“You’re so thin. Are you a dancer?” a fellow intern asked after looking me up and down. I had just turned 21 and was starting my first summer internship in the accessories closet at a major women’s magazine. I was awkward. I was going through overwhelming life changes. I was sad. I was emaciated.
My body–or what was left of it_soon became the envy of fellow interns. Obsessively counting calories and finding new ways to limit food intake gave me a false sense of power over my life, which I felt was quickly spiraling out of control. I didn’t have a trust fund or designer clothing, but I had my body, a body I would try to starve into perfection.
Spending 14-hour days running errands and organizing the fashion closet accelerated my weight loss. I pushed through headaches and dizziness to haul heavy bags across town and carefully photograph and organize jewelry, shoes, and handbags. At times, I almost forgot that I was running on a sugar-free Jello, coffee, and a bagel with the dough ripped out of it. I used to call my sister in a panic when I ate a granola bar.
No one said anything about the bones that jutted out of my chest. On the contrary, I felt a sick sense of empowerment that my thighs didn’t touch and I hadn’t had a period in months. When your supervisor eats dry cornflakes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and the phrase “fat cow” is thrown around almost casually, it’s difficult not to feel terrible about your body.
I finished the internship drained, hungry, and hopeless. While I can’t blame it for causing my disordered eating, it was the environment I needed to fight my misguided “war” against fat.
Though I can’t say the same for the women in fashion who have lost everything—even their lives—because of disordered eating, my story has a happier ending. When the summer ended, I finally took action and walked into a therapist’s office, something I had been avoiding for years out of fear and shame. I started speaking openly about my experience. I kept a diary, which I found to be therapeutic. I ate full meals. When I binged, I asked for help.
Most importantly, I made the conscious choice to remove myself from situations and relationships that bordered on abusive. That meant ending contact with some of the interns and supervisors I worked with as well as a romantic partner who didn’t want me to recover because that meant I might gain too much weight back.
This doesn’t mean that I gave up my oversized and over-packed makeup bag or my love for adorable dresses. But instead of flipping through certain disempowering fashion magazines, I started reading BUST, Gabifresh, Qwear, and xoVain. Fashion and beauty should be about fun and positive self-expression at any size. One day, I hope this attitude is reflected in the magazines and advertisements girls and women are bombarded with on a daily basis.
While I feel stronger today than ever before, I’m still not entirely happy with my appearance. I don’t love my body and I’m not sure I ever will, but I accept it. I nourish it so that I can work (not in the fashion industry), love, and enjoy life.
The road to recovery was winding and terrifying and painful, but choosing myself was the best decision I’ve ever made. And I don’t intend to look back.
Diana is a 24-year-old New Yorker and proud Endangered Bodies NYC social media intern. When she’s not working at a local non-profit that advocates for the advancement of professional women, you can find her hanging out with her fiancée and wonderful cat children. She loves a good cup of coffee, swingy skirts and dresses, and exploring new places.