Meredith Essalat first became involved with Movemeant Foundation when she approached, our founder, Jenny Gaither, and asked her to bring Movemeant’s body-positive curriculum to her middle school. As the school principal, she was fighting an uphill battle with mean girl mindsets and deeply embedded unhealthy habits. After witnessing firsthand, the positive impact that Movemaent’s programs had, she leaned in further and has since become an invaluable member of our community. She is a spokesperson and advocate for empowering girls and women and the strong female role model we all need in our lives. Her dedication to our cause is not limited to her compassion towards others but as this story illustrates, also extends to her own story of struggle and strength. We hope that her story will show you why we love and adore Meredith so much. She is intelligent, thoughtful, confident, articulate, complex, compassionate and so much more.

TRIGGER WARNING: The following article contains information about eating disorders and an individual’s personal road to recovery which may be triggering to survivors or people currently in recovery. Additional resources for eating disorder recovery can be found at the bottom of this article.


I am an anorexic.  

There’s no way to edit that. Filter that. Contour, contrast, highlight, or lowlight that. It doesn’t matter if I wear my hair up, or dress down. If I smile, or cry, or shiver with delight.

I am an anorexic.

It’s taken me a long time to come to the realization that the enslavement to my eating disorder (ED) is not something I am ever going to overcome completely.  

It’s not something that gets left in the dust of my personal journey towards becoming the most enlightened woman I can be. No, it’s my co-pilot—riding there next to me in the passenger’s seat. A constant companion, tapping on my shoulder. It sometimes takes a nap as we meander down well-paved roads, smooth with professional success and personal contentment, almost fading into the beige background of feigned perfection. Other times, as the road weaves and bends and bumps along, it puts its feet on the dashboard and blasts the radio, ringing so loudly in my ears and with such an intense weight on my chest, I can barely see beyond the single step in front of me.  Still other times, we chat, me discussing with it how far I’ve come and how strong I have grown in my ability to tune out its noise and ignore its toxic temptation.

I am an anorexic.

It’s funny—my ED lures me in with a false sense of who I really am. It tries to blind my self-worth into thinking the more weight I lose, the more calories I count, the more times I seek to deny myself from living my authentic life, the more I am winning. Sure, I lived in a larger body for my late teens and early twenties. And, when I began to try to shed some weight, I let the compliments of others, the praise and applause for how great I looked, accelerate my downward spiral. “Good for you,” they said. “Wow! You look terrific,” they cheered. And one to never shy away from a challenge, I thought, “You think I look good at losing 10 pounds? How about 20?!” Game on.

And, 20 pounds turned to 40 which turned to 60, and so on, until those compliments turned to criticism, and the volume of praise was drowned out by whispers of concern. “What happened to you?” they wondered. “You’re too skinny”, they chided. “Eat something!” they exclaimed. “But, wait,” I thought. “Isn’t this what we all wanted?”

meredith5.jpg

I am an anorexic.  

For me, my ED was and is an addiction of control.  One to always give change the Heisman, I found myself at a crossroads of, what I deemed, insurmountable proportions. I was graduating from college, living at home, single, and had no idea what I was going to do with my life.  My core group of friends was dispersing to the far corners of the country, and I felt alone. Isolated. Completely out of control. So, what did I do with that sense of free falling without a parachute? I clung to the one thing that I could control—my weight—and used that as a life preserver. The numbers on a scale—controlled.  The facts on a nutrition label—controlled. The exact tablespoon of peanut butter on the exact 100-calorie slice of whole wheat bread eaten at the exact same time each day—controlled. Life was unpredictable. Numbers were not. But, that life preserver I sought in the form of controlling my weight? It was drowning me.

I am an anorexic.

There wasn’t one, singular moment that caused me to pivot—caused me to stop myself dead in my destructive tracks and begin a path towards healing.  One could say that a racing heartbeat and my doctor’s prompting to be hospitalized caused me to shift. Perhaps it was the death of my grandfather in which I was so consumed by grief, I went an entire day without counting a single calorie, the first time in over eight years. Was it the midnight intervention by one of my best friends in a Los Angeles hotel room? The anguish that overwhelmed my parents’ faces whenever they looked at me? The sheer exhaustion of making excuses every time I was in the presence of food that I deemed “unsafe”?  I really can’t say which was the greater catalyst. But, I really can’t say that I am fully healed, either. Because, my battle with ED is no different than any addict’s battle with their own vice—we each look into the eye of temptation, and we each have to decide what is going to consume us. The willingness to stand up and fight?  Or, the alluring comfort of defeat.

I am an anorexic.

I’m no longer 98 pounds. And, if I’m being completely candid—there are plenty of days when I’m not okay with that. Plenty of days when I want to run to Target and buy a scale to see exactly what I measure. Plenty of days when I want to count the calories in the scent that I smell by walking past a restaurant. Plenty of days when I look in the mirror and just don’t like what I see. But, I force myself to wake up each day and reclaim my power. I stare down my ED each morning, announcing to it, and to myself, that I will not be controlled. I will not be consumed. I will choose to stand up and fight.

meredith4.jpg

I am an anorexic.

But, I have come to be surrounded by a network of friendship and camaraderie that cheers me on through my struggle. The more I stare down my ED, the more open I am to opening up to others about my journey. Last year, I attended my first-ever Dare to Bare event by the Movemeant Foundation.  Initially intimidated by the idea of baring my physical appearance with such vulnerability, I used that event as a catalyst for true authenticity. I was in awe of the confidence of the other participants—women who exuded such empowerment, working together, riding together, meditating together. I felt the isolation of my ED give way to community, which gave way to acceptance and love.

I am an anorexic.  

But, I am also a woman, a wife, a daughter, a leader, a sister, a friend.  I cheer others on because of who they are, not how they look. I rally around those who struggle because I have been there—I am there now and will be there tomorrow. As a Principal, I lead my students to celebrate their own self-worth, even in moments when I struggle to find my own. I am an anorexic, but thanks to the Movemeant Foundation, I know that I am so much more.

I am enough.