Strong is more than skinny
BENJAMIN RANDALL | USA
My changemaker activity is focusing on my own evolution in recovering from an eating disorder. I created this video to motivate myself and inspire others. Made in tandem with the University of Bristol's Fulbright Summer School on Arts, Activism and Social Justice.
"Hello, my name is Ben Randall. I'm a 3rd year student at Colorado State University, studying journalism with a focus on public relations and adventure travel writing. For my changemaker activity I've decided to go the route of making a personal change, a mental change in *me*, which is something I'm not used to. Over the course of the past two or three years, I've neglected my own personal health and mental health, continuously advocating for everybody but myself. So now, I think this is a great time to start doing that.
"I'm currently undergoing a recovery process with a challenging mental illness that you may or may not have heard of, known as an eating disorder. An eating disorder is a range of psychological conditions that more or less cause unhealthy eating and exercise habits to develop. Mine started with an obsession with body weight and body shape. I always wanted to become smaller than I was. I'm a big guy, I grew up being six foot tall since about eigth grade. Living in a big body, I always looked at my friends and wanted to be something different. I wanted to look like them, I wanted to fit in, is kind of how I thought of it.
"So this is how my eating disorder started. As I got to Colorado State University and I began running, and cycling and doing a lot of those really fun Colorado mountainous activities, and I started to lose weight. And it was good at first, it was very healthy, I was making friends and doing new activities. But then I started getting motivated by the weight loss and I realized if I ate less and exercised more, then I could lose more. And I had this unhealthy fixation on becoming smaller and shrinking, becoming almost so skinny that at one point I was categorically anorexic and I'm lucky that I'm even here.
"For this activity I've decided to make a new mantra for my life, as I go through recovering from this eating disorder: That Strong is More than Skinny. It is one thing to be skinny and be in an athletic body and be quote unquote healthy, what everyone so often sees on social media these days. But it is another thing to be strong of mind and strong of body and have a good relationship with yourself and your own exercise, eating and workplace habits. And that's something I'm going to be venturing towards in this process.
"My eating disorder helped me become more socially attractive, and cope with stress, and do what I thought was healthy. But over time I've realized it is only a paradox. It has led to less social time with my friends, unhealthy eatin ghabits and a lack of focus on journalism, and writing and podcasting and everything I associate with Ben Randall. It has led to me losing myself. So during this process I'm going to refine myself. I'm going to come out of this experience not an individual who is controlled and harmed by his eating disorder, but an individual who took his eating disorder in stride, channelled it into his being and used it to become something more and greater. I'm going to start writing more, and doing more freelance journalism work, because that's something that really calls to me. I've always wanted to help others, inspire others, and during the depths of my eating disorder I thought I was inspiring others through my athletic achievement, but realized there is a better way to do that.
"I want to start writing openly about what I've gone through, and how tough it has been, in the hopes of inspiring other young athletes and other people dealing with this mental illness to come out, and to acknowledge that they may have a problem and that it is perfectly okay. So many people think they are alone in this battle with mental health, and they are never alone. Cooking and baking and talking openly about my recovery process as well as even continuing with my exercise regularly of course, gong on runs and bike rides when I feel good about it. This is going to be big parts of my recovery process. I know that it is going to be challenging, but I also know that I'm here for the battle and I've made it through the toughest parts, and all that's left now is to keep going, and hopefully one day become a voice that others can look through to really go through their own recovery process. Again, my name is Ben Randall, and my changemaker activity is focusing on my own growth and evolution through my eating disorder, to become a better man, and a better person, because: Strong is More than Skinny."