Dear SHAPE Magazine

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This post was submitted by BALANCE treatment center in New York City that is dedicated to treating women, men and adolescents who are suffering from eating disorders. Their clients wrote this article to the Editor in Chief at SHAPE magazine to share their perspective on body image issues in media. 

01-27-16

Dear Elizabeth Goodman Artis,

We are writing to you from the group therapy room of an eating disorder treatment center. We are six women engaged in conversation about body image. One of us picked up “Shape” magazine to bring to the group to further understand body and women’s issues. We are trying to figure out how to view ourselves through the same lens we view each other; the lens of respect, passion, fairness, empowerment, trust, and contentment.

We’d like to share with you our experience of looking at the magazine from an eating disorder recovery perspective because we’re working on prioritizing our wants and emotional needs without someone else, or society, telling us what we should do.

When looking at the cover of the magazine the words “flat, lean, firm” stood out to us and then we noticed the words “happy, confident, and energized” below this. Are we to believe that a particular shape or weight will give us happiness? We are a group of women with different body types, backgrounds, experiences, stories, and lives all of which represent the diversity of this magazine’s audience.

Have you ever thought that in order to follow advice given in the magazine a woman must condemn herself and identify what’s wrong with her? We strive to live non-restrictive lives and these messages feel restrictive.

Someone like Demi Lovato, recovering from an eating disorder, is being objectified and “looked at” for her shape and size. Is this empowering? Where is the substance of this person/artist/woman? Could quotes from her poetry appear on the page?

Instead of the title “what not to eat”, you could share “see women for who they are and not what they look like.”

You make promises of happiness. This is what makes us happy: connection, love, knowing we deserve love, values, living in the present moment, being proud of ourselves, having fun, acceptance, achieving self-chosen goals, using our voice, being heard and seen, internal validation, giving to others, touch, creative expression, smiling. We have the power to experience these things regardless of weight, shape, and appearance.

Where is the focus on what women have to gain, rather than lose? We’d like to say how grateful we are to be able to look at this magazine with a recovery mindset and how fearful we are for the girls who don’t have that luxury.

We invite you, as a very influential woman, to put yourself in the shoes of a young girl who is hungry to know what she wants for herself, what she’s worth, and what she has to offer the world.

Yours truly,

Women who strive to be happy, confident, and energized.

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