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Happiness over beauty standards

“My relationship with food changed already when I turned eight. I was always a thin child, but because of my tall height, my body wasn’t as petite as my friends or the girls I’d see on TV. On measurement day at school, I dreaded being weighed. Every time the numbers on the scale would overtop my friends’ weight, and I hated it. My mom was a chronic dieter, so I knew from her experience that I could always diet and exercise to lose weight. As the years went by, I began to exercise heavily and control my food intake. It became my coping mechanism for all my insecurities, and a way to undermine and distract myself from confronting previous traumatic experiences.  By the age of 16, I became emaciated. Having starved myself for a long time, some of my organs eventually stopped functioning properly. I had no menstrual cycle for four years, and at one point I had just about no hormones in my body. My bones were constantly dislocating, caused by bone weakness, and I suffered from heart issues. Regardless of my condition, I continued to restrict my intake of food. In order to avoid people from criticizing my food choices, I became “raw vegan” - at least I could justify it, right? At 17 I was scouted by my current modeling agency. I made them believe I was naturally skinny that way - and me thinking that was how they actually wanted me to look, I did my best to stay like that. I spent two seasons modeling in Paris and participating in fashion week. Once I returned to the States I began contemplating my health, and was strongly advised by my doctor to gain weight and seek counseling. I resisted it for months until finally, I gave in. My body was screaming for recovery, and even though I still wanted to resist the weight gain, I knew I had to learn to accept it. I began practicing a lot of meditation and really tuning in to my body; trying to lift off all restrictions and learning to listen to my physical and emotional needs. Slowly and gradually, I recreated my relationship with food and life.  Luckily, my amazing modeling agency is all about my natural body, so they immediately welcomed and encouraged me. I am currently a year into recovery and the happiest, healthiest, and most fulfilled I have ever been. Yes, I look different now then I did before, but I love my body. And, I am still a model; in fact I enjoy it more than ever. My journey to self-love has been extremely difficult; from childhood I was struggling with insecurities, and as later traumatic experiences profoundly harmed my mental health, I was eventually led into a life-threatening eating disorder. However, looking back, all I have is gratitude for the experiences that brought me to where I am. To me, body positivity means embracing health and happiness over conforming to beauty standards. Body positivity is accepting where your body - and everyone’s body - is at this very moment. It is honoring the body you have and choosing to love it, embrace it, and give it what it needs—regardless of size or appearance.”

- Ema, USA

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