Blog Revamp and Some Thoughts

 

Hi guys! Okay, where to begin... Let me start off by saying that the contents of this post have been brewing in me for a while now, but it all came to a head recently when I had a major realization that I am not entirely happy with the direction that my blog has taken. Take away the sporadic positive body image posts/interviews I’ve featured, and all you are left with are posts of me wearing my latest favorite outfit. Don’t get me wrong, I am loving the chance to be challenged creatively with my outfits and photos and the opportunity my blog has given me to do that, but the more I continue to blog the more I realize that I feel increasingly gross and more like a cookie-cutter fashion blogger whose goal is to make people covet what they don’t have, and feel the urge to shop and look good all the time. This was not my original goal for my blog--nor is it now--but I have clearly gotten caught up in the fun and materialistic lifestyle of a typical fashion blogger. I have realized that promoting myself and my style on a regular basis not only not necessarily beneficial to anyone, but it has become something that is more harmful than good for me as well. To put it honestly and bluntly, my blog has started shaping me into the person I don’t want to be. I don’t want to be encouraged to be me focused on a regular basis and feel pressured to shop all the time for more things to feature on my blog. My tendency is to lean heavily on the vain and materialistic side, and as a result let myself be defined by that. It is not easy for me to say all these things, but I have to be real here because my blog and the people that visit are important to me, and my own personal priorities are important to me. I don’t want the main thing I am defined by is my style. If the first thing that comes to someone’s mind when they think of me is “Addi is really stylish” then I have failed as a human. Okay that sounds a little dramatic, but what I mean is that I want to be defined by my faith, positivity, compassion, love of others, and honesty--not my ability to look good on a regular basis.

Another thing I’ve been aware of but very hesitant to point out is the fact that I am a heavy promoter of healthy body image and eating disorder recovery, and yet I am not always the healthiest role model for people to look to who are struggling with those things. This is mainly because of my size right now and not my mindset, but I am still concerned about it. Though I am on the smaller side these days, I in no way want people to be confused when they look at me but then see that I am a recovered anorexic. I don’t anyone to get the wrong idea that I have relapsed or have been lying about my recovery or that it’s normal to be this size post-recovery, or anything like that. I am still very happy and proud to say that I am 100% recovered from my ED past. However, I could be better about being more mindful with my health and eating bigger meals and snacking less and eating less sugar, and not being as afraid to overeat (and relapse by starting a binging pattern). I just want to make it clear to everyone that I am not starving myself and haven’t for years. I eat what I want and stop when I’m full, and my mindset toward my body is completely healthy. If anything, I just don’t really think about my body or being thin, but I still don’t always make my health a priority like I should. But it is important to prioritize your health, which requires you paying a little attention to your body—something I need to get better at doing. No one is perfect, but I am aware that I have set myself up as a sort of role-model for ED recovery and having a healthy body image and I don’t want to lead anyone astray and I feel like I owe everyone an explanation in that regard. I am determined to remain 100% transparent and be held accountable. So all that to say that this is another reason I want to step back a little and making my blog all about me and what I look like.

And this is why I want to let you all know that starting SOON I will be taking my blog in a different direction, or I should say expanding my blog to something I will be more proud of and excited about. Before I get into the new exciting things I am going to gradually introduce into my blog, let me say that in no way does all of this mean that I am going to stop doing what I’ve been doing. Obviously I want to continue incorporating positive body image posts and interviews, as well as continue my outfit posts (which I really do love doing), but the latter will be a little less frequent and instead I will be introducing a few new things in their place. Firstly, because I enjoy reading so much and my new job is in the publishing world, I want to start writing a little about the books I’ve been reading and loving, as well as notable authors to look out for. It’ll encourage me to keep reading and keep up in the book world, as well as hopefully lead you guys to some good reads! I know this veers away from style and body image but I think it will be a really good incorporation and will help break things up a bit. What do you guys think about a virtual book club??

The other thing I’m really excited about goes perfectly along with what I wanted my blog to be about originally. Instead of solely focusing on my personal style and things that work for me, I want to start sharing people who’s style I admire and who know how to dress for their body type. I love the idea of sharing a variety of body types and styles on my blog and adding a little blurb about how they dress for their body. I think this idea perfectly lives up to my “healthy approach to fashion” motto and will be good inspiration to a variety of different people and will encourage women to embrace their personal style while having a positive body image. I already have a few people in mind that I’m hoping to feature, so I am getting really excited about this.

To all of you who have been keeping up with me so far, thank you! I am already so much more excited than I’ve ever been about my blog, and I have the people who have supported me so far, as well as my best friend Kate who encouraged me to incorporate some of these new things into my blog to thank for it. I always appreciate input, so if any of you would like me to write about/incorporate something in particular, please don’t hesitate to email me and run it by me! After all, this isn’t a pet project that I’m only doing for myself. I’m doing it for you guys! Thanks for bearing with me with this super long post. That’s it for now!

 

Mera's Story

IMG_1789MeraModeling1 I want to introduce you guys to Mera Oliveria. I met this beautiful woman a few years ago when she got engaged to and then married an old friend of mine and I immediately loved her. Not only is she outwardly gorgeous and glowing, but she has a heart of gold and a strong faith that I admire so much. Mera went out of her way to share her eating disorder journey and recovery on my blog and I am so glad she did. Her bravery and transparency inspires and encourages me, and I'm so grateful she chose Black Finch as a platform to share her story. Read on and be amazed.

Hi Mera! First off, thank you for being a part of my blog! I am so thankful for you and for your willingness to share some of your story with us. I want my readers to know a little bit about you. Where are you from and what are you up to these days?

Hi Addi, thanks for allowing me to share. I love that you are shedding light on the taboo topic of eating disorders on your blog! I hope that it can bring healing and hope to many girls who might be silently struggling with this issue. I grew up in Southern Oregon, and that is where I live now with my husband and our five-month-old baby girl. Since having her, I have been spending as much time as I can soaking up her baby-ness and making art on the side.

How did you start modeling and how old were you when you started?

I started modeling when I was thirteen. My cousin and I were interested in it, so we visited an agency. I was terrible at sports, so at first I thought modeling would be something else I could pursue. I didn't have a huge interest in fashion at first, but I liked the idea of getting to dress up and take pictures. We did it for fun anyway because that was about the time digital cameras became easily accessible. (I think I'm dating myself by that. Yeah, I'm like 27.)

Tell me about your experience modeling. What was it like initially? Did you feel the pressures to get/stay thin right away?

I started taking modeling seriously when I was around fifteen. When I was sixteen, I signed with a New York agency and then signed with two other agencies in Japan and went to work in Osaka and Tokyo. As I got more acquainted with the industry, I was drawn to how unique high fashion was and how the models were portrayed in magazines. I think every girl wants to feel pretty, and when someone tells you that you meet the world's standard, it does feels good. Although that doesn't actually mean much, as I will explain, it was especially impacting to be told that at a young age. I think that was a huge driving factor for me. I remember my first professional photo shoot at thirteen and becoming a lot more aware of my body that day. Although there are many girls who naturally have the body type that the modeling industry requires of them, I wasn't naturally as thin as that. When I first got my measurements taken to put on my comp cards (what they call a model's card that has her measurements and pictures from her portfolio on it), I was told I needed to lower them. I was given ''goal measurements'' for a bust, waist and hip size that all models at my height were expected to have. That became the standard for me as I went on, but I had no idea how to obtain that when I was thirteen, until I became obsessed with my weight.

Can you tell us more about your eating disorder experience? How did it develop and when did you realize it had become a problem?

As I turned fifteen, I started seeing more and more how I was not meeting the requirements. I started holding myself to this standard much more strongly. I noticed where my body was not ''perfect'' and compared myself to my modeling friends who were just naturally very skinny. I remember looking at one of my friend's thighs when we were driving to a casting call in LA. She was sitting next to me and I was comparing the size of my leg with hers. My thigh was so much bigger in my mind than hers. I felt like I could never reach the standard of beauty and acceptance unless I was as skinny as her.

Back home, it all started subtly. I just stopped eating certain foods and exercising a little everyday after school. I saw some gradual weight loss that made me feel like I was making progress. Then my friends at school noticed that I was not eating during lunch or only eating an orange or half a health bar. Soon, the foods I was avoiding became completely ''off limits'' and the list of restricted food started growing until I only allowed myself to eat lettuce and chicken. At the same time, my exercise habits became more consuming. My family had gotten a treadmill for another reason, so I started walking on it everyday. I went from just doing an hour of cardio every day to adding persistently walking on the treadmill while I did all my homework and watched TV. Basically I was always walking on that thing in an obsessive way.

Seeing the changes in my body was not the fuel that was pushing me to do this. Actually, the more I lost, the bigger and more imperfect I saw myself in the mirror. Although the scale showed me getting more and more underweight, I just could not see it. The anxiety was what was driving me, the anxiety of not being good enough and not meeting this standard I had in my head. If I ever let myself eat anything other than chicken and lettuce, I felt like an utter failure so I would try to counteract that by exercising more to ''work it off''. I had in my mind that even one bite of something ''bad'' would make me ''get fat''. (I'm putting all of these words in quotations because they were such a dominating factor to my thought process, that was obviously distorted.) Eventually the amount I exercised built up to the point that I would not allow myself to eat even a bite of chicken unless I had ran on the treadmill going at least 6 mph on the highest possible incline for twenty minutes or more, and then do the same thing after I'd eat it. It was summer, so I could spend all of my time focused on this. On top of that, I'd run more during the day and then walked at least three hours on the treadmill at night reading or watching TV. It was the only thing that would make the anxiety stop.

You might wonder if my family noticed. They did, but it appeared to them like I was extremely set on reaching my goals in the modeling industry. I remember my mom asking me if I was starving myself and I said no because I was still eating a small amount of chicken (about one chicken breast a day). My family made comments, but nothing was going to easily change my mind anyways.

I was 102 pounds at the worst point, and being 5 foot 8, grossly underweight. Still, because of my curvier body type, I looked like a lot of girls naturally do without starving themselves, so it was not obvious to everyone. I noticed it was a problem when I was in New York at a modeling convention and I was looking in the mirror. I had finally made it there. But when I looked in the mirror, I thought I was so far from what I should be. I was looking at my body disgusted by what I saw and I started pinching my ''fat'' so hard that I bruised myself pretty badly. But it wasn't fat at all, it was just my skin.

What was the wake up call and turning point for you?

Later that week, I had met with the agent that was going to sign me to work in Asia. She was taking my measurements and noticed the distain I had towards my body by the comments I was making. I was actually a bit smaller than some of the required measurements at that point. She looked at me seriously and told me I needed to be careful. I encountered some of the very stereotypical people of the modeling industry, one who even told me I should have jaw surgery done in order to get more work, but I also met a lot of others who were caring like this, aware of the grueling and unrealistic standards put forth by their industry. But when I heard this particular agent tell me to be careful, that was when I noticed I had an issue, even though it didn't cause a huge change for me right at that moment. I didn't know then how to break myself away from thinking the way I did. But because someone who defined this standard I was holding myself to was telling me that I needed to be cautious, I realized maybe this body type was a mirage after all. It didn't help that I was signing with agencies and booking a lot of work when I was that thin.

After the conversation I had with that agent was when I went to Japan. There it was hard for me to maintain my rigorous exercising. The anxious thoughts of failing became so prevalent that I started to compulsively binge eat because of them. I completed my contract and then went home. But the thinking and compulsive patterns were engrained. This pattern of compulsively eating became solidified so strongly that, of course, I gained back weight. By no means was I even overweight, in fact I was still below average then, but my measurements no longer fit the standard requirements for the modeling industry. I believed I was an absolute failure because I had gained weight. I started binge eating as well as eating things in secret because, in my mind, it was shameful to eat food. My hope was that I would lose the weight again while I finished up high school and then go back to modeling after my senior year. (I had been doing school online while I traveled.) But the anxiety and binge eating was taking over and I couldn't control it. I was in a vicious cycle of constantly feeling terrible about myself because of eating food, and nothing could break it. I was tormented and trapped by feeling like meeting these unreachable standards was the purpose of my life. I got very depressed and started having suicidal thoughts over it. That was when I really knew something in me had to change.

Tell me about your recovery, because I know it is different for everyone. What was the hardest part and how long did it take for you to get to where you are now?

It was not until I met Jesus that I found freedom from all of my eating disorder behaviors. My recovery from my eating disorder is defined by my reconciliation with God. The two just cannot be separated. Trust me, I had always been offended by Jesus, but when He made Himself known to me at that point, I could not deny His power to save. To tell you the whole story would make this extremely long(er), but one major point was when I eventually read a bible I had been given when I graduated high school, after avoiding it for as long as I could. On thing I read said, ''Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.'' My thought patterns needed to be transformed. But I found this renewal could not be done by my own doing. It had to be done by the work of Jesus in my life as I trusted Him. It was like the bible says, ''If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here.'' But the biggest breakthrough overall was later down the line when God revealed that this whole time I had been allowing the opinions of the modeling industry define my worth rather than the opinion of Jesus, which was expressed by the act of the cross (the ultimate declaration of our worth to Him, willingly dying to redeem us).

The hardest parts were the moments when I felt like I would never be able overcome my eating disorder. But the other big breakthrough I had was when I read that a product of the Spirit of God at work is self control. I realized that if I have been given the Spirit of God through the power of Jesus, then I no longer had to be a slave to my eating disorder. Through prayer and relying on God, I took back control of my eating.

The other huge aspect to my healing was journaling all of this down throughout the process. Every time I had a reoccurring episode, I would go write down what triggered it. Eventually I started to see more thought patterns and could begin to break free from their control. I started to pin-point what exactly was bringing on the anxious thoughts and decided to set my mind on the things above. I can only contribute this to the working power of God's grace at work in me.

It was not an overnight process. Over all, from the beginning to the point of my major breakthroughs, was almost a six-year time period. It has been almost another six years since those breakthroughs and I still have to actively take my thoughts captive when it comes to thinking about my body image. The idea that ''thin is beautiful'' is so deeply engrained in our culture, that the verse I quoted above, telling us to no longer be conformed to the patterns of this world, is even more applicable. There have been times of wrestling and heartache and times of great victory and joy. But over time, I have found that healing comes in layers. After the immediate washing away of brokenness, there are small fractures you find as you bear more of life. When I got married and my body became my husband's, more layers were discovered and healed. Then the same thing happened again when I got pregnant and my body allowed my daughter to have life. And still, I find myself in situations and relationships where I have to readjust where my worth is found. But I am confident that Jesus is the only one who heals the whole person- body, mind and spirit. My relationship with Him didn't address only my eating disorder, but every aspect and fracture of my life. He has the power to break every chain, bringing liberty to the captives and recovering the sight of the blind. I can totally attest to that.

You have said that you think EDs come with a lot of preconceived ideas and expectations, especially from people who have never experienced it. I totally agree with you and think it is hard to just talk about them in groups of people because of that. If you could change one thing about what people tend to assume or prejudge about EDs, what would it be or what would you tell them?

I would tell them that there is a broad spectrum of eating disorders. Eating disorders aren't only bulimia or anorexia. An eating disorder is a psychological disorder indicated by your relationship to food being disturbed or abnormal, with of course, a huge range of severity within that. I would add that it takes control of your life (or in other words, it's an obsession that keeps you from living a conventional life). For example, there is such a thing as Binge Eating Disorder (B.E.D.), a real medical condition that is not associated with the extreme behaviors of throwing up or restricting food. It is actually the most commonly diagnosed eating disorder among U.S. adults today. Yet, it is widely unheard of. Based on my own discussions, I have found that a lot of people who have had E.D.s have encountered B.E.D. behaviors within their experiences. The restriction period of my eating disorder did not last as long as the compulsive binging behaviors, which went on for a long time. I personally think that E.D.s are as diverse as the people who experience them- all of them are unique.

With that being said, if someone tells you they had an eating disorder, or that they currently have one, the physical state of their body is not necessarily and indicating factor. Eating disorders are much deeper than the skin. I don't talk about my history very often because I don't like the immediate once-over people make with their eyes. And usually people don't know that the words ''eating disorder'' mean more than only anorexia or bulimia. It's not like they portray it in the movies.

To learn more about the extent of eating disorders, check out this link where it lists sub-categories of eating disorders as well.

http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/types-symptoms-eating-disorders

I really admire and appreciate your open-ness and willingness to share your experience with other people in the hopes to help and encourage those who may be going through something similar or are just struggling with body image. What advice would you give to people who have an ED or who are just struggling with body image?

If you have an eating disorder, reach out to someone who can come along side you. There is always hope and I know that you can get through this and be freed from it. Seek psychological help. I know it is almost impossible to believe, but your weight is not worth dying over, you are beautiful.

To anyone who struggles with body image, and I am speaking to myself here, you must know that true beauty is not a standard the world can define. You were made in the image of God, the reflection of the Creator within all of creation. Because you were created by God, intricately knitted together with reverence, every part of you carefully thought out, you are beautiful. Period. I don't care that everything in you and the world tells you otherwise. That's the truth. So stop judging yourself and other people by the screwed up standards put forth by our society. Like most vices, achieving the objectives of vanity is only a fleeting pleasure. It is here today and gone tomorrow.

Another thing I would tell you is to avoid dieting. I know, that also sounds crazy in today's world. But I had to learn to think of the word ''diet'' as everything I consumed overall. Instead of making restricted dieting plans, make your ''diet'' an everyday-diet that consist of healthy foods and allows everything in moderation. The yo-yo-like thinking of dieting was the beginning of my eating disorder patterns. When you're ''off'' the strict diet, it is easy to start binging on all the things you left out before. So instead, slowly enjoy all the food you eat and put in to place healthy, realistic guidelines to take care of your health and your body. If you ate a doughnut, I hope it was good! Don't condemn yourself, just switch it up the next day.

Also, stop comparing yourself to other girls' bodies. I've read that this is the first era in history where women are expected to be so thin. I'm going to share a Melissa McCarthy quote I just read. She said, ''There's an epidemic [among] our girls and women feeling bad about themselves based on what 0.05% of the human race looks like.'' I would add that it's 0.05% of humans and a bunch of manikins without any extremities. It's just not reality. When God created you, He wasn't thinking that He would make you better or worse than [insert that girl's name here]. He was creating an intricate being who is more than their weight-to-height ratio.

You don't have to feel bad about yourself anymore because of what the world says about your body! You are loved by God. The opinion of Jesus is the only opinion that matters in the end of it all. Look at what His opinion says of you- His love for you was so great that He willingly died on the cross to redeem you from the brokenness of sin. Your weight does not define you! Neither does your nose, your butt, the length of your toes. You were created by God and He died to redeem you. That's your true worth. Nothing else.

Lastly, I think it's wonderful that you have a beautiful daughter that you get to encourage to be her healthiest self and to love how she was created. What is the most important thing you want to share or do with your daughter as she grows up to encourage her to have a healthy body image?

That's a really good question... The most important thing I want my daughter to know is that she is not defined by anything other than the love of Jesus on the cross. If I could rewind my life, I would have avoided so many unfortunate decision if I had known and lived by this truth. I want her to cherish her body because it is God-given. As her mom, I know that I must take my own advice and stop shaming my body as well. I don't want her to see me looking in the mirror and rolling my eyes at my cellulite, or that pregnancy temporarily made my stomach skin look like the inside of a ripe summer squash (lol transparency here). I want her to know that life is about more than how she looks. I don't want her to see people who have fuller body types as ''less-than'' or ''ugly'' and make comments about them behind their backs. I want her to see herself and all others by the definition of the cross. When I look at her five-month-old self now, I know that she has no idea what body image is yet. It's scary to think that society is going to have a part in shaping that for her. It just goes to show us how impacting our society is in defining what beauty is to us. We can choose to believe these fake portrayals of beauty that are displayed in magazines, or we can be transformed by the renewing of our minds and look to the cross, the place beauty is defined. John Piper said in an article I read about ''self-love'' that all of a person's perceived discontent stems from their failure to attain what they value most. With that said, I hope to guide my daughter not to put great value in the things of outward beauty, those that the world will tell her she can never truly obtain; but to value the things that Christ freely gives.

Finally Free: A Powerful Interview with Nathalia Novaes

nat before and afterNathalia_-144_Elle_Dez-2014_Gui-Paganini Guys, I am beyond thrilled and honored to introduce to you Nathalia Novaes (or Nat, as she sometimes prefers to be called). I first discovered the beautiful Nat in an Instagram shout-out post from Healthy is the New Skinny, where she shared some of her eating disorder recovery story, and I was incredibly moved and inspired by her honesty and vulnerability. I love her advocacy for having a healthy body image and her drive to spread the word and continue modeling as her natural, healthy self. So imagine my excitement when she agreed to interview for my blog! Reading her answers to my interview questions was so powerful and reaffirming. I couldn't believe how much I related to and and how raw and detailed she was in her responses. This interview will resonate with anyone who has been or is going through an ED, and will inspire and encourage everyone else. You are all in for a treat. Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce to you Nathalia Novaes.

 

Hello Nathalia! First off I wanted to thank you for contributing to my blog! I am so thrilled to get to feature you. I first saw you featured on Healthy is the New Skinny and loved seeing a little of your story and your stance on having a healthy body image. Where are you from and what age did you start modeling?

Thank you! I am from São Paulo, Brazil. I started to model when I was 19.

 

I want to know more of your story. Tell me about your early modeling days. What first lead you to the modeling industry?

I always liked cameras; also I had love fashion editorials. I remember as a teenager staring at magazines and imagining stories about the editorials I saw in Vogue and Elle- it looked so mystical and I loved to try to guess what that girl was thinking or doing in that place. But although a great part of me always wanted to model, it was all very unexpected and unplanned.

I was studying communications in Brazil/University of São Paulo and an agency approached me. So, this first agency sent me to my very first casting before I even had any experience. It was a TV commercial and I just didn't really know what I was doing. It is very funny to remember. They told me to dance and jump and I thought  "Well, I am probably not even going to see this people ever again- there are more than 400 girls for only 3 roles. Let's at least have fun" and did whatever I felt like doing and it was so fun I could not believe it. To my surprise some days later my agency called me and I booked my very first job in my very first casting; I could not believe it and the idea of earning money to interact with cameras was like a dream to me. They always gave me a sense of freedom that anything else does. After that first job I started working more and more and eventually relocated to Europe and then NYC. After I started working internationally I realized modeling was not just a passion or a temporary job, but a career. Even though modeling is very hard and way harder that I thought, my only major problem that made me rethink about this career was my weight.

Since my first step in any modeling agency I was told I was fat. One of my agencies (they were definitely not the most professional people out there- this is not so common) use to call me Nathalia the balloon because I had such big hips. But there was no joke behind it, it was pure body shaming. Well, I loved modeling too much, so I did absolutely anything I could in order to lose the required weight. And when I say anything I mean it.

 

You said that when you were losing weight people would compliment your “willpower,” especially the ones that knew you long enough to know that was NOT your real body. What was that like for you? I actually experienced that a little in my eating disorder days and it was really disheartening to go through. That really resonated with me. 

That was very confusing. At the same time a wise part of me was thinking "this is not sustainable/ this is not you/ this is not healthy" people would compliment me all the time and say things like they wish they were like me; they would do anything to have my body, that it must feel so good to look good wearing everything etc etc. It was so confusing to see the amount of compliments because I changed my body. I used to think those people were implying that my "before" body was not as valuable as this one. Well, I don't think that is necessarily what they meant. My point is we have to be careful with those kinds of comments because in my opinion body shame comes in the reverse too. I started to believe that my worth was in my control over my hunger and exercising- that my "real body" (the one I would have if I ate the amount of food it was asking me to) was a shame, a failure. That was horrifying-especially because part of me knew I just could not be that skinny forever and live a healthy happy life, even though I lied to myself so many times thinking that one day I would find a balance in that weight. Basically I was in a prison of dieting thinking that that prison itself was my source of happiness, until it clearly wasn't anymore. It was like chasing a rainbow, when I thought I was almost touching it, it went further away from me. Well, my "belief system" was broke because even though I had a great career and everything I dreamed of I was stuck in a body that was not actually mine- meaning it was a torture to maintain it. I felt like a huge fraud; a bomb that would explode at any minute if I relaxed and eat. It is funny to remember how much I used to think that people actually cared if I was skinny or not. I used to think people were as obsessed about weight as I was. I thought they were watching me...Well, all of my paranoia around my body developed relatively slowly so I could not even detect it for a long time- I just thought that life was like that; because it felt like everybody else was struggling to be in shape too. That is to me is how social media and diet culture plays a huge role increasing the chances of someone to develop an E.D. If we look to society it does make sense to think that everybody is actually obsessed with food, exercise, and weight, and I think many people believe it has to be this way in order to make people develop healthy habits. I think it is social madness. I have never had healthier habits then after my recovery. Also, there is a good amount of research explaining how dieting leads to obesity. So, the point is we need to rethink how we relate to health as a society.

You said you have never been so miserable in your life as when you changed your body just to please the industry and people. At what point did you realize you needed to make a change?

I had a big epiphany on a vacation in Costa Rica. I was in this beautiful beach with my beloved boyfriend surrounded by nature and happy people, just a perfect scenario and I could not find any complaints about my life- I had plenty of work and money and friends and lived in the city that I love: everything looked perfect on paper. I was looking at the sunset and I was just completely miserable- just pure fear, anxiety, tension- I wanted to go to the bathroom to measure my hips and be sure I didn’t gain any centimeters- because I had dessert that day. I tried rationalizing because I knew that was crazy, but I just could not help it to the point that I did go to bathroom and was so afraid that I would have to go for a long run if I gained a new inch - I was tired and I was not feeling like running.

When I came back from the bathroom and the sun was gone, something shifted in me so I started to meditate. I remembered how many times I said no to going out with friends because it would be easier to eat my clean meal at home. Also, I would be afraid to go to bed late at night because that was the time that I could have my crazy hunger pangs. So basically I was living less- trying to sleep longer- not because I wanted to sleep and rest but because I would be less time facing the "danger of food". I started to remember that I used to have more energy years ago. I started to remember myself and realized that maybe my enemy was not my hunger but the importance I allowed my weight to have in my life. I realized that I deserved more respect and I cried, cried and cried. That was when I made the decision that I was going to bring myself back- no matter what- no matter how I looked, no matter if I would be a model or not. After that I did everything I needed to recover and I can't even describe how grateful I am of my decision- but it was not easy at all.

 

I love that you said not to “fool yourself into thinking skinny models are necessarily happy with their bodies because they look like what the media sells as ideal,” and that “no size zero, job, or money is worth wasting your life for? What advice would you give to young women and girls aspiring to be models and those already in the modeling industry?

Never forget that your life is yours. It is not anyone else's! So many of us feel trapped because we are living a life to impress other people. You have no responsibility whatsoever to impress or please anyone. I find it intriguing to believe that one day I did thought that my happiness could be found in a successful career. It gives me goosebumps to remember the empty feeling I used to have in any hotel of any amazing job I did when I was struggling with my weight- I was so miserable that I didn’t even think that life could be different. Money and success can be an amazing thing but you should never fool yourself into thinking they can be your source of happiness, especially because we would just keep wanting more and more anyway; Also because the empty feeling you get after your success/money/reputation stops being something new and exciting is a dangerous zone. You need to build a solid relationship with yourself before you aim for success or anything. In other words: make your career a reflection of your happiness- not the opposite.

Also, I think many models forget that in the end of the day their bodies belong to themselves. If you can't have a healthy relationship with food and maintain your model weight do yourself a favor and make your mental and physical health a priority. This can sound a bit obvious but there are so many models that clearly are losing too much energy, happiness, and potential to maintain their weight. The day models respect their bodies the industry will also change. Of course, many girls could say "but how would I work?"- well, I guarantee that your mental and physical health are infinitely more important than that. I thought that too and I am working as much as before if not more in the curve division. I'm not saying that is the way for every model that struggles with weight; I am saying that there is always a solution. But in order to find it we need to think outside the box- talk to your booker or someone that really cares about you, talk to yourself, reflect if your habits are sustainable, ask and demand; just don't be sorry for having a human body.

To girls that are aspiring to be models: please no matter what, don't get inside the spiral of losing weight fast to get jobs. If your agency tells you to lose weight: remember first that it is not necessarily because you really need to (sometimes they just say it to make sure you don't gain weight), second: do it slowly in a balanced way. Never let yourself feel hungry of over-exercise to lose weight fast. Yes, maybe cut some calories, that is totally fine, but never any extremes, even if it is just for a day. It is a really dangerous zone too. I think loving yourself more than you love your career is a good way to measure if you are in the right mindset. But ask this question honestly- because around two years ago if someone asked me I would definitely say "of course I love myself more!" but well, I was wrong.

And last but not least, make sure you like it! Have fun! Of course nothing is perfect, but make sure you really love modeling from its side, not just because you want to be in magazines and be seen. It is not for everyone, so it does not have to be for you.

 

My favorite quote of yours is: “I had the ‘perfect’ body long enough to know how ugly it can be to have a body that is not actually yours.” That really resonated with me more than anything. Tell me about your journey to recovery and what it took to get to where you are today.

It was by far the hardest thing I've done in my life. I had a whole belief system that had to change. I thought of giving up and just dieting and to continue doing the same things as before pretty much every day for the first 6 months. I was constantly confused and afraid. I honestly did not think I would be able to be free from food thoughts until months of real hard work. I am saying this for people that are possibly struggling. I know it is hard to believe you will get out of this but I am telling you, there is life after that and it is sweet, beautiful and full of freedom. 

So, my recovery in particular started because of my spirituality. I think because of my buddhist studies and meditation I just had to face the way I was living my life and realize something was not right.

Through my recovery what helped me most was yoga and meditation- those two were key things. My boyfriend was by far the person that helped me most and I am incredibly lucky to have the support of friends and family- even by distance. I think opening myself to people and talking about my struggle was a key part to my recovery too.

Also, I think for me it was harder than anyone in general because at the same time I decided I would break free from my low body image I was working as a model and seeing my body in pictures, jobs and being judged by my looks all the time. It was a big challenge and I even thought about taking a break from work.

Well, the better I felt, the bigger I got. That was the hardest part- to understand that my weight gain could mean something good. I had this belief system that weigh gain is bad/losing weight is good and to shift that while working as a model was particularly hard. I had a client that I worked for almost every week for three years and they told me in the middle of my recovery that they could not book me anymore because of my weight gain. So, just an example to show that it was a huge challenge to me but the sense of freedom that I have now is priceless and worth more than any job.

 

Lastly, what advice would you give to women/girls struggling with body image and eating disorders?

Breath, accept it, but make the decision to change it. Talk to people, ask, cry, laugh do anything you need to do- just don't hide. Who cares what people will think of you? It does not matter; make your health a priority. Understand that it takes time, but eventually you will be out of this if you really wish and work hard. But never believe that you can get better by yourself. We all need each other especially when it comes to these things. Understand that "beauty" or "having a beautiful body" are temporary things that don't bring happiness from the inside; Take my word on this one. Make a decision to "feel" good not to "look" good. And anytime you feel insecure about how your body looks think to yourself "who cares?" People that care should not be in your life anyway so make it easier to say goodbye. Be a badass and say no to self-loathing. Love yourself unconditionally- this life is short, so enjoy this miracle of nature that is your human body. 

Do not do anything because you think you should to look good- especially when it comes to E.D. To me, one of the hardest things was to understand that my control freak mindset was playing a huge role in that unhealthy relationship to food. So when I decided to recover, in the beginning I used that same "hard-working" "self-controlled" mindset to feel better. That does not work, that will only make you obsess about things in a different way. Recovery needs to come from a mindset that understands that this is happening because part of you needs to sooth. Do not think you have to "do" anything- all you need is to let go of a false believe system that leads you to unhealthy body and mind habits- that's all- keep it simple. So, it is about allowing yourself to feel the freedom of not trying to be anything different than you are right now. You are perfect, complete, right here right now.

Meet Mills

malia

Hi everyone! It's been quite a while since I featured someone on here, and what better person to break that streak than Mills from The Daily Mills, a wonderfully refreshing lifestyle blog featuring her musings, traveling ideas, fashion inspiration, and many other wonderful things. Mills reached out to me a while ago about my blog, and we became fast email friends. This girl has a lot going on and an an encouraging story to share. I'm thrilled to get to feature her. Read on!

Hello Malia! First off I wanted to thank you for participating and allowing me to share your story on my blog! I love meeting people through similar stories, and I am so happy you found me! Now tell me a little bit about yourself. Where are you from and where do you live now? What brought you to where you are now?

I love connecting too! It’s hard to do in the blogosphere sometimes..

So let me see if I can give you my life in a nutshell. I’m originally from England and moved to California when I was 8. I remember a lot from my childhood and my Dad still lives there so I go back as much as I can to visit to keep my Britishness intact (although my family over there say’s I’m way to American with my new accent). I live in LA now but I’m looking to potentially head to the East Coast. There’s so much going on in LA which I love, but I the greenery and rain and proximity to England is pretty darn appealing

Tell me a little about your blog. What inspired you to start it and where do you want it to go?

So you know how it look me 5000 years to send this interview back to you? Secret, I typed and re-typed my answer over and over and over again. Daily Mills is currently a neatly organized mish mash of life experiences. I like to document things through my photography. But then I like to share advice and tips I learn by muddling my way through my early twenties. I delayed the launch of my blog for a few months because I didn’t know what category I fit into - fashion, travel, fitness, advice? I settled on Daily Mills being a lifestyle blog for now. It’s a digital photo album and collection of musings. As for where I want it to go?  My number one goal right now is consistency. I believe when you’re consistent with a project (or really anything!), new opportunities and insights come.

What are your favorite hobbies and what interests you the most?

I like  shooting the breeze in coffee shops that are too hip for me (the more succulents the better!), browsing bookshops for psych books and stationery, hiking and people watching.  And photographing while doing all of the above. Anything floral or castle related usually will catch my eye. And I love watercolors! I’m learning now after being inspired a couple years ago by Meera lee Patel. She’s incredible and I totally admire her as a human and creator.

I want to hear more of your story. You said you used to suffer from an eating disorder. Can you tell me a little more about that and what got you on the road to recovery?

My eating disorder developed during middle school but became a serious problem in college. Similar to you, the fashion industry played a supporting role in my disorder. I began placing worth solely my physical appearance as a result of feeling a lack of control in other aspects of my life. As a model at the time, pressure to be smaller from photographers and the media compounded my fixation with looking a certain way.

So very long story short here, in 2012 I reached a point where I couldn’t function as a regular person anymore. I was physically and mentally exhausted. My most valued relationships had deteriorated. I sought my own help with the support of a few key people and worked my way through recovery. Now almost four years later after an insane roller coaster of a journey, my ED is completely managed. It’s an incredible feeling.

What advice would you give to girls/women struggling with body image and eating disorders?

You’re different and imperfect, just like me.  But that’s what makes us interesting. Imagine if the world was made up of 7 billion photoshopped people with the same story and interests… how boring would that be?? Live your life with the body you have. Workout to keep your mind healthy and your heart pumping and eat what you love in moderation. See friends often and find a hobby you like and do it.

If you are struggling with an eating disorder, know that your struggle is valid. It doesn't matter what size you are or how how ‘disordered’ you feel.  Reaching out for help is not reserved for those you might perceive as more ‘sick’ than you. You deserve the opportunity to live a life chosen by YOU, not by any voices in your head telling you you’re inferior because of your body shape or size. You’re not alone, I truly believe you have the strength to reach out for help.

Lastly, how would you describe your personal style? Do you have any favorite clothing items and/or places to shop?

Very relaxed. Minimal. Chic. I’m rattling off words here that I’ve heard used to describe style…

Chelsea boots, black jeans and a white tee is my favorite outfit recipe, but sometimes (like when I haven’t done laundry in a while), I’ll wear a high waisted skirt and whatever top semi matches. I generally wear neutrals, but sometimes I’ll go wild with a pastel or floral print top. I have an issue not wearing my colorful clothes. I’m going to wear them more. #goalsfor2016

My favorite shops I’ve ever been to are in Paris and London. In Paris you can see women wearing wonderfully fashionable outfits paired with natural hair and no makeup. I mean actually natural hair, like air-dried curls, frizzy or not. I love that look. In London you can see really polished people, but they always incorporate playfulness into their style. Neither place takes themselves too seriously.

I think that’s the key to fashion and defining your style. Wear what you’re comfortable in and add a little personality into your outfit when you feel like it. I have this pair of pastel floral (here I go again!) socks that I’ve worn under jeans until I realized I wanted to show their beauty to the world. Am I committing a fashion crime? More than one. Will I do it again? Definitely yes.