(originally given at the indianapolis leg of the cast on tour event series)
My name is Gina,
And I want to live In a world
Where it's OK
to love our bodies,
Just as they are.
Before I go any further, I want to thank Demi
For pushing so hard
for an event like this to be possible.
She has come through
And has given of herself
More than anyone I know,
And come out on the othe side
And I want to thank Mike, and Hank who couldn't be here,
And every single person at Cast
for giving their hearts and minds and souls
To helping people
not feel ... Alone.
So thank you, for everything that you do
For people like me, and Demi, and everyone here today.
I’ve always been a thin person.
I was thin when I was a little kid
I was thin when I was bullied all throughout elementary school.
Thin in high school and in college, despite hardly ever exercising and eating endless amounts of mediocre dorm and fast food.
But I was never as thin as when I thought I wasn’t.
Because for years I suffered from anorexia nervosa, orthoexia, and general anxiety.
I’d always heard stories about ‘anorexics’ and seen these photos of girls
who were so
desperately and painfully thin,
with bones jutting out
and sallow, gaunt faces.
But that wasn't me, right?
what I saw when I looked in the mirror wasn’t a skeleton -
so how could I be one of those people?
It just wasn’t possible.
But it was.
After a series of events leading to,
what my therapist would later describe as
I had my first panic attack.
It was the product of
“too much on my plate” I suppose ---
planning a wedding, buying a house,
and adopting a very sick dog
all at the same time.
After that, I didn’t eat.
I couldn’t eat.
The thought of food made me feel sick,
and I felt nauseous and tense
from the moment I opened my eyes in the morning
to the second I fell asleep at night.
I was a walking zombie for ten days straight,
barely going through the motions at work and at home.
And because of that, I lost about 15 pounds.
And that first morning
when I was able to look myself in the mirror --
when I saw how that weight had just melted off of me --
a dark part of me was happy.
How had I let myself get so big? I thought, so disgusting? so fat?
I needed to make more changes, I thought. I needed to make adjustments.
I cut my calories dangerously low - to about 5 to 600 a day.
I upped my time at the gym to more than two hours a day, almost every day.
I skipped breakfast and lunch,
and took over the role of preparing
all our dinners at home
so that I could control my portion size and keep my calorie intake as low as possible.
I got dressed and undressed in the dark
Because I felt disgusting.
I felt hideous.
I didn't want my man
To look at me, because I felt like nothing.
For years, my body didn’t belong to me. It belonged to my anorexia.
I let HER fill the mould of my own self worth.
She was with me when I tried on wedding dresses,
forcing me to choose the one I felt least fat in.
She would whisper in my ear every time I bought groceries.
She would drag my eyes downward as I watched strangers walk past, comparing their thighs, their arms, their stomachs to mine.
Until, three years of living like that --
standing in the middle of my kitchen
with the spatula in my hand,
My husband said, “let me help you make dinner” …
And the idea of not being able to control my meal sent me into panic,
and I completely shut down.
In the kitchen
feeling the waves of panic rushing over me,
my arms and legs crossed and wrapped around me
with muscles so tight
my entire body hurt the next morning.
And I remember my husband looking at me
And trying to say the right thing,
Because he knew. But he couldn’t form the right words.
And all l I could force myself to say was, “I think something’s wrong with me.”
So, that night I logged onto my computer
and googled things like
“Eating Disorder How to Tell.”
And a few days later, I made an appointment with a therapist,
And that simple act
of reaching out to another human,
humans who wanted to help,
Who KNEW how to help,
Changed my life.
She would ask me things like,
“why do you think you’re feeling this way?”
and “how are your behaviors
making the situation better or worse?”
and to be honest … I had no idea.
But what I did know -
what I figured out -
was that I valued, above anything else,
the size and shape of my body.
I valued what I looked like, over what I felt like.
And together we made good progress.
I started the Minnie Maud program of eating,
where i stopped all forms of exercise cold turkey,
and consumed upwards of 3,000 calories a day -
(Which, for those of you who haven’t suffered from an eating disorder,
might seem like a lot, but for a starving body it’s not.)
But I also realized that recovery from an eating disorder
Is so much more than just the physical.
Healing your body
is just a small part of it.
So I started a instagram account of my own.
And I only followed people
Who encouraged me;
Who were also in recovery;
Who promoted things like body positivity, self love, feminism,
knowing your worth.
And that's actually how Demi and I met.
Found my account,
Back in the beginning of it,
And liked a couple of my photos,
And then she started following me,
And I thought,
And then she messaged me
And asked for my phone number
And we've been friends since.
The point is,
I took control of the influences in my life.
And it started out slow.
Because recovery -
Learning to love yourself -
Is really hard. It is.
You’re trying to unlearn all the years of
Negativity and self-deprecation
that society has been teaching women - and men - for forever.
I actually wish that I could remember
the exact moment I learned that fat was ugly.
That only thin, slender bodies were beautiful.
I wish I could pinpoint what words were used,
or what I saw,
or what specific series of events lead me to believe that.
And the truth is, I don’t know when it happened.
It was just always there,
taking up space in the corner of my mind
like a forgotten houseplant - silently growing,
and reaching out
more and more
with every passing day,
with every body shaming comment I heard,
diet culture fueled
societal norm feeding it.
Because we DO live in a diet culture
Where women are taught that we’re not good enough.
Or skinny enough.
Or toned enough
Or sexy enough.
Look at the cover of any womens magazine,
And you’ll see things like
“Get a hot body now”
“10 ways to lose that belly fat”
Tone every inch!
Drop two sizes!
Get Beach Body Ready - that’s a big one.
Because, as women,
we’ve been taught to be dissatisfied with ourselves.
Whether it’s the way we look,
or how we’re supposed to feel,
or how we deal with our problems.
We’re not supposed to talk about them.
Eating disorders are just phases.
Addiction? Something you can just … get over.
Anxiety? Stop worrying so much.
Depression? Cheer up,
so many people have it worse than you.
But seriously? That’s such a load of shit.
Your feelings are VALID. What you think, and experience, has value.
One of the most important things I learned
in my recovery was this:
ITS OK TO TALK ABOUT IT.
Talk about it!
Reach out to someone,
Do it today, here,
And just ... Say how you're feeling.
There’s such a stigma
on mental illness,
and so many people
who are struggling
feel like they can’t talk about it!
Because they think they’ll be judged
for having these feelings,
or because they feel
like they’re the only ones.
And talking about it IS hard!
But you know what?
The more I talked about it,
the more I opened myself up
to feeling BETTER
about the things I was talking about.
For me, I started off small.
I wrote little posts on my instagram -
because it was easier than talking out loud! -
about how I was feeling,
and asking, into the internet,
“is anybody else?”
And people started to write back!
I heard, “Me too!”
and “I understand”
I met women who were also recovering
from an eating disorder,
or from addiction,
or from depression and anxiety …
or just … feeling down about themselves.
And I was amazed
At how many women --
and girls! Young girls! -
hated their bodies.
They felt ashamed of the way they looked,
because they didn’t match the ideal in their heads,
or the bodies they saw
in magazines, or on social media.
But the bodies that they
so desperately wanted to have,
and tweaked, and tanned,
and adjusted, and manipulated,
and spat out onto a computer screen,
or an advertisement,
and pawned off as “beautiful.”
The model who posed for that picture?
She doesn’t look like the end result.
Her arm and leg hair have been airbrushed off.
Her cellulite, or wrinkles,
or stretch marks, gone.
Her pimples have been airbrushed,
her waist cinched, thighs slimmed,
her neck elongated, her breasts filled in.
Girls on social media,
with “lifestyle blogs”
or “fitness blogs”
or whatever it is
that makes them feel the need
to pose in a sports bra
or sit on the beach,
and hold a cup of “flat tummy tea” -
which is a real thing, btw, and it’s ridiculous -
and they take that photo,
and they put filters on it,
and they edit themselves,
and they try to make you believe that that’s real life.
That that’s happiness.
Because I can tell you right now, it’s not.
Real life is not doing yoga all day, and pretending that everything is fine.
Sometimes, everything’s not fine.
Sometimes you’re having a really shitty day,
and you feel like you can’t go through
another hour of trying to be positive,
or trying to stay on track.
And that’s ok,
because everyone’s journey is different.
It took me a long time to realize this: your journey is for YOU.
It’s not a straight up and down,
It doesn’t matter how many times you fall down.
ANd it’s OK to put yourself
And your recovery
It doesn’t matter who likes you, or doesn’t.
It does not matter who sees your worth, or doesn’t.
Those who can’t appreciate you will never give you the things you need to grow, and the people who seek to bring you down only do so out of their own insecurities.
Appreciate the people and things that cultivate you, and let go of the things that don’t.
It took me a long time to get here.
To understand that my worth doesn’t depend
on how many calories I can burn,
or how much “self control” I have.
To know that the shape of my outer packaging
doesn’t make or break
my worth as a human being.
To know that ‘fat’ isn’t an insult,
just like ‘skinny’ isn’t a compliment.
It took me years to unlearn
all the guilt and shame
associated with my eating disorder;
to break the habit of exercising to exhaustion,
watching the numbers on the elliptical go up
in desperate hope
that they would make the numbers on the scale
to be able to come here today?
To talk to all of you?
about my feelings, and my worries,
and my past? to people I don’t know?
So I want to leave you with 10 things
That every single one of you out there needs to know,
You are incredible. You are.
Your unique combination
and kind and creative
and genuine and compassionate
and tolerant and passionate.
Every piece of you that is thriving,
and all the pieces
that have been pushed aside,
You are worthy.
Of whatever it is you think you aren’t.
or love from another person,
or respect, or success.
Whatever it is that you believe
you couldn’t possibly earn
the way you are?
I’m here to tell you that’s bullshit.
Learning these things takes time.
It doesn't happen overnight.
You can’t just snap your fingers one day
and then BOOM, omg I love myself.
As much as the rest of the world wishes,
it doesn't work that way.
Body Positivity is like learning a language.
You can’t just open your mouth and speak it.
You have to hear it around you.
You have to immerse yourself in it
and try it,
little by little,
without getting discouraged,
without faulting yourself for not knowing it immediately.
It takes practice,
and saying it to yourself
over and over,
even if you don’t know what you’re saying at the moment.
Because one day you will.
You are not a unicorn.
You are not the only person
who has ever felt this way,
and you will not be the last.
But this also means
that you are part of a greater collective of people
feeling exactly the same way as you.
Stop trying to be perfect.
Because I’ll tell you right now,
it doesn’t exist.
There is no perfect body,
there is no one definition of beauty.
The only form of perfect
that anyone can possibly achieve
is finding true acceptance
and happiness within themselves.
You cannot hate yourself into loving yourself.
Believe me, I’ve tried.
You were never happy
when you were trying to be perfect.
Think about it.
All the hours, days, weeks,
years you’ve spent at war with yourself -
were you ever happy?
When you were trying your absolute hardest
to be perfect?
Where did it get you?
You are perfect to someone.
Look at the people who love you,
see how they love you.
Realize what they love you for.
Take time every single day
to pick out something you like about yourself.
Acknowledge it. Honor it.
Let yourself feel it.
Only love leads to love.
Just by being here,
You are taking control of your life.
Maybe it’s a small step,
On a greater journey,
or a leap forward,
or you’re not sure where you stand right now.
But that’s ok.
These are the small victories that are anything but.
These are the ways we fight back with self love.
These are the ways
we say to ourselves,
“I am enough.
that's my mantra,
I want to take a couple minutes before we end,
to do something different. I want each and every one of you
To close your eyes.
Close your eyes
And think about
All the negative things you've said to yourself
Now i want you to
Come back to yourself
what you'd want to hear.
"I am beautiful."
Or maybe it's
"I am amazing.
"I love my body"
"I deserve to be happy
Or I DONT deserve this pain I'm in,
I deserve to take control of my life.
I am in control.
WHATEVER it is
I want you,
For these next two minutes
And yeah, we're going to count,
For these next two minutes
I want you to come up with your OWNmantra
And I want youto repeat it.
As many times as you need it.
You can open your eyes now.
How did that feel?
I want you to try,
Every night before bed,
To do what I do:
Stand I front of the mirror
You don't have to be naked,
But you can if you want to,
And repeat That mantra to yourself.
Just for a minute.
See how it makes you feel.
Little by little
together, we can create a world
love your body,
Just as you are.