The San Francisco Bay Area, as many are well aware, is a pressure cooker for teenagers, and mental illness among young people is extremely common. Today, teenagers are increasingly encouraged to speak out about challenges they face with their mental health, and the community has become very open and accepting of these conversations and supportive of each other. However, when it comes to eating disorders, the conversation is much further behind those surrounding anxiety and depression. And while the support for eating disorders is lagging, the high stress environment of the Bay Area fosters eating disorders just as much as other mental illnesses, leaving many teenagers struggling with not nearly as many resources. The Bay Area is “a very affluent area where there’s not expectations for balance and happiness, it’s for achievement and competitiveness,” as Dr. Laura Hamilton, a local psychologist who has worked in eating disorder treatment programs, schools, and grief centers, put it. “With young women, growing up in this area, it used to be you had to be pretty and nurturing. Now it’s pretty, intelligent, and if you play a sport or are in [the arts], the pressure is to achieve high,” she continues, providing context about the culture specifically surrounding women in the area. She also explains how eating disorders, particularly in this area, are perfection and goal oriented, saying that “especially for a goal oriented [woman, with] disordered eating [that] tends to move in the anorexic mindset, there’s perfectionism.” Dr. Hamilton’s insights emphasize just how important this issue is in the Bay Area, and the importance of starting conversations and raising awareness.
Because eating disorders are most commonly considered to be pursuing bodily “perfection,” the most effective way to combat this thinking is by simply redefining perfection. Self improvement and health shouldn’t be looked down upon or discouraged, but when it it unhealthy or unrealistic and ultimately hurts an individual it becomes dangerous.
#RedefinePerfection is a grassroots movement to help young girls understand that there is more than one “perfect” body type, and that their body is “perfect” as it is. To get involved, simply write encouraging notes with these themes to young girls with body positive words of affirmation, and place them in visible areas. A great example would be placing them on mirrors in girls bathrooms, so that the reminder is in a place that is usually used to pick apart one’s own appearance.
Below are both pictures of examples, and ideas for notes people can write to get involved.
Body Positive Words of Affirmation Ideas
- You are perfect as you are.
- Perfection is a construct
- Your body is beautiful
- You are bold, brilliant, and beautiful
- What do you love about yourself?
- Healthy is beautiful
If you believe that you or someone you love is in danger of an eating disorder, seek help. This screening tool can help determine the risk, and if necessary, reach out to a hotline or trusted adult or peer.