02/20/2015 09:20 EST | Updated 04/22/2015 05:59 EDT

Starving to Be Slim: What I Learned in My Pursuit of Perfection

Image Source via Getty Images

My journey to achieve the perfect body started when I was 14. The objective -- tall, thin, cellulite-free with smooth skin and beautifully toned abs -- you know the look. If 'thigh gaps' and 'bikini bridges' were in at the time, I would have added them to my list of things to obsess over. In some ways I came pretty close to achieving the "dream body" that I obsessed over in magazines but I never expected that I would lose everything important to me along the way.

Experts claim that fashion models weigh 23 per cent less than the average female. While the average woman is only five feet four inches tall and 140 pounds, the average model is five feet 11 inches, weighing 110 pounds.

By the time I turned 16, not only had I achieved these standards, I had surpassed them. But the reality was not the same as the glossy images the magazines portrayed. While my own 5'11" frame weighed a mere 89lbs, I couldn't concentrate, my hair was falling out, my internal organs were shutting down and I had to be hospitalized for almost three months.

My story is extreme, but unfortunately not that unique. Millions of women and men are unable to reach their full potential for happiness as they struggle with low self-confidence because of the way they look. My story drove me to make a difference, and taught me some valuable lessons along the way.

The power of a picture can quickly outweigh the influence of your family, friends and logic.

It would be easy to say that I had a difficult childhood where perfection was demanded, but I didn't. My family didn't put importance on make-up, clothes or physical appearance.

Despite having positive influences at home I became obsessed with achieving what I saw in magazines. Recent studies have found that by the time a woman is 17 years old, she has received more than 250,000 commercial messages through the media -- many of which showcase standards of beauty that are impossible to achieve.

Thin Doesn't Equal Happiness or Beauty

When my hair began to fall out, when I was too physical exhausted to focus in class, I channeled the little energy I had into counting calories and trying to hide my absurd eating habits. I was literally dying to be thin. In 1991, the Council on Size and Weight Discrimination revealed that young girls were more afraid of becoming fat than they were of nuclear war, cancer, or losing their parents.

Today the number one wish of girls between the ages of 11 and 17 is to be thinner. Being thin doesn't lead to money, amazing clothes, happiness, love or richer life experiences. The truth is, my life at my lowest weight meant living a life of lows across the board.

Your Body is Uniquely Yours

I became obsessed with having the perfect body and spent all my efforts trying to achieve it. I turned to articles like "How to lose 20lbs in 10 days by doing these 10 exercises," and studied the caloric intake of models and actresses along with the nutritional profile of anything edible. And it worked. But I felt, and looked, awful.

Doing what makes your body feels good is the ultimate health tip. If going for a run and eating vegan makes you feel good, do it. If wine on Friday and a sleep-in on Saturday feels good, do it. Listen to what your body needs and in return it will give you the best version of itself.

Recently, Erin launched a petition asking magazines to reduce the amount of photoshop they use on their covers and in their editorial. Join the conversation and help create a better world for girls by signing the #LessIsMore online petition here.


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