Today, #AerieREAL girl Dana Patterson’s strength and confidence shine. But it took work to get here! She opened up to us about her journey to self-love and body positivity, an amazing story that she now shares on social media and in her work as a NEDA partner. Read on for all the inspiration!

Real Talk With Dana Patterson

Aerie loves NEDA and we know you do too! How did you decide to get involved with the non-profit?

DP: I wanted to get involved with NEDA to be able to share my recovery story, how I handle my mental health, and connect with more men and women in the ED community. This community has helped ME so much in my recovery and journey to self love, and I want to help others the same way. The work that NEDA is doing to save and improve lives is so incredibly important.

You’ve been so open about your story with your followers. How do you allow your past struggles to influence and motivate your future?

DP: I think we need more and more honesty on social media! People need to see what’s really real. I have allowed my past to shape me positively, my struggles and the adversity I have faced have shaped me to be the strong, humorous, honest, understanding person I am today. My past has allowed me to push through many difficult times where I wanted to give in and give up. I’m extremely grateful for all I’ve been through and it will continue to push me to share my much needed message to women, men, and children who need to hear it.

What advice do you have for any girls who are struggling with similar issues you’ve faced?


  1. First step is to stop identifying your body as your only value. You are SO much more than your body. Once you take the emphasis off of our physical appearances it’s so much easier to love ourselves.
  2. STOP COMPARING TO OTHERS! My dad always says comparison is the thief of joy, and it’s so true! Start celebrating your unique qualities as well as the others around you.
  3. Do not let the opinions of others affect you, and do not let your value lie in others opinions of you i.e. Boys, bullies etc. Your value comes from your amazing qualities, NOT other people’s opinions of you!
  4. Stay diligent about how you allow yourself to think. My parents always talk to me about “standing porter at the door of thought” aka watch how you think about yourself and what you allow into your thought. Negative thinking begets negative results. Stay diligent about you how you speak about yourself and others. You do not have to fall victim to BDD or your ED, you are stronger than your disorder. Your thought is such a powerful tool in the battle against ED.

What is your mantra or the most important thing you tell yourself every day?

DP: BE GRATEFUL. My dad always made me write gratitude lists every day growing up, and I never really understood why until I got older. It’s so important to be grateful for everything we have and the opportunities we are blessed with. I start my gratitude lists with things as simple as being grateful for clean water to drink, a roof over my head and my bed to sleep in. It truly gives important perspective to our way of thinking.

What makes you #AerieREAL?

DP: My honesty, my humor , and my ability to embrace my mixed Latina/Spanish/and Scottish heritage is what makes me #AerieREAL. I used to be so insecure about some of my physical attributes growing up looking very differently than other kids at my school. People would make fun of everything from my weight, to my skin color, my eyebrows, my butt and my full hair. I want to give a voice to any girl or boy who’s ever been made fun of or bullied for being different, and let them know they are loved and accepted. That is what makes me #AerieREAL.

Real Talk With Dana Patterson

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