How do I find the words to describe the Walk to REbeL? Well, I probably would have described my first experience at the Walk to REbeL as “immersive.” That rainy Saturday morning, for perhaps the first moment in my life, I found myself entirely immersed — thrown into a new world, a world with more depth and meaning than what I normally encountered in my day-to-day. And that world was REbeL. I couldn’t have dreamt anything better. I particularly loved wandering around the booths before the walk — taking multipleWhiteboard photos, seeing the adorable canines at the Pup Tent, and marveling at the free food. Before I joined REbeL, I would have included a modifier before celebrating free food. I would have said to a friend or to a co-worker something like, “The food was free . . . so I ate an entire day’s worth of food before noon.” I would have felt the need to justify eating.
My membership in REbeL has highlighted my relationship with food the most — over my relationship with my body, and over my relationship with other girls. As a girl who grew up on the soccer field, I had a healthy relationship with food. I saw food simply as fuel for my body. But I was not immune to the societal and media pressures that many teenage girls, and sadly even pre-teen girls, encounter. At some point — I don’t remember when — I began to label many foods as “bad,” and I was quick to reprimand myself for eating those “bad” foods. I was also quick to reprimand myself for “overeating,” even though I was actually compensating for skipping the previous meal, which I did often. I grew to fear food.
I’ve since learned the value of moderation and have relaxed my attitude towards food. Now what I consume at mealtimes and as snacks doesn’t cause me to stress. It didn’t happen overnight; rather it required conscious effort on my part to alter my thoughts and to move toward a truly healthy relationship with food. For me, what was scary was how firmly I believed that my relationship with food was healthy when I joined REbeL. REbeL taught me that disordered eating is far from binary; an entire spectrum lies between “healthy” and “disordered.” We are all at different points along this spectrum, and where we fall on that spectrum changes from day-to-day, sometimes even moment-to-moment. REbeL also drew my attention to the sheer number of girls whose thoughts about diet and nutrition echoed mine.
This year, my third year attending this event, the word I would use to describe the Walk to REbeL is “proud.” The past three years in REbeL have been an educational experience like none I’ve had in class. I’ve learned how to educate my peers about the value of body diversity and the prevalence and dangers of body dysmorphia. I’ve learned to recognize body shaming and how to steer girls toward acceptance. I’ve learned to recognize the beauty in every form — and that every form is beautiful.
Most of all, I’ve learned to love myself. For that, I am proud — proud of myself and what I’ve accomplished for myself and in the community. Proud of the beautiful women, men, girls, boys — and yes, four-legged friends — who gather together every year at the Walk to REbeL.
Why do I walk? I walk to support and to spread the word about an organization that I am proud to belong to: REbeL.
Senior, Blue Valley West High School (Overland Park, KS)