By Zoe Ross-Nash
Facetune, BeautyPlus, Relook, SelfieCity, SelfieBeautyEditor, RetouchMe, Facie. The list of photo editing apps goes on. In just the palm of our hand, we have the ability to change how people see us. We get to choose the perception others have of us: We can change who we are.
That is terrifying.
A 2017 online survey by TruePic found that 93 percent of the U.S. adults suspect that others have posted edited photos online. Fifty-eight percent claimed they are skeptical of dating sites because of edited photos; 48 percent said they do not believe fitness or weight loss photos, and 46 percent doubt social media images. Finally, two-thirds of people actually do edit their photos before uploading. We have skewed what we believe is real.
A University of Pittsburg School of Medicine study about social media use had haunting conclusions: Participants who spent the most time on social media per day were 2.2 times more at risk of developing an eating disorder. Frequent users of social media had 2.6 times the risk. How do we protect ourselves? How do we press the undo button and allow people to believe that who they are is enough?
This year, the slogan for Eating Disorder Awareness Week was “Come As You Are.”
Advocates, students, supporters and survivors from all over the country united to spread awareness about the most deadly mental illness—eating disorders. People gathered to participate in walks, held presentations, hosted fundraising events.
Kathi Ross-Nash is no different. Ross-Nash is an internationally known Pilates teacher—and an eating disorder survivor. For years, Ross-Nash refused to let her photos be “touched up.” But she wanted to do more. Ross-Nash teamed up with her daughter, Zoe Ross-Nash, a graduate student getting her doctorate in clinical psychology and the president of the Eating Disorder Awareness Association (EDAA) chapter at her university. Kathi coined the campaign #DontTouchMe and Zoe brought it to life.
The #DontTouchMe campaign encourages people to post a picture that is “not touched up.” That means no editing, no filters, no dog ears, just you in your beauty. Kathi and Zoe had a goal to inspire others to embrace their natural and authentic selves and allow themselves to feel accepted just as they are. Although 68 percent of people edit their photos before uploading, they asked people to post their photo, use the hashtag #donttouchme and be a part of the change.
With the support of EDAA, #DontTouchMe launched. Within days, hundreds of individuals had started posting the hashtag. People were liberated. People were empowered. The #DontTouchMe campaign welcomed anyone to participate because everyone feels pressure to be appear perfect if they have a social media account.
Ross-Nash and Ross-Nash are not alone in their quest to change the dialogue about eating disorders and body image on social media. Jameela Jamil of the hit television show The Good Place and an eating disorder survivor launched the campaign @i_weigh on Instagram. It encourages people to post a picture listing all the qualities the person values about themselves. It is an account individuals can go to celebrate body positivity and recognize that one’s weight is not equal to their worth. The actress and advocate is on a quest to bring down celebrities who use their platform to promote unhealthy and unrealistic dieting tips.
Mike Marjama is a former MLB catcher for the Seattle Mariners. The athlete turned advocate and decided to ditch the cleats to travel the country speaking about his history with disordered eating. He sheds light on the very dark place of eating disorders in men.
McCall Dempsey, the founder of Southern Smash, travels around to different universities bringing in professionals from the community to speak about eating disorders. Additionally, there is an event that allows participants to take a sledgehammer to a scale. Its mission is to challenge men and women to redefine their worth and beauty by letting go of the idea of “the perfect number” that actually weighs them down.
This is not the first time the Ross-Nash women have teamed up for an eating-disorder and body-positivity-awareness campaign. In January of 2016, Zoe launched #ShredtheShame, a school project that went viral. This campaign interacted with over 4,000 people and was featured on local and national news outlets. #ShredtheShame is an online campaign that encourages others to rip up a piece of paper with their insecurity written on it, symbolizing their freedom from self-criticism. The success of #DontTouchMe and #ShredtheSame can be attributed to the overwhelming support from the Pilates community.
Join the movements. Learn more about eating disorders, the disease that is killing eight times more people than breast cancer. This is real. This is authenticity. Come as you are.
About Zoe Ross-Nash
Zoe is a second year doctoral candidate in clinical psychology student and president of the Eating Disorder Awareness Association chapter at Nova Southeastern University (NSU). Ross-Nash has been a keynote speaker for Southern Smash. Ross-Nash was featured on the National Eating Disorder Association website where she was an intern, and wrote articles for Eating Recovery Center where she was an ambassador. Next year, Ross-Nash will serve as the clinic coordinator at the Guided Self-Change Clinic at NSU where she will continue to provide treatment for those suffering from disordered eating.