“But I don’t have an eating disorder, I’m just trying to be healthy,” she said. -The all too familiar line that many teen and adult women alike use when people remark on their quickly thinning bodies.

Is it the truth or is it simply justification for an extreme lifestyle that a large majority of women take on in the pursuit of acceptance? Often times a closer look at the lives behind the ladies [and a growing number of men] using this response reveals a very distorted picture. Calorie counting apps on their iPhones, no carbs, 90% of meals consisting of lean animal protein with a side of low carb vegetables, no carbs, high intensity workouts 6-7 days a week, no carbs, additional exercise in the form of “restorative” yoga (aka high-heat power yoga) classes 3-4 days of the week, no carbs, selfies at just the right angle to show progress [to make yourself feel good,] no carbs, a constantly racing mind with dieting and exercise rituals, no carbs, “cheat dayz” consisting of an Instagram captured $$ burger with fries to assure the elders in their lives that they’re eating…and did I mention no carbs. Add this to already busy lives: school, marriage, a career, motherhood, a social life, maintaining familial relationships, a significant other, hobbies, maintaining a home, etc.

Read over the scenario I painted above again please, slowly, taking it in for everything that it is.

Whether you fall into the category of the lifestyle depicted above, are a helpless bystander for loved ones that do, or have long envied others that are able to have “enough motivation” to live that lifestyle, I truly hope when you read it there is at least an ounce of you that is thinking, “holy $hit, that’s insane.” Because it is insane people. IT IS INSANE. There is SO much more to life than what we look like, let alone the specific types of foods we will mentally allow ourselves to eat or the exercise we hate but force ourselves to enjoy. We were not put on this earth to be consumed by the diet culture or to be ornaments for others to look at. We were put on this earth to live, breathe, be happy, enjoy the little things, follow our dreams, fall in love (or not), pursue our passions, respect one another, let loose every once in a while, the list could go on and on. But what I truly don’t think would ever make the list is to obsess about our physical appearance by way of extreme dieting and exercise on a daily basis that creates a crazy making mind trap in order for other people to like us. Nope, sorry folks, don’t think that would ever make the list. What’s incredibly sad is that a huge percentage of women allow that very item to consume their list, to sit right at the top of their life-list neglecting all the fun things below it because it’s so consuming.

One of the greatest challenges with this though is that it is so accepted by society. Let’s be real, society is a full-fledged enabler of this lifestyle. It is so accepted by society to “be healthy,” that many women can get away with their disordered eating habits without a care in the world by most of the people they know. Please wake up ladies! Disordered eating in the form of one or all of the things mentioned above is not something that should be condoned, not something that should be celebrated, and not something that should be bypassed by loved ones. There is an incredibly fine line between a diagnosed eating disorder and disordered eating. Someone who falls into the category of disordered eating simply doesn’t meet the full criteria for an eating disorder. However this does not mean that they didn’t come incredibly close to meeting such criteria, In fact they may meet all but one criteria. Mental health diagnoses in general have a list of symptoms or situations necessary in order to diagnose an individual. It is very important that we recognize that just because we were not labeled with a diagnosis does not mean we aren’t struggling and does not mean we are not deserving of support.

Women have a tremendous amount of pressure on them to look a certain way in order to be accepted by society. It’s not fair, it’s not healthy, and quite honestly it creates a culture of superficial individuals that continue to crave happiness with each step further into the hole. Unfortunately, happiness is often times never achieved. Skinny does not equal happy nor does money nor does eating one meal per day. If you fall into the lifestyle described in this post, I understand where you’re coming from, I understand why you feel the need, I understand the longing, but please let this read allow you to take a step back and perhaps place one foot in the right direction. A step toward letting loose a bit, accepting your body for what it is, and living freely. You are not “being healthy” by overworking and semi-starving your body or mentally depriving yourself, in the long-run you’re doing quite the opposite. One of those most common responses when interviewing elders about their life experiences and regrets is that they wished they would have lived a bit more. I promise you it feels damn good to eat a donut with no shame 😉

Diet culture is a [mental] prison ladies, break the shackels and stop living in it. #letloose #foodfreedom #livebeyoutifully