We live in a society where food is labeled as “good” or “bad;” where thinness is viewed as morally superior to fatness. Where women are focused so deeply on what the scale says and how their clothing size determines their worth. Go up in weight? Bad. Lose weight? Good. It is that simple and the damaging effects are widespread.

Over 80% of 10-year-olds are afraid of becoming fat. We live in a fat phobic society. Young girls are taught from a very young age that there is an ideal body and if a person does not fit into this box, there is something wrong with them. Weak, lazy, no self-control. These are some of the negative words that are associated with fatness.

I developed anorexia nervosa at the age of 13. By the time I was 14, I had lost 45 pounds on my already naturally small frame. My countless hospitalizations and treatment centers began shortly after this. I was out of control. Starving, lonely, and desperate to stop the screaming in my mind. My eating disorder consumed me and I felt hopeless. It took me 15 years of battling this fight to finally make the choice to recover. I could not do it anymore. I needed to make a change or I knew I would die. Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses and up to 20% of people with anorexia will eventually die from the disease. Many will die as a result of suicide.

Eating disorders do not have one cause. It is incredibly complicated and most likely a result of a combination of biological (they are highly heritable), psychological (anxiety and depressive disorders are common in people with eating disorders), and sociological factors (this is where diet culture comes into play). People in all bodies can develop eating disorders. They do not discriminate.

The societal pressures to be thin are one contributing factor to an eating disorder developing, and this is where as a society we can most impact change. Diet culture is the worshipping of thinness. We are so focused on shrinking our bodies, it is keeping us distracted from everything else. We are taught to play small, stay unseen, stay unheard. By standing up to diet culture, learning to accept the body that you are in, you are able to focus your attention on what is important to you. All bodies are beautiful and deserve to feel that way. It is time for us to believe that.

Julie Allen is the CEO of Mary Rose NW Boutique and founder at the Mary Rose Foundation. She is an author and eating disorder awareness activist. Allen started Mary Rose NW Boutique because she recognized the need for a clothing boutique that focused on body positivity, self-love/acceptance, and helping all bodies feel beautiful and confident in their clothes. Julie struggled with anorexia and bulimia for 15 years and has made it her mission to empower women to love and embrace themselves wholeheartedly. The Mary Rose Foundation is a non-profit 501c3 designed to help people who are struggling with the financial burden of eating disorder treatment and works on the prevention side as well with their large outreach programs. Julie's message is simply one of strength, courage, self-compassion, and most of all, hope.