I comforted myself the only way I had known for so many years.

I had made it one full year and a few weeks before I returned to one of the more detrimental behaviors of my eating disorder.  In hindsight, it is clear to me that I had been slowly moving backwards for some time.  I’d dip a toe in here, test the waters there, until before I knew it, I was again doing the very thing I’d managed to avoid for so very long.  I had had a really good run, and then I threw it all away.

Or did I?

You see, this is where we must challenge the thoughts that come to us.  Because the very nature of recovery is anything but linear, one could argue that relapses are inevitable.  This may not the case for everyone, but it most certainly is for me.  After that major relapse, I could have wallowed in my overwhelming sense of defeat and decided that recovery wasn’t possible.  I could’ve thrown away everything I’d learned in exchange for a coping mechanism that only offers mere moments of comfort and distraction.  Because truly, that’s all my disorder ever really offered me: mere moments of temporary satisfaction.  It’s almost like scratching a mosquito bite: it brings a great deal of relief in the moment, but all you’re left with is an even itchier spot on your leg.

The days that followed, I battled intense urges to return to my disordered ways.  It was surprising to me how intense the urges became.  Distancing myself from those behaviors for so long had made me somewhat forgetful of their power and influence.  I started to realize just how very far I had come.  I realized that the monster inside of me had been largely squashed, and though he is still there, I had shut him up.  I did that.  As it turns out, he is not all that powerful…I am.  And so are you.

There are many things one can do to avoid a relapse.  One technique my therapist suggested was to imagine my behaviors as a series of circles inside one another, smallest to largest.  The innermost circle holds behaviors that are a product of me at my worst, and the outermost circle holds behaviors of me at my personal best.  My outermost circle consists of me eating what I want, when I want it, and without regard to the nutritional information on the labels.  It’s a world where I honor my hunger instead of feckless rules and rituals.  It consists of me not skipping social events to exercise, and of not looking at my body with anything other than appreciation and gratefulness.  My innermost circle is the opposite of that, and the circles in between are somewhere in the middle.  No one’s circles will look the same, but it’s important to identify your own thoughts/behaviors and write them down.

The key to this technique is this: once you start recognizing that you’re creeping towards that inner circle, you must reach out for help.  No matter how inconsequential you feel the behavior may be, it leads you down the path to that inner demon who wants nothing but to destroy your life and rob you of its joy.

While I failed to utilize this technique effectively and ended up in a relapse, I am now empowered by the fact that I am on the other side of it.  I have empathy for myself and my mistakes, and I choose to keep going.  As the days passed and I was further and further away from the relapse, my resolve became strengthened and the urges began to diminish again.  There is hope for me, and there is hope for you.  No matter how far you think you may have fallen, there is always a way up and out.  Never give up.

About the Author

Jessica is a self-professed “hot mess mama” who resides in Old Hickory with a wily black cat, her easy-going husband, and their tiny dictator, Tucker (4 years old.) Having spent many years of her life battling serious eating disorders and a complicated relationship with exercise, she is now passionate about sharing the messages of hope, recovery, and freedom found in body positivity, intuitive eating, and in the Health at Every Size movement. Jessica is an alumnus of the Belmont University School of Nursing, and after graduating spent many joyful years working in pediatrics and intensive care. In 2014, she did what she deemed unimaginable and temporarily left her career to became a stay-at-home mom. She spends her days managing all the things while trying not to take life too seriously. Her hobbies include reading, photography, pretending to be a gardener, and avoiding writing in the third person.

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“When Your Body Feels More Like a Frenemy Than a Friend” (By: Katie Ledermann)

Skinny jeans, crop tops, and unachievable clothing sizes. Society makes it nearly impossible for positive body image to foster in our environment. Coming from New York I constantly compared myself to women walking on the street. It was nearly impossible not to. I tortured myself to reach this unachievable standard.

I thought I found the secret to everyone’s success and happiness, but wondered why I was still miserable. I lived like this for two years. I was shocked when I was told I suffered from an eating disorder. I thought what I was doing was considered normal.

I was introduced to body dysmorphia, which was described as seeing myself in a way that no one else saw. At the time, I saw my body as shameful and constantly needing improvement.

What I failed to recognize was all the amazing things my body does for me. I’m able to walk, move, and dance. Without my body, I wouldn’t be who I am. This wasn’t an easy concept for me to accept and took years of treatment.

I still struggle with negative body image thoughts today, but what’s different is how I approach them. Instead of over-exercising and punishing my body for trying to be the size it naturally is, I write a gratitude list for the things it helped me do that day. For example, today I was able to walk to class, hold a cup of coffee, breathe in the fresh air, and see and smell the different sights around me.

When your eating disorder voice tries to body shame, stop and think, what does your body do for you that you’re grateful for?

About the Author

After battling with anorexia for years, Katie sought help through residential treatment and the help of her therapist and nutritionist. Now her passion is helping others who are struggling. She enjoys hiking, attending support group meetings, cooking, and playing with her dog Bailey.

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“A Masterpiece in the Cold’” (By: Kelsey Albright)

Sometimes it just feels nice to know you’re not alone. When you’re stuck in a world of comparisons and pain, you feel like nobody understands the hurt. You feel as if you’re lost out in the cold by yourself with no one to keep you warm. The cold consumes you piece by piece and you begin to feel internally frozen. If you’re lost in the cold right now, know that you’re not alone. There is an army of warriors that have fought the same freeze and some continue to do so.

Most don’t understand the battle of having an eating disorder and the impact is has on the life of those that battle it. I am not one of those people, as I understand all too well what the suffering feels like. I was once lost in the cold for far too long, so long that I became numb to it. I searched and waited for someone to save me before I realized that I had to save myself. You see, I grew up not knowing how to love myself, which means I never knew the warmth and comfort of self-love. All of the walls inside me were letting the freeze rapidly rush in because they were broken, therefore I had to rebuild a strong foundation.

Don’t wreck the walls that keep you strong by comparing yourself to anyone else. Comparisons will destroy your foundation and cause you to feel as if you aren’t good enough. Comparing yourself to others when you have an eating disorder is like trying to put out a fire by dousing it with gasoline. Don’t fuel that malicious flame inside of yourself. Put your envy to the side and grab your tools so you can start building yourself up. Your life and your happiness are for you to build however you see fit.

Regard yourself as a cloud or an ocean wave. All clouds and waves are different from each other, but none are right or wrong in form. All humans are different, which is why comparisons are irrational. After all, a masterpiece wouldn’t be a masterpiece if it wasn’t unique and special in its own ways. You are the most beautiful masterpiece. You don’t have to change a thing about how you look because you are already perfect.

About the Author

Kelsey has battled mental health issues since she was a child. After recovering from anorexia with the help of a wonderful life coach, she decided that she wanted to help others with these types of issues. She has a passion for healing through life coaching and energy work. Her hobbies include playing with her kids, being one with nature, writing and helping others.

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“When Christmas Doesn’t Feel Merry” (By: Peggy Miller)

It’s almost Christmas, and it seems like the whole world is feeling happy and loved and content. If you’re not feeling this way, the holiday season can feel especially lonely and hard.

Maybe it’s your first holiday season in recovery, and you are feeling a lot of sadness for all the holidays you’ve spent in your eating disorder.

Maybe you’re feeling a lot of fear about family interactions and food situations based on past hurt.

Maybe it’s your first holiday without a loved one.

Maybe you just found out some very difficult news.

Maybe you are deep in a struggle with depression.

Maybe you are just feeling exhausted from all that this last year has held.

There are so many reasons that this holiday season could feel sad and hard. And on top of all of it, we tend to feel shame and guilt when we don’t feel what we think we should around the holidays.

Breathe, friend. You are not alone. Please let go of your feelings of guilt for the season you are going through. Let yourself feel the sadness and hurt and fear and all the feelings you think are bad to let yourself feel.

But also, please don’t let yourself believe that since you are going through a tough season you cannot also feel the joy that the holiday season holds. Maybe it won’t be the same as other years, and maybe you’ll only feel it in short glimpses, but a hard season can hold joy.

I’d like to encourage you to leave space for your sadness and also to look for joyful moments.

Maybe it’s the lights on a house you drive by.

Maybe it’s a hug from a little niece or nephew.

Maybe it’s a Christmas movie on a snowy night.

Maybe it’s a cup of coffee in the morning.

And my hope for you, is that by leaving space for all the things that this holiday season can hold, you would know some peace. Because it’s so okay if this holiday season looks different than any of yours before and anyone else’s holiday season.

About the Author

Peggy is a college student in Nashville, Tennessee, and hopes to one day become a therapist for eating disorders. She has struggled with some kind of mental illness for most of her life, and has struggled with anorexia for several years before choosing life and recovery by deciding to get treatment. She is passionate about recovery, and hopes to one day get to help a client find the freedom and hope that her treatment professionals helped her find. Peggy absolutely loves people, deep conversations, coffee, and most of all, Jesus. She aspires to show each and every person she meets that they are loved and worth immeasurably more than they can imagine.

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“It’s Okay To Not Be Okay” (By: Stephanie Owens)

It’s okay to not be okay…Really embracing the truth behind this phrase has been quite the journey for me.  In our social media-driven society, we often feel the pressure of living up to glamorized ideals of what life “should” be – what we should look like physically, what we should be accomplishing in our careers, and what we should have as “squad goals.”  Somewhere along the way, we have been programmed to compare our lives to other people’s highlight reels.  This showcase of others’ greatest moments is not real life.  While each day may present a number of great experiences, we are, more often than not, reminded that life is far from perfect.  Disappointments, struggles, and pain are real.

The ten-year-old version of myself hopefully anticipated the future and the seemingly endless opportunities to achieve my dreams of becoming a singer and performer.  However, battling an eating disorder from the age of eleven to fourteen turned my world upside down.  I became obsessed with perfection and being perceived as “beautiful” and “having it all together.”  I sought to “control” every area of my life, which quickly escalated into monitoring everything that I ate and over-exercising to the point of exhaustion.

Over the next three years, anxiety ruled my life, and I lost the carefree girl who looked at the future with excitement.  My parents witnessed me struggling and tried everything they knew to help, but, for a long time, I did not want to admit that I had a problem.  As long as everyone on the outside saw me as what was “ideal,” I thought I could tough it out and somehow deal with my emotional and mental turmoil.  But I was not okay.  I was far from okay; I was miserable.  I had honestly begun to wonder why I was ever born.

Naturally, I am inclined to be a stubborn person, and it took me hitting rock bottom before I admitted that I was not okay and needed help.  My faith in the Lord began at a young age, but, up until that time, I don’t think I really understood how my personal walk with Him impacted my identity.  I remember praying and telling God that I was not okay and that, if I was going to get better, He was going to have to heal me.   Recovery was definitely not a quick or easy process, but I began to learn that I had to put my worth in how He defines me instead of in how I look or perform.  Admitting that I was not okay allowed me to finally get the necessary help and support from my parents and counselors.

In the years following my recovery, I truly learned to be thankful that I battled an eating disorder and struggled with anxiety.  My trials played a significant role in shaping me into the person I am today, and I realize that I was given my story for a reason.  As a country music artist, I have a unique platform to speak hope and encouragement into people’s lives.

I released my debut EP and music video this past spring, and one of my songs in particular relates to my former body image struggles.  “Little Girl in the Mirror” will always hold a special place in my heart because, through it, I am able to tell the world that there was a time that I was not okay.  Very recently, I was given the opportunity to sing that song and share my story on The Huckabee Show.  As a young girl, I never would have imagined that my national television debut would center around me talking about my weakest moments in life, but I have become passionate about exposing pop culture’s insinuation that life can or should be “perfect.”

As you read this, I would love to encourage you to really let yourself hear and feel that it’s okay to not be okay.  I do not believe that anyone should ever be embarrassed or ashamed to share their hardships because, in reality, we all fight various battles and go through times of emotional, mental, and physical turmoil.  Struggles are not a sign of weakness – they just mean that we are human and need a supportive community to encourage and walk with us in our recovery journeys.  Admitting and accepting that it’s okay to not be okay also opens up opportunities to empathize with others in pain.  Whatever trials you have experienced or are experiencing right now can impact others in a powerful way because there will only ever be one you on this earth with your circle of influence.  Will you join me in changing the stigma about struggles and in helping our fellow brothers and sisters understand that it’s okay to not be okay?

About the Author

Stephanie Owens is a country music singer-songwriter living in Nashville, TN.  Passionately devoted to using music as a platform to share her story and inspire others, her debut EP is a collection of songs that creatively captures both the raw vulnerability and bold intentionality of her personality and music.  She is committed to promoting a positive body image amid today’s pop culture.  You can find Stephanie on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook.  Links to her music and videos can be found on her website.

Additional links:
Music Video
Huckabee Performance
Huckabee Interview

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