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Jun. 24 2009 - 9:29 am | 273 views | 1 recommendation | 1 comment

Operation Beautiful: One woman’s post-it note empowerment

img_3446c_thumbAmerican women don’t like what they see in the mirror. Over three-quarters of us report disatisfaction with our bodies, and at least 22 million of us have disordered relationships with food, weight and exercise.

Clearly, adult women are troubled – insecure, dissatisfied and unhealthy – and eating disorders have become like a rite of passage for teen girls.  But what are the smart, idealistic, talented females of our generation doing about their health epidemic and that of their younger sisters, nieces and daughters? Not enough – until now.

Last week, I was awed by a project started by Caitlin, a 25-year-old blogger from Orlando, FL. Inspired after reading Givesmehope.com, Caitlin scrawled “You are beautiful” on a post-it note, and stuck the message to a bathroom mirror at work. When she published a photograph of the note on her blog and asked readers to follow suit, the response was overwhelming. One week later, Caitlin has received over 130 photos and launched a new website, OperationBeautiful.com.

Caitlin - the founder of Operation Beautiful

Caitlin - the founder of Operation Beautiful

Your project got started through your own blog, HealthyTippingPoint.com. Why expand beyond the usual food-and-exercise writing with something like O.B?

I’ve been blogging for just over a year, and even in that time I’ve noticed a huge shift in the food blogging community. The blogs I read have become so much more about who you are, not what you eat or how much you exercise. And besides that, blogging is a great way to connect online – but it can be navel-gazing. I wanted to take it beyond that, and use the connection to inspire more people.

You’ve only been doing this for a week, but things are snowballing. Why do you think the response of women to your project was so passionate, so quickly?

I’ve posted giveaways for hundreds of dollars in products before, and this response, where there’s no “reward” has been so much more intense. People realize it makes them feel better – it can seem impossible to tell yourself you look beautiful, but it’s easier to do it for someone else. And once you do it, I think it makes you rethink your own image, and maybe realize that you can look in the mirror and like what you see.

dscf2680_thumb1Operation Beautiful is a brave thing to do, but I think we both agree that it shouldn’t have to happen at all. Why do you think body image has gotten so out of control?

I wish I knew why women were in this box, I really do. We have such narrow definitions for such a wide range of women. It means that we’re setting up for failure – trying to attain an ideal that doesn’t exist, and an idea of health that’s different for every single body out there. Being healthy is person-by-person. You can’t just box that into one ideal.

Then what is health, at least to you? What do you want to see women do to be truly healthy?

I think there are three things, but I think they’ll depend on the person. Be active – but do what you love and as much of it as you want. Eat well – but not the food pyramid that some government website says is good. Eat what works for you. And find a spiritual component – not necessarily a church or a mosque, but some connection to other people and what you can do for them.

I’ve got eating down, and I’ve got exercise down. But I think Operation Beautiful is my spiritual component.

Caitlin’s instructions are simple: scrawl a note, post it somewhere (my vote: The cover of Secrets of Skinny Chicks), take a photo, and email it to her. In August, Caitlin will take her empowerment on the road, and be one of six food bloggers hosting a  Healthy Living Summit in Boston, MA.


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    About Me

    I'm a full-time heath & science writer at Sphere and a contributing editor at True/Slant. I also contribute military health news to Danger Room at Wired.com, and have recently written for Marie Claire, World Politics Review and Next American City.

    My first foray into journalism came in middle school - at a French-speaking plaid-kilt-wearing educational institute somewhere in the Canadian tundra. It was there that I decided to start my own newspaper, to disseminate my sarcasm and attitude problem among my peers. We lasted three issues.

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