Reasons Why I Love Aerie X NEDA

Content Warning: body image, dieting, the media, and health issues. 


Regardless of what majors or minors you desire to explore in university, there are a certain set of required courses you have to take; sometimes they can be avoided via AP or IB credit, but most people have to take some sort of “gen ed”, which at DePaul are called “Liberal Studies Requirements” and “First Year Program”. I for one was dreadful at Advanced Placement Biology, and as a result, needed to take “scientific inquiry with lab.”       


Because I hoped to never look at a microscope ever again to draw meaningless squiggles and memorize weird facts like “the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell”, I hardcore procrastinated taking a lab class. Now, at the dead end of my undergraduate education, I decided I’d better scroll through Campus Connect already and just get it over with. I needed a  science class to torture myself with, and time was of the essence. In my scrolls, I saw a class called Women’s Health.

I’m minoring in Women’s and Gender Studies.


And so, I began my journey through this health class, which has been surprisingly interesting so far. Both of the nurses who run my course are otherworldly nice and so easy to understand.

So last Monday night during my lecture, we discussed nutrition and eating disorders. Our professor, a Nurse Practitioner (basically the Head Nurse in Charge of Other Nurses), asked the room of 100 mostly young women what they knew about eating disorders prior to reading our textbook, and what we knew about how the media influences women’s bodies and perceptions of health and beauty. Pretty loaded question.

Tentatively, I raised my hand and told this room of 100 complete strangers that I’ve volunteered twice with NEDA, the National Eating Disorders Association, and absolutely love their partnership with Aerie, the girly-feminine section of American Eagle Outfitters; the money and awareness they raise for education and research is, in my eyes, something immensely impactful and powerful for young girls and women and friends who shop in their stores. I find their commitment to representing such a fantastic spectrum of bodies wearing their clothing to be commendable and praiseworthy. Aerie makes me happy. Aerie X NEDA makes me very happy.

Other students in my lecture hall did not feel the same way, and I felt like I was standing alone in a crowded room. Obviously, I am not a mind-reader, nor will I ever be, and I do not know the stories of every single person in that room. HOWEVER, being the fantastically stubborn human that I am, I cannot just bottle my anger and dismay, put it under my pillow, and hope the Tooth Fairy leaves me 50 cents. You see,

I don't think it’s all “just some calculated publicity stunt” or a “marketing technique”. And I don’t agree that it’s just “a trend that sooner or later will die out.”

I don't think anyone “decides” to get an eating disorder, and I don’t think a person “did something wrong” in order to “get it”.

I don't think that “if you just eat healthy, you’ll be alright and wear normal clothes.”     

I don't think that by showing women with higher BMIs or clothing sizes, Aerie or any other clothing brand is persuading  society to “normalize” or “encourage” unhealthy behavior; one student argued that if we can have loads of commercials with McDonalds and soda and potato chips and alcohol online and on television, and not feel outraged about that, then we aren’t actually concerned about anybody’s health; we are nonsensically blaming and attacking these models for no other reason than just to be nasty. That student was my hero of the night.

I don’t think that humans whose weight is not the epitome of Olympic athlete perfection are necessarily unhealthy because hormones, stress, menstruation, metabolism, and sh*t happens.

I don’t think humans who religiously work out and wear tiny leggings and bras and have a “healthy” BMI are actually the epitome of health; for all you know, they could be drinking heavily every Thirsty Thursday. No elliptical or protein shake will save your poor liver.    

And I don’t think you should look at someone funny for turning red or putting their head down as a universal sign of “I am DONE” just because you think they appear “fine” - because their reality could easily be “not fine.”

On the outside, I look like someone who fits into tiny leggings and bras and has a nice BMI, and the reality is that yes, I sorta do. However, I spent the majority of my childhood not eating my lunch at school, crying about how awful I thought I looked, and wishing for my pediatrician to let me swallow crazy diet pills (how I was never formally diagnosed is a mystery because I screamed every red flag at the top of my 12-year-old lungs).    

There’s a fantastic chance that someone 1 or 2 or 3 sizes larger than me has grown up exceptionally healthier and happier than I have ever been. There’s a fantastic chance that they feel more comfortable in their skin than I have ever felt in my own, and seeing people who are body confident and body positive brings me immense joy. Because I see that it’s possible.

Iskra Lawrence and her wisdom brings me intense joy, and Aly Raisman is one of my favorite gymnasts of all time

Plus, Aerie leggings are super comfy, don’t flash my booty when I lean over, and I can dress them up for when I am at work (business casual office setting). And when I was trying them on in the store, there were these cute post-it notes around the mirror. I do not own a full-length mirror in my room - it literally stresses me out, and it’s a reaction I cannot control - but I didn’t feel anxious in front of that dressing room mirror.                  

I really love the #AerieREAL campaign and what they’re working towards. I don’t think all that happiness and joy is a bullshit marketing stunt.