Southern Smash – McCall Dempsey leads the charge for positive body image among women.

McCall Dempsey is warm, quick to laugh and remarkably candid. So candid, in fact, that she seems completely at ease when discussing her 15-year battle with eating disorders, diet pill addiction and compulsive exercise. “I was completely and totally ruled by numbers,” Dempsey confides. “The size of my waist, my BMI, how many miles I ran, how many calories I burned. I lived and died by these numbers.”

Obsessive rituals were Dempsey’s constant companions—throughout high school at St. Joseph’s Academy, during her college days at Ole Miss, and as she launched her marketing career at Cox Communications. Dempsey was so adept at hiding her eating disorder that family, friends and even her husband, whom she married in 2007, had no idea. The turning point finally came in 2010, thanks to a friend who encouraged Dempsey to seek help. After hiding her eating disorder for more than half her lifetime, she checked herself into Carolina House, a residential treatment facility in Durham, N.C.

Three months later, Dempsey returned home and began outpatient therapy. Recovery didn’t come easy. Setbacks occurred. Her resolve wavered. To cope, she turned to writing. Her first blog post—written anonymously—appeared online on Aug. 2, 2011. Overnight, she was swamped with comments. “So many people said Thank you for sharing’ and It’s so nice to know that I’m not the only one who doesn’t have it all together,’ ” she recalls.

Buoyed by the comments, and driven to make a difference, Dempsey attached her name to the blog and continued to write. Invitations to speak soon followed. With newfound confidence, Dempsey decided that it was time to make a bigger impact. Southern Smash—a movement to promote positive body image—was born.

In November 2012, the nonprofit hosted its first Scale Smash at Baton Rouge beach. Attendees turned out in droves, and literally smashed their scales. “Perfect weights” were written on balloons then released into the sky. The message at this self-liberating event was clear: Let it go. Poor body image and negative self-talk have no place here.

Since that event, the organization has taken off, hosting scale smashings and educational talks across the country. Dempsey has appeared on and written for publications such as Women’s Health magazine online and the National Eating Disorders Association magazine. “I am so grateful to the amazing people who have helped me through recovery and beyond,” she says. “This is just my way to pay it forward.”

225 met with McCall at LSU’s Southern Smash in November. Check out the video below!