To the woman whom I haven’t spoken to in years,
It was good to hear from you the other day. It’s been too long since we last spoke, and I was glad we got to reconnect.
When you started asking about my daughter, my job, my life, I assumed you were genuinely interested. I thought perhaps you were looking for someone to grab a coffee with, or wanted to set up a playdate at the park with the kids.
But then you dropped the bomb.
You’re embarking on a “new and exciting” business opportunity, you explained, one that has you selling a “wellness” product with the goal of getting me “trim and healthy.”
Sirens suddenly started going off in my head. The word “healthy” when paired with “wellness products” (like body wraps, supplements, and detox plans) is almost always code for “skinny.”
The underlying subtext of what you were saying was clear: You think I need to lose weight.
And you’re willing to sell me the “perfect” product to get me there.
But here’s the thing: If you think I buy into to the concept of shrinking myself to meet society’s unattainable beauty standards, you couldn’t be more wrong. What’s more, I’m not in any rush to start down this road. Not now, not ever.
Because I know where it leads.
Here’s the story I didn't tell you when we were acquaintances: I struggled with bulimia from the ages of 13 to 23. With every bite I took, the urge to throw it right back up was always there.
I never felt good enough. Pretty enough. Skinny enough. And the guilt surrounding the food I ate drove me again and again to harm my body in the pursuit of the very unattainable perfection you’re trying to sell.
Today I’m a 36-year-old single mom running my own business and living out my dreams. Most people would never guess I have such a complicated history with my body. I don’t talk about it a lot, but I like to think I’m in a far healthier place.
But this was only after I spent years in therapy and took time to work with nutritionists to learn what a healthy relationship with food actually looks like.
I eventually arrived at a place of accepting my body for what it is. I no longer own a scale or equate health with numbers. That includes my weight or pants size. In short, it was no easy feat to get where I am today. But I did it. And I’m proud of myself.
So when you turn up in my inbox with your pitch for a “wellness” product, I need you to know it kicks me back a few notches. It reminds me of what I’ve gone through and that I live in a world that judges a woman’s worth by the size of her body. A world that would profit off the same insecurities and broken messages that once sent me to such a dark and unhealthy place.
And while I’m thankfully now strong enough to be able to shake off that darkness you just sent my way, I know all too well that there are so many women out there who aren’t. So many women who could be irreparably harmed by a friend or acquaintance suggesting that they need to shrink themselves to feel like they hold more value in society.
Look, I understand you’re trying to run a business. I get that you might be looking for ways to financially contribute to your family. But blindly reaching out to women with these “helpful” claims of wellness, trying to market these products in a way that rely on them hating themselves, is both irresponsible and dangerous.
So, before you send your next sales email or text, think long and hard about the messages you want to send out into the world. Consider the risk of trying to sell those products to women whose histories you don’t know.
Ask yourself: How much is that sale worth to you?
Because if it comes at the risk of another woman’s health, I promise you, it isn’t worth it.
Leah Campbell is a writer and editor living in Anchorage, Alaska. She’s a single mother by choice after a serendipitous series of events led to the adoption of her daughter. Leah is also the author of the book “Single Infertile Female” and has written extensively on the topics of infertility, adoption, and parenting. You can connect with Leah via Facebook, her website, and Twitter.