An Open Letter to My Readers with EDs

I do not believe this requires a trigger warning, but use your discretion. Fellas, I wrote this specifically from the female perspective, but some of this might relate to you as well.

Dear valued, worthy individuals,

Let’s start with the obvious. I empathize with your struggle; I have more body image issues than literally anyone I know. I am here to tell you you are super. I bet you have killer hobbies like winning ping pong leagues or jamming out on a cello. I bet you’ve taken the leap and dyed your hair fluorescent pink or something spunky like that. I bet you have hundreds of people in your school, work, or following you on Instagram that envy how inspiring, cool, or brilliant you are, and you don’t even realize it.

What I’m not going to do is tell you that you’re beautiful.

I’m not going to tell you your body is perfect as is. I’m not going to say, “There’s someone out there that thinks your body is beautiful and wouldn’t change a thing.”

There are thousands of think pieces out there that bemoan the unattainable standard of beauty. True, it’s unattainable. It skews our social concept of what’s attractive. It messes with our minds. It aggravates our sense of self. People are arguing that models should represent the average woman. That advertisements should be less photoshopped or completely unaltered. All valid. I support those campaigns 100%. But what if I said that’s not the solution?

There are even more think pieces—and now songs (that I hate, but that’s beside the point)—that inspire us to find ourselves beautiful without that willowy model figure or flat waist. That motivate us to love our fuller hips or ample curves. That try to train us to exclaim, “World, this is my muffin top! And I don’t care what you think about it!” Totally fair. Totally legit. But what if I said that’s not the solution?

The fact that we as humans base our worth off our appearance at all is the problem. 

What if we spent more time studying biochemistry and becoming chess experts than worrying about a “thigh gap?”

What if we spent more time analyzing gender roles in Shakespeare and learning how to code instead of “celebrating our curves?”

What if we read more? What if we took ballroom dance classes? What if we volunteered at soup kitchens and animal shelters? What if we tutored at elementary schools or libraries after school? What if we joined clubs that cultivated our leadership skills? our charisma? our love of life, learning, and relationships?

Our skills. Our abilities. Our personalities. Our grit. Our ambition. Our compassion.

“If the media is sending girls the message that their value lies in their bodies, this can only leave them feeling disempowered and distract them from making a difference and becoming leaders.” – Jennifer Siebel Newsom

What if people valued us on our ability to teach a student with a learning disability how to do long division without a calculator, rather than the symmetry of our eyes?

What if people valued us on our ability to listen, console, and lift up a friend in need, rather than the width of our hips?

What if people valued us on our ability to smack a softball out of the park with the bases loaded, rather than the size of our chest?

What if people valued us on our ability to host the perfect dinner party, pour mesmerizing latte art, capture incredible candid photos at your cousin’s wedding, or write a killer front-page news story, rather than the length of our legs? The curve of our nose? The color of our eyes? The circumference of our waist? The number on the scale?

Learn to cook. And then cook for others.

Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 9.10.15 AM

Run a 5K (or a 10K, or a marathon).

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Find your strength. Harness it. Refine it. Bask in the results. Because you worked really freaking hard to get them.



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Support the causes you believe in.

Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 9.08.32 AM Or do something else. Those are just the things I care about. You may care about something else. So do it. Celebrate your brain, your heart, your personality. Be healthy, but don’t waste your time staring into a mirror.

Accepting your body is a great message. But accepting your body doesn’t mean trying to make it beautiful in the eyes of you or the world.

It means accepting that your body is a body that physically allows you to open the restaurant of your dreams. To save a patient by performing open-heart surgery. To become a world-class athlete. To become a loving and dedicated parent. To be the one to crack the code on how to support patients of mental illnesses.

“I think about my body as a tool to do the stuff I need to do, but not the be all and end all of my existence.” – Lena Dunham

Yes, Express should stop trying to convince us that people have legs that look like this.

Yep, we should celebrate all body types.

But most of all, we should stop wasting our time trying to meet arbitrary beauty standards.

In all honesty, I wear makeup every day. I love fashion. My idea of casual wear is a floral midi skirt with a frilly top. I don’t even own a pair of sweatpants. 

Does this make my argument hypocritical? Maybe slightly. The truth is, I struggle just as much as everyone else to accept my own advice. I, too, want to “look good.”

But I would rather my boyfriend compliment my intelligence than my waistline. Or my self-taught coding skills than my long legs. Or something I wrote than the way my hair looks that day.

I’m not saying those compliments don’t feed my ego, but it means more to me to know someone thinks I’m intelligent. I worked for that. I studied. I read. I learned. I analyzed. I became intelligent. My intelligence could impact the world; my body can’t. It’s just there, helping me move from place to place. Helping me walk across the stage to accept my degrees.


So continue being awesome. Pursue your hobbies, interests, and career goals. Try and get accepted into that dream college. Be a leader, or support a leader if that’s more your style. Learn. Read. Surround yourself with people who support your ambition, not obsess over your appearance. Put down US Weekly and read Grist or One Green Planet  or The New York Times instead.

I don’t care what you look like. I care about what you’ll contribute to this world. Your “goal weight” will not solve homelessness. Your ideal body shape will not invent the next powerful social media platform. Your cellulite will not prevent you from writing and producing the next summer blockbuster.

So what will your contribution be?


Lauren aka The Oatmeal Artist

**This is not meant to be condescending. This is not meant to shame you. I included my own accomplishments as examples because I have ownership of these pictures. Additionally, as much as I wrote this for you, I wrote it for myself, too. I’m celebrating my accomplishments. My passion. My grit. Because sometimes I need to remind myself of those things, too.**

About Lauren Smith

Lauren is a herbivore, Slytherin, and connoisseur of oats. She is a former teacher who is currently studying to earn a master’s degree in curriculum development. You can follow her on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook.

11 Responses to An Open Letter to My Readers with EDs

  1. Cassie says:

    I love this so much. People are so much more than a pretty face. You look through a model’s feed for instance and it might not be interesting at all–just selfies and portfolios! Meanwhile you have someone a bit more ordinary-looking but she’s a triathlete, superstar ambassador and just the most down-to-earth person! It’s the experiences that count!

  2. Inge says:

    Wow, perfectly written! It’s so powerful, and you’re totally right. I admit I don’t always agree with myself on this, but reading your post definitely gives the “eat more”-voice in my head a boost. Thank you so much! 🙂

  3. Elaney says:

    Ok, so before I get into how wonderful and perfectly timed this post is, I have to say that I actually play the cello and my hair, while not pink, is currently purple, after being turquoise.

    As I was saying, this post could not have come at a better time. What pulled me out of the depths of my disorder and truly kickstarted my recovery was my innate desire to learn. Before my disorder began, I would spend all day reading or increasing my knowledge in some way. However, that was gradually replaced by restriction and exercising. I had reordered my priorities, but not for the better. When I began recovery, I didn’t really believe it was worth it. I mean, sure, everyone I knew was worried, but I honestly didn’t think anything was more important than my having my “perfect body”. (What originally made me halfheartedly try to recover was my mom threatening to force unsafe food down my throat.) At first, I was extremely reluctant, but as I progressed, I rediscovered many interests that I had deemed as unimportant because they were not helping me achieve my goal. During this time, I taught myself basic coding, and I discovered a love of psychology. Now, I have once again reordered my priorities, but this time for the better. Although I often have to fight against my ED impulses, this post has helped immensely by reminding me of what I truly love and believe is more important. I’m sorry if that was longwinded and didn’t make any sense. I didn’t have time to read it over. Also, in case I forgot to say it in the post, thank you.

    • Lauren Smith says:

      Thank you 😀 I love your story. I am always reminding myself of my priorities. Nothing satisfies me more than learning. I was just telling “the boyfriend” this morning that all I want to do for the rest of my life is to be paid to go to college forever and take every class in every program and read and discuss complex topics with smart people. Why isn’t that a job? haha. I just want to be a professional student foreverrrrrr! (And part-time food blogger haha.)

  4. Vivian says:

    The absolute best attitude and best article I’ve read on this subject! Climbing out of the ED I feel this personally so so much. Thank you!

  5. I can relate just a bit. My ED started at 15. I’m now 43, still struggling with a twisted body image of myself. I hope you stay on your path to recovery. You are so young and so obviously have a good head on your shoulders. I wish you the best of everything. Bulimia took away a lot from me. As we ‘speak’, I’m sitting here in excruciating pain because the dentist had to, this was pleasant, file my gums down, AFTER having the last 6 of my top teeth pulled 2 weeks earlier, so I can get a new set of dentures. F-U-N! So, please stay well!!
    Kristine 🙂

    • Lauren Smith says:

      Hi Kristine!

      I’m sorry to hear of your ED and the toll it took on you (even many years afterwards!). I’m not sure if you were replying to my original post or one of the commenters’. If you were responding to me, let me clarify that I am doing okay. While I admit to having a heightened stress over food and body image, I have handled it pretty well and do not fall under the diagnosis of an ED (thankfully). In fact, I just had my annual physical and my blood work results have never looked better! I wrote this post to continue to remind myself about my own value, and because I know so many of my readers do in fact have (or have had) EDs, and I hate the negative messages that the media constantly sends to girls. :/

      Thanks for sharing your story. You have motivated me to continue to eat well and stay healthy!

      • I see. Well, it’s awesome that you bring this up because it’s one of those hush-hush topics for women, like alcohol. That’s for another discussion. You’re making people aware that a distorted body image could lead to something much more serious and possibly deadly. Thank you for that. One last thing, you are not hypercritical!! You want to look pretty, what girl doesn’t? There’s a difference, you’re not letting your makeup and clothes define you!!
        Take care of your self, Kristine 🙂

  6. Nice answers in return of this difficulty with genuine arguments and
    telling the whole thing about that.

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