I remember my first encounter with the code. It was an innocent encounter made with innocent eyes that would then forever lose their innocence. I was around 9 years old and I was enjoying what most kids my age did during the summer, hang around the community pool – zinc oxide smudges under our eyes, diving for pennies, cannon balls, marco polo, cook outs. We hung out at the pool from noon until nine, enjoyed red boxes filled with delicious burgers, onion rings and fried apple pies from the Varsity and thought of nothing more than fun in the sun. I wore a modest apron two-piece bathing suit and, for the first time that summer, I became keenly aware that all the ‘pretty’ girls were thin, wore bikinis and they all seemed to have one thing in common, they drank soda, called Tab, from a pink can with curvy letters.
I quickly connected their bikini bodies with the magical elixir and headed straight to the soda machine to buy a can. And if one can didn’t make me instantly thin and beautiful, more would certainly accelerate my transformation. And so it began, my quest to be thin like the pretty girls put me in the shallow end of the pool headed for the unchartered waters of the deep end.
And if the pink can wasn’t enough, the pink packets filled with magic powder on every table in every restaurant would also sprinkle beauty accelerant into other beverages. I felt like I was part of a sorority and for a while it felt ‘normal’. I was on a prescribed journey to be thin, attract boys who would one day be suitors, get married, make babies and start dieting again. Sounds like so much fun.
These pink products along with many, many other dangerous products like cigarettes were all designed and promoted as diet and beauty solutions. Later, all three products were required to post warnings that their ingredients have been proven to cause cancer in laboratory animals. But sadly, that didn’t stop me or many others from indulging.
That was then; this is now
Today, the diet industry indiscriminately targets women, men and even children. Diets are now promoted as ‘healthy’ weight loss options. But the underlying message is still the same – lose weight; be beautiful. Their ads make one believe that if you consume the product, you will lead a richer, fuller and happier life through weight loss. Yes, we allow these thieves to reside on our shelves in plain site as they systemically rob us of the perfect joy with which we were born.
To be clear, not everyone who ‘socially’ diets becomes a pathological dieter. However, studies indicate that over 35% of dieters develop disordered eating. The line between the two can be blurry to the dieter and those who love them and want them to be healthy and happy.
Eating disorders often stem from a need for control over a life that is seemingly out of control for a variety of reasons. These reasons can include but are not limited to depression, perfectionism, anxiety and trauma. Ironically, the control shifts from the disordered eater to ED (the eating disorder). ED then calls the shots and becomes the captain driving your every thought and action.
A tragic statistic
Recently, my husband Court and I attended The Project Heal’s annual gala in New York. Savannah was honored for her work as a Project Heal intern as well as her absolute commitment to saving lives and changing the way our society views and deals with eating disorders. What I remember most from that night was one statistic….Eating Disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Our hearts sank.
We reflected on Savannah’s journey and how she fought like hell to discover and rejoice her authentic self. Through therapy and support coupled with a burning desire to reclaim her life, she found recovery. And through recovery she discovered the richness of her relationships with others and how to love wholly and deeply. She discovered the gift of giving and being present. She (re)discovered music. She realized the joy of a rich and authentic life.
On March 28, 2018, our precious Savannah left this world for another. She left as one of the wealthiest people I’ve ever known, a selfless giver, incredible friend, daughter and sibling. She was passionate and excited, caring and present, healthy and joyful. It is this joy, vulnerability and victory that continue to draw people from around the world to her story and message.
As trite as it sounds, it is what I know to be true – true beauty lies within and when you find your truth your world becomes amazingly beautiful.
Remember Code Pink and Fight the Urge
As you think about wasting your minutes, think about how to make them matter. Give more, love more, eat a doughnut, take long walks with friends, climb higher whatever your mountain is and enjoy the process, be free to feel and express and find your joy.
Fight the Code Pink urge and know that you are always the captain of your thoughts and actions.
With love now and always –
Nina Buik (on behalf and in memory of Savannah Buik)