We got all kinds of excited last year when American Eagle’s lingerie company Aerie made a vow to stop Photoshopping their models and launched their #aerieREAL campaign.

Aerie’s brand skews young, the typical customer is a 15-21 year old girl, and as we all know, being in your teens and early twenties can be rough on your self-esteem. Rather than contribute to the negative noise, Aerie’s vow to stop Photoshopping and to promote body positivity with #AerieREAL demonstrates a rare and welcome commitment to not just giving their young customers what they want, but going above and beyond and giving these girls what they really need: the message that real is beautiful, and because these girls are real, they are, by definition, beautiful.

As an Aerie brand rep explained at the time, “We’re hoping to break the mold . . . we hope by embracing this that real girls everywhere will start to embrace their own beauty.”

What happened after their campaign launched was kind of unprecedented. The brand’s sales spiked by 9 percent, and the ad world—along with other major companies—took notice.

Aerie is now being rewarded for making a step in the right direction, a step that might influence other brands to follow suit.

The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) recently created the NEDA Inspires Seal of Approval campaign to recognize companies and individuals striving to make a difference in the world of body positivity, and Aerie just earned the inaugural award.

“Unrealistic images in advertising and the media play a role in the rising epidemic of eating disorders and poor self-esteem,” Lynn Grefe, president and CEO of NEDA, said in a statement to press. “But Aerie’s campaigns highlight a range of body types. Their approach is not only socially responsible, but also resonates with the public and is profitable. We hope others will learn by Aerie’s outstanding example.”

“We are honored to be the first company to receive the NEDA Inspires Seal of Approval,” said Jennifer Foyle, Aerie global brand president in a press statement. “Aerie is committed to challenging super model standards to spark a conversation with the fashion industry and champion consumers with the true meaning of real and unretouched beauty. We are proud of our partnership with NEDA and hope others will join us in creating authentic advertising and marketing.”

The seal is the brainchild of NEDA ambassador Iskra Lawrence, an international model who was dropped by her agency almost a decade ago at the age of 15 for being “too big,” but was then deemed “too small” to work in the plus-size world by reps at the time.

“I hope to inspire brands to be part of this movement for positive change,” Lawrence explained. “It is my goal for the NEDA Inspires Seal of Approval to become an internationally recognized symbol for images and messages that are safely promoting body diversity, confidence and self-love at any shape or size. We don’t belong in a one-size-fits-all box.”

It’s important to recognize individuals and organizations striving to promote body positivity, because poor body image is such a serious and pervasive issue. NEDA provides stats that speak for themselves:

“Sixty-nine percent of American elementary school girls who read magazines say that the pictures influence their concept of the ideal body shape and 47% say the pictures make them want to lose weight. Forty-two percent of first-to-third-grade girls want to be thinner and 81 percent of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat,” cites NEDA.

We LOVE NEDA for creating this Seal of Approval, and we are so excited that Aerie is the first-ever winner! We look forward to seeing all the wonderful individuals and groups who are honored in the future!

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