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When Paige Festa describes her younger self, she uses words like “shy, anxious, spazzy, unhealthy, and creative.” When she describes the person she is today some adjectives remain: “anxious and spazzy.” More importantly however, some new ones have emerged in place of her shy and unhealthy behaviors:
”strong, passionate and resilient.” These are the characteristics are what make Paige our girl crush of the week! The strong, passionate and resilient woman that we know Paige to be are also what have empowered her to make old moves that helped her ditch an unhealthy lifestyle and start her own fitness apparel company,
Thirteen Fit Apparel.

This ‘Do it for you. Do it for her.’ story by Paige Festa, Owner and Designer at Thirteen Fit Apparel in New York City, was edited and condensed by Jessi Greenlee.

For as long as I can remember, it was my dream to work in the arts; it wasn't until probably early high school that I decided that fashion was the route I wanted to--no, needed to--take. I was extremely shy my entire childhood and battled with what I now realize was depression and anxiety. Don't get me wrong, overall, I was a happy kid and I had a really wonderful childhood but there was always something emotional tugging at me, especially once I hit my teens. I have always felt very deeply so if I was sad, it really consumed me. My anxiety and depression escalated to self-mutilation in high school and carried on through early college. I went to the Fashion Institute of Technology for college and found myself faced with new body insecurities.

I was gaining weight, becoming more aware of my body, and feeling heightened pressure to be "skinny" in the fashion environment.

Working with models always brought my mood down so low and I couldn't even look at myself in the mirror afterwards. I was comparing my body to other women's not understanding that I couldn't control my genetic body type. I went through phases of nearly starving myself and counting calories, but eating poorly, which proved generally ineffective physically and certainly didn't help my mentality/relationship with food.

The big shift for me happened when I learned about body genetics and started thinking about food differently. I used to think if I just lost weight, I'd be skinny and I'd be happy but it turns out, I had to work with my body type and understand what my body likes and dislikes. And it's not that simple: every body requires different nutrition, every body is unique in how they react to certain movements, and foods. After years of experimenting with exercise, nutrition, and wellness, I'm still figuring it out!

I have always had a sense of confidence in who I am, my personality and my values, but I was lacking confidence in my body and image.

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Looking back, I wish I could tell my younger self that her self-worth and confidence is more than being "skinny" and that there are healthier ways to overcome mental pain. It's about being strong, feeling well, and feeling comfortable in your own body, which is what I eventually found through exercise. It's about living your passions and being proud of your accomplishments.

Of course, we all have ups and downs, but now when I'm feeling down about myself, I like to remind myself of how blessed I am to have a healthy body and to be doing the things I'm passionate about.

Stepping back and looking at my journey from afar always helps me settle down when I'm getting worked up. Big picture. I started out depressed, self-mutilating, unhealthy, and unfit. Now, I eat clean, I work hard, my body is strong and resilient, and I'm living my passions.

This year at We Dare to bare, I'm doing it for me to continue my growth and I'm doing it for her to prove that I have put in the work and will continue to work towards being my best self.