Maci Hakala is a busy stay at home mom, but a short time ago, Maci was busy finding the perfect look.
“That’s the standard almost,” she said.
Perfection is a standard often set by models in fashion magazines, music videos, movies, and on TV.
“I would lie if I said I don't look at someone on TV, everyday and be like wow I want to be like that,” Hakala said.
That desire started at a young age.
“I remember the first time really feeling bad about myself I was in third grade, I was 8 years old, I was trying on some swim suits for the new season, and I look in the mirror and I remember turning to my mom and going "I’m too fat mom," Hakala said.
More than twenty years later, that thought often drowns her in a pit of deep despair.
“It’s consuming, it's weighing, it's heavy and it literally brings you down,” she said.
It became downright dangerous when Hakala decided she would do whatever it took to look her best.
“There’s a point when it doesn't matter how unsafe it is,” she said.
Hakala dove in to destructive behaviors.
“I have gone times, you know, without eating,” she said.
She also binged, purged, and experimented with diet pills. Hakala is not alone. 2% of Utah women have a diagnosed eating disorder. That may not sound like much, but that's 29,000 ladies, and they mostly live along the Wasatch front.
That's not all, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons said more and more women are now scrambling to get surgery for the perfect look.
“I had plastic surgery at 20 years old,” Hakala said.
Utah is a plastic surgery hot spot. Right now, the state has more surgeons per capita than any other and more breast augmentations than anywhere else. For Hakala, surgery was a solution.
“It worked, I’m not going to lie, for a second and then it comes back, you find something else wrong with yourself,” she said.
Having two little girls with beauty on the brain made pursuing perfection problematic for Hakala.
“The last thing I want in this world is for my girls to grow up the way I did,” she said with a quiver in her voice.
“It doesn't take beauty, it doesn't take, you know, makeup, it doesn't take a beautiful gown to be a beautiful person,” Hakala finished, crying.
It’s a life lesson she vows to pass on.
“all I can do I guess is just be there for them, and let them know that that's not the case, and share my experience, you know, the things that I missed out on in life... Being so consumed by the idea of perfection,” Hakala said.
She may not be a size zero, but she's happy, and she thinks women everywhere can be too.
“focus on why you're loved, and focus on why people love to be around you and focus on what makes you happy, and as soon as you're happy, I believe, you're going to find ways to make yourself happy about your appearance,” she said. “You move on. Yeah, you just move on.”
If you have young children like Hakala, experts say you can boost their body image by simply talking about your body in a positive way. Also, help them get involved in something they love. Psychologists say hobbies help kids see what they can accomplish despite the way they look.