Before-and-after pictures are the stars of the diet industry, and everyone loves to see a dramatic success story. But one young woman is redefining how we see beauty and success by posting her unconventional before-and-after that shows her first at the height of her struggle with anorexia and then healthy and recovered afterward.
She triumphantly captioned the picture, “So f*ck you traditional pictures of ‘healthy’, (sic) I may be fat, but I beat my eating disorder.”
Brittany Miles first started her journey to health like many other girls and women: By trying to lose weight. The teen slashed her calories and started exercising hours a day. By her freshman year of college, she was seriously underweight. Still, she didn’t realize she had a problem until a classmate’s older sister, who had had an eating disorder herself, talked to her about her anorexia.
At first it was hard because many people thought she looked fine — super-healthy, even. “I was 15 pounds underweight, but no one thought to say anything because they were too busy applauding me for my unnatural weight loss.” But Brittany says, “An eating disorder is something that affects people at any size, and is about what you do to your body, not the way it looks. There is no one eating disorder body type.”
So Brittany launched her campaign to redefine beauty to call those people out and tell them how wrong they are. It took her a year to come to terms with her illness and decide she could be OK with being bigger, but then she embraced eating and learning to love her healthy, happy body. Now she says, “I have reached a point where I love my body. I love the way I jiggle when I dance, and the way my ‘curves’ look in the mirror. I am in no way societies (sic) ideal beauty, but I am me.”
People told her she couldn’t have been sick because she wasn’t “that skinny,” and as she recovered people told her she couldn’t be healthy because she was too fat, while others were upset she described herself as fat at all. Brittany answers her new critics writing, “When did fat become the opposite of healthy or of beautiful? Fat is not a dirty word and fat people don’t lose the capacity to be healthy or attractive because they’re fat. It’s just something else they can be. I am fat, but I’m also, healthy, beautiful, creative, smart, short, blonde, left-handed, awesome at baking, able to lick my nose, and most importantly I am a survivor, and I am happy.”
The process of sharing her story has also been an adventure. “It’s honestly been very cathartic and freeing for me. And for every negative response I’ve gotten knowing that I’ve managed to help so many other people in such a positive way makes it all worth it,” she says. “I am by no means the girl from the magazines, and I think a lot of people are afraid to be proud of who they are when they don’t ‘measure up’ to a beauty standard. I wanted to challenge that, and remind people that they deserve love.”
She adds that learning to choose happiness is the key. “You’ve got to love yourself before you change yourself, not change yourself so you can love yourself. I promise, the change won’t work.”
Her happiness, shining through on her Tumblr fullbodiedlovin, is infectious and I am so glad to finally see a before-and-after story that ends talking about confidence, love and balance rather than pounds lost or bikinis worn. It’s about time we learned to measure our lives not by the size we take up but by the size of the things we can do.