#NoFilter Needed

by: Morgan Martin

morgan

Physically, you probably don’t see much of a difference between these two pictures. But, it’s what you don’t see where my story begins. The girl on the left only smiled on the outside knowing the extreme measures she took to have those “abs” and reach “perfection.” Fifteen years later, the woman on the right not only smiles, but laughs on the inside because she knows she achieved the SAME exact results by doing it the healthy way!

The measures I took in order to present the “perfect Morgan” left me feeling pain and shame.

While I believe in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and physique, I spent too much time focusing on my outer beauty in an unhealthy way. The danger of this, is that it forced me to deny myself the freedom of fully living and being the person that God had so perfectly designed me to be, which is the Proverbs 31 woman “who is fearfully and wonderfully made.”  I struggled daily to keep up an image of perfection that I created in my mind.

When it came to my mental health and body image, I felt I had it all under control but in truth, my obsessive behavior was out of control. My physical appearance consumed my thoughts. I took excessive amounts of diet pills and other extreme measures to keep up an outward appearance of perfection. And it hurt.

It became a constant battle between my inner and outer self.

Outwardly, “Perfect Morgan” didn’t feel so perfect at all, but, I thought I was at least looking the part. “Perfect Morgan” wasn’t the type of girl to have fun and eat sweets, potato chips, fried chicken, pizza, or anything with too many calories, which, lets face it, could be anything in excess. But then behind closed doors, my inner self was the exact opposite from the character I played in public. When no one was watching, I would eat all of the things that the perfect Morgan wouldn’t.  After binge eating, I’d feel so ashamed and afraid of the pounds it would put on my body that I would purge to get it all out of my system. What began as a “one time thing” slowly became more and more frequent.  And before I knew it, I was dealing with bulimia. This eating disorder took away my happiness – and all because I wanted to look a certain way.

I suffered alone and I suffered quietly. To everyone else, I appeared to be happy, fit and whole on the outside, even though I was dying on the inside.

It was difficult to admit all of this, until now. I’m so grateful for God, because through reading His word and surrounding myself with good people, I’ve been able to break free from the monster I created.  I credit my recovery to God and the genuine kindness, concern, faith, support and love from others. I was so ashamed of my past for so long that it prevented me from stepping into my calling of coaching others to live a healthier and happier lifestyle without taking unhealthy measures as I once did.

Seeing results by simply living an overall healthy lifestyle has been so rewarding. I think it’s one of the greatest gifts you can ever give yourself! When my mind is less concerned about obtaining perfection, I notice the happier I am with my imperfections. In fact, I’ve learned to love them!  (The mind is a powerful tool in the healing process.)

If I can stop just one person from taking unhealthy measures and mentally exhausting themselves about their outward appearance, then I will consider my life a success. The obstacles God helps us overcome are the same obstacles He will use to build our testimony to help save and inspire others.

Through finally breaking free from the bondage of the “perfect Morgan” I can now use my personal story to help others.  I’ve never felt more beautiful than when I’m being open, honest, transparent and anything BUT perfect. Ironic?

If you are going through a difficult time or can relate to my story, please know you’re not alone in any way. There are 7 billion people in this world and the more and more of us who start to GET REAL and take off the filters of this perfect life we try to portray, the bigger the WAVE of change we will see in the world.  When people feel like they can relate to others, walls come down and healing can really begin. 

The Inner Beauty of Healing

by: Zera McMahon

zera1

Living with an eating disorder hardly qualifies as ‘living’ at all in my mind. It’s a torturous state of existence that torments your mind, body and soul. Anyone who is familiar with the agony of an ED, is very familiar with the privation of life surrounding them. Unfortunately it can be a lifelong battle fought only in private silence. At least that is what I have experienced during my struggle with anorexia, which began in the 7th grade.

I am now 27 years old, and sharing my story for the first time.

Before now, anorexia has been a part of my existence that I have greatly attempted to shield and draw a curtain over. It was an extremely dark and painful time in my life, and I was always so ashamed to ever reach out to anyone about it.  It wasn’t easy to admit that so much of my focus was on outer beauty and the way I wanted others to see me.

However, my experience with anorexia wasn’t JUST the desire to be skinny. Of course, I wanted to be thin…I wanted to be painfully thin,  yet the reasoning behind this disease went much deeper than the hunger to be thin, and ultimately I do feel that it could have been prevented. These deep-rooted issues encompass a range of concerns I believe many people are faced with on a daily basis, such as media, social and peer pressures. Additionally, the lack of kindness and compassion in this world also serves as a huge trigger for many.

I remember middle school being a very volatile stage growing up. School for me was never enjoyable, socially nor academically. One of my biggest struggles was feeling so inherently different from my peers. I was born with clubbed feet and musculature issues that prevented me from participating in school athletic programs, which gave students the motive to label me as ‘weird’. I desperately wanted to look beautiful, to be the A student, to be the girl who was asked to school dances, to compete in sports, etc. The list goes on. Middle school was a time when the cliques of friends were being established, girls got their periods, and school dances were unfortunately (for me) a reality! I did not have many friends and the few I did have I quickly lost to my eating disorder. Anorexia was after all, the only friend I had grown to want or need. At first, it was my little secret, and that was thrilling to me to have something no one else knew about or to my knowledge, had.

The first time I remember making the decision to restrict food was at school lunch. There was a girl who sat at the lunch table with me who thought she was doing me a favor by advising I lose just a few pounds. How kind. Since I was unable to compete in sports, I thought the quickest way for me to lose the weight I so clearly needed to lose, was to starve myself. When this vicious cycle began, I restricted my food intake to only one meal a day…dinner. I chose this one meal as dinner, because it was the one meal I ate in front of my family. Because this was my secret, it was imperative that no one find out. Mind you, while making the conscious decision to restrict my food intake, I never once considered myself anorexic. That is, until I decided to restrict my food intake even more. After a couple weeks of being on my new “diet” of eating only once a day, I had begun to lose a couple pounds. Not enough pounds, though, for anyone to take notice.

So, I ramped it up a bit and began going an entire day without any food. At home, I’d be completely panic stricken about the notion of eating dinner in front of my family. Hours in school that should have been spent studying, I spent obsessively fabricating excuses to avoid eating dinner. My family eventually caught on to my behaviors, and began using threats to get me to eat. Nonetheless, I refused my body of any food. This rapidly became my addiction, and I consistently wanted more and more. Fundamentally what I was really displaying was my desire to exist less and less. One day without food quickly doubled, and soon I was surviving off of a menial amount of food every three days. By the third day, I would feel incredibly weak and dehydrated, to the point where I would begin black out in class just sitting at my desk. This occurred more than once throughout middle school and high school. I’d have to feel my way out of the classroom and then lay on my back along the side of the hallway. When the bell would ring, it was if no one noticed me and students would rush around the hall to get to their classes, while I just laid there unable to stand up. Finally, a teacher came to get me with a wheel chair and took me to the office to phone my parents. Sometimes I wonder how different my story might have been if a random act of kindness was gifted to me on those dark days. It could’ve changed my direction and story completely.

Unfortunately, this mental and physical addition went on for years and years. I felt completely detached from my parents as they continuously buried their fears and avoided the major issue at hand. The family dynamics in my household were unbalanced, and mental abuse was a part of my day-to-day existence. I was left feeling inadequate, and without the tools to love and respect myself as an individual. Seeking constant fulfillment from my family and peers at school was my way of determining my own self-worth.

In the middle of the night during the summer of my 9th grade, by some miracle I had a sort of epiphany, and suddenly knew that if I continued to choose anorexia as the most important part of myself, then I would undoubtedly die. My life had become a pathetic state of existence, and it was in fact, really void of any life at all. Even though I was so incredibly ill both mentally and physically, I knew I had to put an end to this. I wanted anorexia to get the fuck out of me! In order to heal the fragile skeleton everyone saw me as, I had to work from the inside out, from the core of my being.

Anorexia has not only robbed five years of my life, taken my friends away when I needed them most, damaged my health to the point of near liver failure, but also robbed me of my identity. With the help of two incredible psychologists and a nutritionist, I have been able to recapture and embrace this gift of life. I feel truly blessed to have been able to separate my own mind from the death grip of the ED. Recovery from anorexia has been a long and challenging process, and will require a lifetime commitment from me. The ED is always lingering in the background, waiting to swoop in again…but I refuse to give it any power. It takes great courage to really own your life, without letting media and peer pressures dictate your self-worth.

A good friend once said to me, “acting with self-love is never selfish”. This is such a profound statement to me, because it signifies my evolution from violent self-hatred to self-love and fulfillment. This miraculous transformation has given me confidence to recognize and nurture the talent and beauty within myself rather than seeking OUTER BEAUTY.

As I’ve grown with such mindfulness, I have been able to cultivate my own passions instead of focusing on the perfect body image. As a result, I’ve learned aspects of fashion and design which I have embraced and evolved into my own business. ZERA Couture celebrates the inner beauty of women with luxurious headpieces and accessories, focusing on the adornment of the head-space inside and out. The creation of these headpieces was born from the realization that women should be revered as the strong and beautiful individuals that we positively are. This business is fueled and Inspired by my journey towards healing – and i’ve never felt more beautiful on the INSIDE because of it.

If I were to say just one thing to someone struggling with an ED, it would be this…FOCUS on your INNER BEAUTY – not on what you’ll wear or how your makeup matches up to all the tutorials you see online everyday or how your body compares to your friends. Focus on the things in this world that truly matter and offer fulfillment. If you do, you will be the most beautiful and powerful true self that you could ever hope for.

Lastly, if you know someone who is suffering with some form of addiction, don’t ignore them. Don’t allow them to sit in the hallways and feel unseen. A random act of kindness in showing that you give a damn can go a long way. Sometimes though, you don’t always know who is silently suffering with their own forms of depression and loneliness which is why being kind should become a way of life. If we all pay it forward when something kind happens for us, we have the chance to start a huge wave of change in the world. Make it part of your daily routine to do something kind for a stranger starting today. You never know what that person is going through. You may have just changed the direction of their story…

zera2

Enough

by: Brittany Winston

enough

“Brittany get up, you need to go run.” This is how most of my mornings started off at 5:15am when my mother would wake me up and make me go for a run before school. On the weekends it was 5:00am to go hiking. Being a child and teenager, I would grumble in my head and be so exasperated at these early morning wakeups, but it was more than the early wakeup times that upset me.

The reason she woke me up so early everyday was so that I wouldn’t become “fat”.

I was always told that I had a predisposition to be heavy and if I didn’t “stay on top of it” I would be overweight. From the moment I hit puberty I developed hips, thighs and a booty even though I was a runner and extremely active. I was taught that my curves weren’t beautiful and that I shouldn’t want to have a big butt or hips. So much focus was on my appearance.

When I was in high school I didn’t realize the effect my “outer beauty” was having on my confidence and personality. I retreated more and more into a shell of self-doubt and low self-esteem because of my curves. I never felt that I was enough; pretty enough, thin enough, tall enough (all I was focusing on what my outer beauty traits.) And when it came to boys, it was even worse. Anytime I received any attention from a guy I always thought
to myself, “why me, what does he SEE?”

I didn’t stop to think of the other non-physical attributes and traits I had to offer someone.

I made poor decisions on how far I went with a boy because I thought it was the only way to keep him around. I told myself, “he can’t really want me. I’m not skinny and I’m not that pretty. If I don’t do this, he will leave me.”

I was constantly starving for physical attention and outer acceptance.

When I started college it got even worse because I started to get a lot of consistent attention for my outer “looks and figure”, and it hit me like a ton of bricks in the worst way. I didn’t know what was going on. I still had the internal feeling of “why me, I’m not enough.”

Yet still, I flourished in a totally superficial way.

I dated men with money and status, I partied and I made it appear as though I was thoroughly and genuinely enjoying my life. I looked happy from the outside, but I was empty and depressed on the inside. There were so many times I cried myself to sleep at night but then would go to work and school with a smile on my face pretending I was okay.

Actually, I even started losing weight because the depression stopped me from mustering up the energy to eat!

I didn’t run anymore because I associated it with punishment, I drank too much and when I did eat, I ate like crap. Plain and simple, I wasn’t happy and everywhere that I was looking for happiness was on the OUTSIDE – and it was superficial and empty, no matter how much attention I received.

Desperate for a cure to my depression, I made an abrupt move across the country and changed my surroundings entirely. But still, the depression continued to haunt me.

I considered ending my life.

But then my moment of clarity came when I realized I didn’t care what people thought about the way I LOOKED, and that my INNER BEAUTY was more than enough to deserve all this love and attention.

I realized I had a lot to love from within! I love that I have an awesome sense of humor, I’m quirky, I love to read and travel the world – and I can think of no better place to spend a warm day than outside soaking in the sun and enjoying nature. I think these are just a few of the many things that make me pretty darn amazing on the INSIDE, and that’s where it counts.

Through first mastering the art of self-acceptance and inner healing, I began to embrace, accept and LOVE my outer beauty too! Living in the south helped me appreciate my body type, so I even began to do plus size modeling! I love being a plus size model because I pray some little girl or woman will see me and realize there is more than one type of physical beauty. I hope it helps lead others to healing and loving themselves just as they are and not comparing themselves to images in magazines and billboards. It is so disheartening to see what society and media does to little girls from an early age… just like it did to me. So much is based on OUTER BEAUTY and it’s an unattainable standard of beauty and body image. It makes me want to cry.

Naturally, I still need to remind myself every now and then that there’s so much more to life than having the “perfect body.” Beauty fades and no two women are just alike on the outside anyways. And that’s a beautiful thing.

Depression has no stereotype on who it attacks. And despite working in a stereotypically “superficial industry”, I’ve learned so much about self-love and self-worth from so many women I’ve encountered.

We should all be a team and help one another to remember what’s most important in life – and that’s inner happiness and inner beauty.

“A woman’s beauty should be that of [her] inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” Peter 3:4

Today, I know that I am ENOUGH. And that’s worth being alive for.