*Model: Ava Albu, Hair & Make-up: House of Sheen Glam Team

I started dancing when I was little. My life up until my early twenties was all about dance, performing, competing and even teaching. My passion for dance continued into college. On stage, I felt strong, confident and ready to take on the world. Being on a collegiate dance team, it soon became very clear to me through an initial weigh-in, nutritional counseling and make-up application instruction that appearances were important. After all, we performed at special events, parades, basketball games and supported our college publicly. Near the end of my freshman year, it was noted that I needed to be careful not to gain the dreaded “freshman-fifteen”.  My weight had gone up a few pounds from the beginning of the year. Something about this weigh-in was different and suddenly the switch to my internal light was flipped. Everything went dark and stayed that way for some time (many years). It became a very unhealthy obsession to be as thin as possible, work out more and eat less. I didn’t have a lot of knowledge on how to diet and honestly, it was too late. The self-loathing and destructive thoughts had already set in. Over the next few years the weighing continued even as a new coach stepped in. I was at an all-time low of 105 pounds at 5 feet 6 inches. My parents were devastated and begged me to eat. The more they begged, the less I ate. I was dying to fit in.

Fast forward to 1999, when I met this amazing man who would soon become my husband. He is smart, carefree, fun and loves me no matter the number on the scale.  He helped me through some health issues as a result of my anorexia and encouraged me to eat solid healthy foods. I now talk openly with my children about my past experience, hoping that awareness is key. I also pray that no mom has to watch their child suffer from this disease.

I want to thank my beautiful model, Ava, and her mom for taking the time out to help me tell my story through this picture. I have held off on posting this for some time knowing how difficult it would be to share publicly to the social media world. This image has earned me a merit from the Professional Photographers of America towards my Masters of Photography and Honorable Mention in the International Photography Awards image competition. I will forever be thankful for the friends who always stood by my side and for my family whose love and support helped my light burn bright again.

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  1. Annie Roberts says:

    You are brave and courageous Shelby.

    • Shelby Finkelstein says:

      Thank you Annie. That means so much and finally it feels good to set free this secret I have been holding in. Time has taught me that hopefully by sharing I might help others open up ❤️

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