Works in Progress // Maria Elena

With anorexia controlling every curve of her body, Maria would feel suicidal if she didn’t have the perfect weight. Fueled by the constant validation she received from being “skinny,” she eventually discovered that something was wrong.

Reaching out to counselors, family and close friends, she was met with comments that downplayed her pain and even congratulated her figure. Taking matters into her own hands, she decided to save herself with help from her boyfriend and close friends.

On a mission to love her body just the way it is, meet Maria Elena and read her story below.

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Name: Maria Elena

Age: 21

Explain the origin of your mental health issues i.e., what is your mental health issue, how did you realize what was happening, how was it affecting your everyday life at the time?

Once I hit high school, I noticed I started to gain some weight. Anytime I would sit down, my stomach rolls would sit down at the top of my thighs, making me feel oddly uncomfortable. I felt worthless. I started to analyze the women around me, fawning after the skinny ones and fat shaming the not-so-skinny ones. If I wasn’t the skinniest girl in the room, I would feel suicidal. I kept pushing myself further and further until I could feel each and every bone in my body. 

My fuel wasn’t food, it was comments like, “How is your waist so small? Your figure is perfect! Omg, body goals. How did you lose so much weight? Ahhh you’re so tiny and cute!” That’s how my eating disorder developed. It wasn’t even affecting my every daily life…that’s an understatement. It WAS my everyday life. All I thought about was counting calories and my thinspos. It was my obsession.

What was the resounding moment when you decided to get help? What made you do it?

Sadly, I never got professional help despite my desperate need for it. I talked to two school counselors, two doctors, several online chats / hotlines, quite a few friends, and even my family, but everyone downplayed my issues and sometimes even congratulated my figure. I had to take matters into my own hands. I’m not blaming anyone specifically for what happened; I’m blaming the diet-obsessed society that sees my past behavior as normal and even inspiring. I knew I had to save myself. Obviously, I did have some help along the way. Art, documentaries,  inspiring articles, and the support from my boyfriend and close friends.

How does it affect your everyday life now? Challenges? What skills have you learned to cope?

Every now and then I’ll fall into anorexia nostalgia. It’s like, I’ll miss the attention or validation I got when I had an eating disorder. Or I’ll miss fitting into smaller clothes. I miss being seen as small, fragile, cute. I’ll miss the feeling of having complete control over my life. Honestly, it gets hard sometimes and I don’t think I’d be able to cope if society hasn’t changed as much as it did since I had an eating disorder. I live in a diverse city now and society has become more accepting of all body types. That’s what keeps me sane.

How has living with this mental illness benefited your life? What has it given you? 

Empathy. Sooo much empathy. I can feel energies the moment I walk into a room. I can look at someone’s social media feed or talk to them for a few minutes and my heart will FEEL them. I have a hard time hating even my worst enemies because I know they might be dealing with some sort of pain and I don’t want to make them feel even half of what I once felt. People with mental illness are often portrayed as bullies, but I think it’s made me more considerate towards peoples’ feelings.

What is one piece of advice you would give yourself when you were struggling the most with your mental illness? 

I know you think the world will end if you gain weight, but that is nothing but a lie. In the future, you won’t be skinny, but guess what? You will love yourself, so much. You will inspire thousands of people with your words. You will live in a huge city and still thrive. You will have someone that loves all of your rolls and curves more than you could even imagine. You will eat the best foods the world has to offer and you’ll enjoy every second of it. And you’ll still be beautiful. 

 

 

 

Are you a work in progress? Share your story in the comments below to be featured on the blog! 

The Beauty of Loving Your Body // Izzi Marie

I don’t think there’s one person out there who doesn’t struggle with how they see their own body. We all see something we could change or alter, but in reality – imperfections are what make us unique, powerful, and beautiful.

Add on mental illness and the struggle gets even harder to manage. In another first for the blog, body positive blogger Izzi Marie discusses her own journey with self love and how she found the strength to fight the constant stigma associated with fat women.

Read Izzi’s powerful story of breaking through insecurity and self doubt below.

 

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Growing up I can’t tell you how many times I looked at another human and admired something about them; secretly wishing I carried those traits within myself. I would take beautiful elements of other people’s lives and somehow make them the darkest parts of mine. Why wasn’t I this? Why couldn’t I be that?

I allowed myself to hide behind black tinted windows, while supplying light for the sanity of everyone else. I’m not even sure that I meant to and it wasn’t until later I realized how toxic I had let my own mind become. Throughout my life I harbored thoughts of insecurity and self-doubt, tangled between knots of strength and sunshine.

I wish I could tell you the exact instant I stopped being that way. Unfortunately I can’t. Partially because some days I’m still that person and because one moment doesn’t make my story. What I can tell you is that every moment of self-love is a conscious choice.

When I was in third grade a girl (who shall not be named, even though I remember it vividly) called me fat on the playground. She was a year younger than me, but it was the first time I felt shamed for my body. I went home and cried to my mom, but she’s mom and did what most moms do. She told me I was beautiful, but for the first time in my life I didn’t believe it anymore. I always knew I was fat, but I never thought it was ugly. That little girl’s harsh words changed my life. If it hadn’t been her, I’m sure it would have been another. The point is I always saw my body differently after that. I saw myself in the eyes of others instead of my own.

The hatred you may have for yourself is something I believe we create at a very young age. It’s a bad habit that becomes engrained into little ticks that we turn a blind eye to. It exists in simple moments where you look in the mirror and turn away quickly. It lives in a snap instant when you compliment another while degrading yourself. It festers in small memories that aren’t cherished, because you were too busy worrying about the judgments of others.

Self-love is an active process. It is a choice, simply because it has to be. Bad habits are hard to break. So today and everyday forward I choose to love myself. I choose to love myself in the small victories, because you can’t reach four without two plus two. I choose to love myself in moments when it seems impossible, but I imagine my ten-year-old self standing next to me.  I choose to love myself, when the rest of the world chooses not to.

I now find beauty in the strength of fat women who show off their bodies in a time when visible belly outlines still disgust people.  I admire that a woman can be both fat and sexy, because she is a dynamic fearless leader, and not just because she wears a corset with her chest out. I continue to be constantly inspired and astonished that my insecurities are highlighted and made beautiful by women who have bodies just like mine.

You see it’s funny… I used to be consumed by this idea that I wasn’t or I couldn’t be. However, I already was. I quite literally had to start seeing my life from a different point of view. Once I saw my body archetype as attractive, it didn’t make sense that I could see that within myself. I spent a lifetime hating aspects of my fat body, using my hair as a security blanket and wearing hoodies in 100-degree heat. In that same space I saw fat girls owning their bodies. I saw fat women fighting in the distance to be loved and to love themselves. It was within that space that I discovered I wanted to fight too. I wanted to be for someone what these women were for me. It was within that space that I learned this very important lesson…

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Let another’s fight be your very own anchor. If you allow it, the thing you cherish in another, people will learn to treasure in you. Sometimes to win the fight you have to find strength in others and then discover how to see that strength within yourself. So from one insecure human to another, I beg you to stop turning light into darkness. Let light be light, no matter who flips the switch first.

XXX

Izzi Marie

 

Do you struggle with body image issues? Share your story in the comments below.