Healing is Exhaling

521c44d8e7bad3d6c5e242e7641c1fa1Dear You,

I see you. I see you fighting to take that next breath. I know that it feels like all the wind has been knocked out of you. There’s so much pressure from the void inside your chest that it feels physically impossible to breathe. But you can.

I know that telling you that you are able to breathe doesn’t help. It’s like telling a person who’s drowning to just swim. But I want you to know that you aren’t weak. You aren’t a victim to this. You have power. You are strong. You can control so much of your story.

Whatever it is isn’t bigger than you. I know that you feel small. I know that you feel like you can’t possibly change anything. What’s the point in trying to heal if it’s always going to loom over you? I promise you, it’s not always going to be there. It doesn’t have to at least.

Small steps become a huge long road that you’ve traveled. You might just be barely shuffling your feet, but soon you’re going to look back and you’re going to be one foot, five feet, fifty feet, one mile, two miles, twenty miles from where you started. That one small step might hurt like hell and it might feel like it won’t make a difference, but soon you’ll look back and think wow, I’m glad I took that step.

You gotta heal for you. This thing that is haunting you is only affecting you. Sure, what’s hurting you has somewhat of an effect on the people around you because they care for you, but they’re not the ones waking up in a sweat from a nightmare, having a panic attack when they’re alone in the car, or leaving class early when something triggers it. They’re not affected in the same way that you are, because they are not living what you are living.

I know that you wanna heal for your best friend, your boyfriend, your family, your whoever so that they don’t worry about you. It shows so much of your heart and character that you want to care for them, but that isn’t true healing. That’s just people-pleasing. And that will be the death of you. Probably not your physical, literal death, but it’ll be the death of your real, life-altering healing. 

If you try to heal just so you can please someone else, you aren’t healing. You might feel like you are, but really, you’re just stuffing everything under the rug, placing a coffee table on top of it, and pretending that there aren’t lumps underneath. It might feel okay, but one day you’re going to go to redecorate your living room and you’re going to move that coffee table and rug and everything is going to come right back out.

Healing has to be for you. And you’re the only one who can heal yourself. Your friends can’t heal you; your therapist can’t heal you (WHAT I know isn’t that what you pay them for??). You and God are going to be the only two players on this team against the darkness. But hey, that’s more than enough. Your loved ones will be cheering you on from the sidelines, but you gotta fight this one yourself.

You’re more than capable of this. Whatever it is, someone else has fought the same battle before you. They made it through, and so will you. It won’t be easy, it probably won’t be quick, but it’ll be worth it. 

Real healing, the kind that takes time and uncomfortable effort, is glorious. It’s unlike life that you have ever known. It’s like exhaling a breath that you’ve been holding your entire life.

You can breathe again and finally just be.

This healing is yours.

It’s waiting for you.

It has your name on it.

It’ll hurt at times, but it’ll also be kind and gentle. You can go at your own pace.

Just please, begin.

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Thank You for Staying

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Dear Mere,

My bff. My soulmate. The platonic love of my life. My hero. My go-to, always and forever. I love you. I’m thankful for you. It blows my mind that I get to do this life with you.

Last week in therapy, my therapist asked me about the relationships in my life. She wanted to know who my healthiest, most beneficial friendship was with. Without hesitating, I said, “my best friend Meredith.” I went on to explain how amazing and life-giving our friendship is. And I can’t stop thinking about that. About how crazy blessed I am by you. About how wild it is that I’m best friends with a random girl in Virginia. About how much this friendship means to me.

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We were inseparable during treatment. We called ourselves Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, the Dynamic Duo of CH, and a gazillion other nicknames that made no sense. We joked about ordering walkie-talkies on Amazon after they moved you to a different bedroom so we had to be separated for eight hours each night (complete torture). We begged to be put in Magnolia together downstairs, but they simply laughed at us because they knew we would never sleep if we roomed together again. We made stupid Snapchat videos during phone time making fun of all the weird rules we had to live with (lol @ all my Snapchat friends who were probably so confused by those videos because I had not “come out” about being in treatment yet). We watched Mamma Mia everyday until the DVD mysteriously “disappeared” until the day after we discharged #thanksMegan. We took the trash out together and played some rotten fruit baseball along the way (literally blessed that we never got caught because that was 1000% excessive body movement). We were loud as heck every night snack, but especially on Mondays. The house could barely handle the two of us together.

I’ll never forget that night in the hallway. You know what I’m talking about. If I hadn’t already known it, I knew right then that you’d be my best friend for life. You get me like no one else.

Carolina House discharged us a day apart (convinced they did that simply because they knew one of us couldn’t survive in res without the other). The day you left was one of the saddest days of my life. Saying goodbye and not knowing when I’d see you again after spending every waking moment of the past two months together was a punch in the gut like I’d never felt before. But the best days of our friendship were just beginning when we stepped foot outside of that yellow house.

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We’ve literally been through everything together. Recovery, starting college, navigating life away from home, making friends, almost joining Greek life (lol), falling in love, heartbreaks, friend issues, fighting with each other, happy anniversaries and sad anniversaries. We’ve danced on mountaintops together and cried with each other in deep valleys. We’ve seen it all and yet we’ve both stayed. Through all our arguments, through all the recovery lapses, through all the FaceTimes where all we did was cry. We stayed.

You’ve been the biggest constant in my life over the past year and a half. No matter what, I know that I can text you and vent about anything. It might take a while for you to reply, but you always listen and always always always validate. You’ve taught me what being a true friend looks like. And oh my, you have been the truest friend to me.

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You’ve stayed. And you haven’t ever considered leaving. I’m sitting here crying about that right now because wow, life post-discharge has been so brutiful. Beautiful in all the glory and joy that recovery brings, but brutal because life is just dang hard sometimes. And you’ve stayed through all of it. You have been a constant in my life that I’ve never experienced. I’ve never met someone who has experienced all the deep, dark messy with me and still decided to stay in the exact same position. Except no, you didn’t stay in the same position. You’ve only moved closer. You’ve gotten right in the dirty with me. You’re covered in the mud just as much as I am. You’ve said me too. You’ve said I understand. You’ve said I’m going through this with you. And that blows my mind.

Even when you didn’t have the words, you stayed. Even when I tried to push you away, you stayed. Even when I was less-than-pleasant to be friends with, you stayed. You stayed at times that I don’t even know why you would choose to stay. Your act of staying, of coming close, of getting messy with me has given me courage to stay also. You have selflessly loved me in a way that my words will never be able to explain.

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We are 546.3 miles apart, and yet you’re so present in my life that it feels like we are together everyday. We’ve only seen each other five times since we discharged, but each time we’re together it feels like nothing has changed. It takes someone super special to be able to stay that present when there is so much distance between us. And I’m so thankful that you’ve decided to stay present for me.

Knowing you has been life changing. Getting to walk this road with you has been the biggest blessing in my life. You’ve shown me love, grace, humility, acceptance, bravery, and forgiveness time and time and time again. You walk out your freedom so beautifully. You are my hero. @God, can I be like Mere when I grow up?? You’re a world changer. A truth speaker. A kind listener. A chain breaker. A goodness seeker. A peace bringer. A freedom proclaimer. A radical lover. A life changer.

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I’ve always known that I want to name one of my daughters Meredith. When you came to CH, I remember thinking, “I better like this girl because I don’t want her to screw up this name for me.” Now I am so excited to one day be able to tell my daughter about how she’s named after her beautiful, strong, brave, amazing Aunt Meredith.

I used to never understand recovered people who would say that they are thankful for their eating disorders. But now I do. I’m thankful for my eating disorder because through it I met you. Our paths would have never crossed if we didn’t go to Carolina House when we did. If we hadn’t decided that the risk was worth it to pull out of our senior years and put everything on pause to [hopefully] gain our lives back. The risk was so worth it. We gained our lives back. And we also gained each other.

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Thank you for staying, Mere. By doing that you have loved me in a way that no one else quite has. You jumped in right after me. You stayed with me. And you’re helping me climb back out. You’ve cried with me, screamed with me, and spoken some choice words with me. You’ve also laughed with me, cried tears of joy with me, and had dance parties over the phone with me. You’ve mourned with me and you’ve celebrated with me. You’ve stayed with me.

That means more to me than I could ever say. I love you so incredibly much. I can’t even say how many times I’ve looked at my phone background and said to whoever I was with, “I just love Mere SO much I can’t even handle it.” I don’t know what the heck I did to make God think I deserved you in my life. But I’m so so thankful.

Thank you for staying.

Always.

Thank you.

 

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Dear Ed,

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Today, May 5, 2017, is my one year in recovery. One year ago I walked through the doors of Carolina House and was admitted to their residential program. You can read a blog post about that here (and you can find all my blog posts tagged treatment here too if you’re interested). Reaching the one year mark is weird and hard, but oh so joyful. So today, to celebrate my one year of starting to kick Ed (my eating disorder) to the curb, I’m writing him a letter. If you have never experienced an eating disorder, it may seem weird to you that I personify my eating disorder and call him Ed.  Just roll with it, friends. When there’s something in your head screaming at you, you want to be able to somehow separate it from who you are. So my eating disorder is Ed. And here’s what I have to say to him.


Dear Ed,

I remember when we met. I was 13, and my friend introduced me to the wonderful “comfort” that you bring. First I let you into my life because I wanted to lose weight. Not that I needed to, but I thought it would prove me worthy enough to be friends with the girls at school. Simple enough, right? No. You already had your foot in the door, so you soon began to demand your way. You quickly became my best coping skill, because even though you were slowly beginning to suck the life out of me, you numbed the pain of depression and took the place of self-harm when I had to cope in a “socially acceptable” way, aka not eating. Because dieting is normal and okay for a 13 year old, right? Wrong.

It’s been a long haul with you, Ed. Five years. You saw me throughout half of middle school and all of high school. When I think of my high school years, I don’t remember hanging out with friends during class or on the weekends. Instead, I remember skipping every off campus lunch so that I could sit in the hallway alone – I mean, sit in the hallway with you – and not eat. I remember not going to a single school dance (well, I went to my senior prom for 15 minutes – that counts, right?) because I had isolated myself so much that I had no friends to hang out with. I remember sitting in class, not paying attention to the lesson at all, but instead tallying up calories in my planner and planning my “meals” for the week.

To you, those things might sounds fun. Those are the things that you thrive off of. But to me, those are horrible memories. You took everything from me. Everything. Every good memory that I have since the age of 13 is tainted by you. My first cruise? Tainted. My first prom? Tainted. Every birthday? Tainted. Every event in my life that should have been completely happy and free? Tainted. You took everything from me, and even still, you wanted to take my life. And I’m over it.

I’m over it because I still have the 13 year old girl inside of me who still thinks she’s fat. Who cries when she looks in the mirror. Who wants to crawl out of her body when she feels food settle in her stomach. I’m over it because 13 year old me should have been a happy seventh grader, but instead she was taught to hate herself. That 13 year old girl grew up to be the same 19 year old girl that I am today. And this 19 year old still feels the 13 year old inside of me. And the 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18 year olds. I feel all the brokenness. All the jagged pieces that don’t know where to fit. Some days I handle it really well. Some days I can kick you in the balls and go on with my day in freedom. But some days I’m crippled. Because 13 year old me is crippled. Or maybe it’s 17 year old me that’s crippled. But regardless, you broke me for so many years and I’m still trying to fix that.

I want to be able to love myself. Shocking, I know. You told for some long that it’s not possible. But I’m learning that it is possible. It’s more possible to live a successful life of loving myself than it is to live a successful life with you, because guess what. No one can live a successful life but also be tangled up in their eating disorder. But living a life of freedom and happiness while pursuing self-love is so completely possible, so that is what I’m after! I’ve made a lot of progress in the past year. I’ve eaten fear foods and made them my b**** (curse word sorry BUT SO TRUE). I’ve exercised because it makes my body feel good, but I’ve also stopped myself from exercising when I realized I was obsessing over the calories being burned. I’ve bought clothes to fit my new, beautiful recovery body. I’ve let myself cry and be mad at you/my body/my treatment team/food/the world. I’ve screamed. But that’s all part of this thing called living. It’s a new phenomenon to me, because you didn’t let me experience real life. But let me tell you, this life thing is pretty cool.

I know, I know, it hurts to die a slow and painful death. I know because that’s what you were doing to me. While I was malnourished and dying, you were thriving. The closer I got to death the more alive you became. But guess what. My recovery kills you. And it’s a long process. Some days I’m suffocating you, but other days I seem to have you on life support. The life support days are becoming few and far between, thank goodness. Each day I’m able to suffocate you a little more, and this is the control that I need – the control that you claimed to give me, but never did. Even though I claimed to love you for five years of my life, I know that I don’t love you. You love you. I hate you. I want you dead and gone. I want to live, so that means you have to die.

I don’t like you. I know that sometimes I say I’m going to rekindle our relationship, but we never get past the first date. Because it. ain’t. worth. it. You have this thing about making me seem like I’m the bad person, but let me just tell you, YOU are the bad one. You’re the murderer, the thief, the stalker, the crazy ex boyfriend who just won’t let go. And I am done.

I wrote you a letter very similar to this while I was still in treatment. In it I told you, “I’m fighting you now. I won’t stay victim anymore. I won’t give in to your every demand. I’m fighting for life and health, not thinness. So you have to move out of my mind, my values, my meals, my life. I’m changing my life to a life without you.” And WOW past SB was killing it. A life without you is the best life that I’ve ever lived.

I’m glad that I started kicking you out of my life a year ago. I’m glad that the only thing left of you is the occasional overnight bag. I’m excited for when you’re completely gone, but I know that recovery is a process and that healing is not linear. But just let me tell you, just because you have an overnight bag packed and ready to go does not mean that you still have power and ownership over me. YOU ARE GONE, SIR. You are powerless over me because now I have power over you.

So, just to remind you, you suck. It’s not me, it’s 1000% you. Five years with you was not fun, but this past year without you has been amazing. So don’t bother coming back. You’re still not welcome here and never will be again. I still hate you, and you’re still a scum-bag. You’re a bully, you’re controlling, and you deserve to die. I don’t need your fake love anymore.

Goodbye, Ed.

Sincerely,

Sarah Beth

PS. Did I mention that I hate you?

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To the Girl Who Feels Stuck

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To the girl who feels stuck,

You’re me right now. But I also know that a lot of other people feel stuck. So as much as this letter is to myself, it’s to all the other girls (and guys) out there who feel just as what the heck as I do.

You feel really stuck right now.

Like really stuck.

You thought you were doing great, you thought you were going 100 mph at everything, and you thought everything was under the control.

But then maybe you realized that things aren’t as hunky dory as you originally thought.

And that’s okay!!

But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt to realize that you’re still human. That you’re still a human in recovery.

(PS, stop cringing at the “in recovery” part. It’s fact. That’s not going away anytime soon. Yes, “recovered” will come, but you’re not there. It’s okay that you’re not recovered yet. That takes time. Years, even. You’ve only been out of treatment for nine months. You’re not supposed to have it all together yet.)

Anyway.

I know that it hurts. It actually hurts a lot to be smacked in the face with reality.

You thought you were going 100 mph, and maybe you were, but you just missed a few turns along the way. Or maybe you were going 75 mph, so just a little slower than you thought. Or maybe even you were going 120 mph, so fast that you were being reckless and missed a few stop signs. Regardless, you’re not where you thought.

And just because you’re not at your destination yet doesn’t mean that where you’re at isn’t beautiful and good too.

Appreciate where you’re at right now. It’s not the end point, and it may not even be the middle point, but it’s still a good point. It’s still worthy of being at.

You might not be as far as you thought you are, but that doesn’t change how far you’ve already come.

Girlfriend, you’ve come so dang far. You’ve conquered so many hard things that you never thought were possible.

So guess what?

You can keep conquering things.

You’re going to keep kicking things in the booty because that’s just who you are as a warrior.

I know that you feel stuck.

You thought you were at point D, but maybe you’re only at point C.

But hey, you’ve already passed points A and B.

And being at point C is pretty dang awesome.

Being at point C does not make you stuck.

It just means you’re at a different place than you originally thought.

And let me let you in on a little secret.

You’re not as stuck as you think you are.

You have some things to work through and some lingering thoughts to tackle.

But you’ve grown a lot of strength and endurance this past year, so you’re going to tackle and defeat these thoughts a lot quicker than you would have a year ago.

You’ve grown so much, girl.

You’re moving mountains.

You’re not stuck.

Hear me again.

You are not stuck.

You’re moving and you’re beating things and you’re conquering and winning.

And you’re still doing that, even at point C.

Don’t be discouraged.

You’re doing so good.

Keep it up. Don’t give in.

Don’t give in to the voice in your head that’s telling you that it’s not worth it anymore.

If something is telling you to quit just because you’re not as far as you thought, that is a voice that is not worth listening to.

You are worthy of continuing.

You are worthy of continuing because you are worthy of winning in the end.

You are worthy of the victory.

You might feel stuck, but you are not stuck.

Where you’re at is still worthy of being at, and your final destination is still worthy of fighting for.

You’re rocking it, girlfriend.

You’re inspiring as heck.

You’re me and you inspire me.

Present me is being inspired by past me because past me was a total kick butt rockstar and I know that present me is still that same girl.

Keep doing what you’re doing because it’s totally working.

Keep on keeping on.

You’re doing it, girlfriend.

You are doing it.

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An Open Letter to My Treatment Friends

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Dear Mandy, Meredith, Kristin, and Sarah,

Oh my goodness, oh my goodness. My love for y’all explodes unlike any other people that I have ever met. I guess that makes sense because y’all truly are unlike any other person that has ever walked into my life. Who knew that when I walked through the door of that little yellow house in the woods that I would meet four of the best girls ever and would hold onto them for dear life in the coming months.

Our two months in treatment were the worst ever. They were the best ever. They were the most gut wrenching. They were the most heart filling. They were every single emotion and adjective that you could use to describe them because we were becoming pros at feeling our feels and we definitely made them vocal enough for the entire house to hear (cue my multiple meltdowns after phone time). Those two months in treatment were the hardest months of my life, but I truly laughed. I truly loved. I truly cried. I truly felt. I truly danced. I truly sang. I truly yelled. I truly hit things (bat therapy, anyone?). I truly did all of these things because of y’all.

We caused a lot of chaos in that house, but only in the best way possible. We often felt like we were being annoying (we probably were), but I know that the staff appreciated it. That place could get so so dark, but we always brought the light. It took a while for us to find that light in ourselves, but as Meredith’s dad reminded us with his flashlight (actual tears still), there was always a light to find. And y’all, we found that light. We are shining so bright.

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We watched a heck of a lot of Annie, endured the same 30 minutes of Mamma Mia until Meredith got distracted, crocheted, hula hooped for only five minutes, crocheted while hula hooping, sang a lot, constantly asked to be let into the art closet, sang hymns after lights out (still don’t understand that one honestly), had nightly pow wows, wore gloves while doing dishes (“the disgusting vat of nastiness”), got in trouble for laughing too much, absolutely lost it in the best way possible every Monday night snack, talked in pig latin, and so much more.

We made faces at each other over not to our taste preference meals (tofu we’re looking at you), played table games when one of us was struggling over dinner, cheered each other on when we had to supplement, supported each other through behavior chains (and laughed at Meredith’s very passive aggressive behavior chains), held each other’s hands when emotions became too strong, celebrated when we had bowel movements (if you’ve never had an eating disorder, don’t judge us), reminded each other to use our coping skills, cried with each other after hard therapy sessions (@ family therapy), and validated the heck out of each other’s feelings.

As much as therapy and groups changed my life, y’all changed it more. Without y’all at CH, I would not have been able to do it. I would’ve AMAed my butt out of that place real freaking quick. Even though we were all going through our own crap, but we brought out the joy in each other. No matter how hard a meal was or how vulnerable we felt after a group, we still laughed and sang and felt all the feels. We had each other’s backs when it felt like the world (or the team) was against us. We were all that each other had (except from 7:30-8:45 when we had contact with the outside world). We stuck together like glue because I don’t think we would have been able to survive without each other.

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I’ll never forget Meredith writing me a note during a hard dinner that said, “You can do it, buddy. Remember, recovery is worth more.” Or when Kristin wrote us all letters for us to read out loud at each other’s goodbye snacks since she couldn’t be there. Or when Mandy helped me draw x’s over all the times I wrote “fat” on my body. Or when Sarah hugged me for the longest time and reminded me of my worth after a really crappy phone time. I’ll never forget the times that y’all fought with me, even when I didn’t want to fight.

Sometimes we had to force each other to fight, but we always fought.

We all said goodbye at different times (RIP the one night I was left alone at CH), but we never left each other. We started the Hermacita Fan Club group message, and we’ve talked almost everyday since then. There is not a single day that passes without me thinking of y’all and thanking Jesus for y’all.

We’ve done a lot since we’ve discharged. We’ve texted, road tripped, ate sketchy free froyo in a Mexican restaurant, NEDA walked, flown on airplanes, explored random cities, did a scavenger hunt all over downtown Atlanta (excessive body movement??), watched Annie, gone to the beach, gone to a pumpkin patch, crocheted, NEDA walked again, driven past Carolina House, FaceTimed, struggled through a corn maze, gotten tattoos, and so much more. Some of that we did just two or three of us, but some of it all five of us were there. Whether together or apart, we have lived so much life in the past months.

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I’m so proud of y’all. I’m so proud of us. To think of how far we have come since May. We are absolutely killing it, y’all. We’ve done amazing things and we’re going to continue to do amazing things. We’re going to change the world. We’re going to live happy and healthy. We’re going to make it.

I love y’all so much, I can’t even put it into words. Thanks for being the 8 ounces of milk to my 2 cups of cereal because #perfectratio. Y’all rock.

With all the love that we never gave to Hermacita,

BASA

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Because throwback to when we had to photoshop pictures together bc HIPAA.

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A Letter to the “Normal” World

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Dear “Normal” World,

Sometimes you seem really appealing. Sometimes I wish that I was apart of you, but as I was reminded last night, I’m different. And really, I’m okay with that.

Being different from you means that I don’t try to control my weight in unhealthy ways. It means that I don’t have to worry about exercising to burn off my dessert. It means that I don’t have to obsess over calories. I used to do these things, but I don’t have to anymore because I’m different.

I’m honestly really sorry for you, “Normal” World.

You seem so sad and frustrated.

You have such unhealthy relationships with your bodies and with food, but you don’t even see the problem with that. It’s “normal” to you. It’s all part of the “Normal” World.

But I want you to know that you don’t have to hate your body.

You don’t have to exercise everyday of the week to compensate for what you’ve eaten.

You don’t have to check the nutrition label on every food that you eat.

You don’t have to take laxatives to fit into a dress.

You don’t have to skip out on eating carbs because you think that carbs are “evil.”

You don’t have to obsess over what size you wear.

You don’t have to tell yourself that you can’t eat something.

You don’t have to weigh yourself all of the time.

You don’t have to constantly be on a diet just to keep yourself in an unrealistic weight range.

You don’t have to put walls around yourself about what you can and cannot do about your body and what you eat.

I want you to know that you’re free.

You’re free to love yourself, your body, how you look, and who you are as a person.

I’m sorry that it’s normal to have an unhealthy relationship with your body and with food, but I want you to know that you don’t have to be normal in that way.

Dare to love yourself.

Dare to be body positive.

Dare to eat what you want when you want.

I’m not saying that you all have eating disorders, but using superficial ways to keep your body looking a certain way is not healthy.

So please, dare to be happy and healthy.

Healthy is balance.

Healthy is being able to eat cake, but also eating your vegetables and fruit.

Healthy is not feeling like you have to exercise.

Healthy is accepting what your body looks like.

Healthy is buying clothes that fit you, not trying to make your body fit into clothes.

Healthy is not caring about your weight.

Healthy is not comparing.

Healthy is celebrating what your body can do, not criticizing it for what it’s not.

It’s possible to be content with who you are and with what your body looks like.

I dare you to try to find that.

I dare you to step away from what’s normal and begin to have a healthy relationship with who you are.

It’ll change your life.

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