Hi! I'm Fei. I'm the founder of Elsa & Rose. I want to begin to thank you for checking out the #shareyourstory page. Below, you'll find some questions I've received about body image and my journey to being healthy from my eating disorder. I do want to point out that everyone's journey is different, and this is just my take on what made me reach my freedrom.
How old were you when you had your ED?
I was 14 years old when I got my ED. I am 29 today. I remember it starting as a simple experiment to see if I could "lose some weight". I was at a "healthy weight" but somehow wanted to try out this dangerous experiment. What I thought would be a "one time experiment" quickly snowballed into eating fewer portions, skipping eating out, always eating in my room, weighing myself ten times a day and doing a thousand sit-ups daily (yes, about that many). I lost my period, I couldn't enter a McDonald's without being afraid that the "oil molecules in the air would enter my system and make me fat" (very absurd, I know!). I couldn't sit normally in cars because I wanted to sit in a way that made me "train my abs" while sitting. I was a slave to my obsessions.
How did you become free of your ED?
I became free by facing my fears. My fears included eating carbs, eating three full meals a day, eating snacks, not doing x amount of sit-ups daily etc. I had so many fears related to food (and exercise, but started to let go of one of them at a time. For many people that recover from EDs, it's about the people around them giving them love and support, and for me, it definitely was as well. I met my first boyfriend and slowly let go of the carrots I was eating during movie-nights and exchanged them for Ben & Jerrys. The fact that we hung out so much, meant that I couldn't work out as regularly as before, and that I couldn't plan my meals as before. And in a way, this was exactly what I needed - to not live such a planned life. In the beginning all of this scared me, but strangely for me I felt that the more I let go, the more in control of my life I felt. I gained some weight, and with that I also re-gained my confidence, social life and peace of mind. I was no longer a slave to my thoughts.
What can I do today to make myself feel more at peace with my body?
Perception (what you take in) ultimately becomes your reality. Be mindful with what you surround yourself with. Do you have friends/family members that nag about their bodies? Let them know how it affects you. Replace social media content that make you feel unhappy / content that make you want to become someone else with posts that make you feel happy and accepting of yourself. Although it may not change overnight, you WILL notice a difference with time in your thinking, if you change what you face every day - both on- and offline. Oh and some of my fav accounts on IG are @ownitbabe @bodyposipanda and @_kellyu - go and follow them immediately for a self-love boost :)
Choose to face your fears. Do the opposite of what your eating disorder tells you. This isn't easy, but I promise you it will be worth it. Of course, you can't face all fears in one day, but try to face one small fear every day. Maybe it's allowing some more carbs into your diet, or throwing away the scale. Stick to your new mindset of facing those fears every day, and those small steps will eventually become a big step and turn your life around. Remember that your ED does not own you although it may feel like you are under its control. Remind yourself that there are millions of people who have suffered from EDs that are now healthy, and that if they can, you can as well.
Are you fully recovered today? Was it hard?
Yes, I am fully recovered today from the ED. Thankfully, my eating disorder "only" lasted one year. Today, I believe in intuitive eating. I listen to my body and eat whatever I feel like whenever I feel like it. This - for me - means chocolate every day and eating carbs in pretty much every meal. I don't believe in "cheat days" or "good/bad foods". It's healthy for both your mind and body to not be "too healthy". It wasn't an easy journey, but the more I let go, the easier it got.
How has your thinking changed? Can you give some examples?
Today, I don't have a perfectly toned stomach - it creates folds when I sit down. But when I look at it, I thank myself for allowing myself to enjoy food and life instead of beating myself down. I think about how loved I am, and how little it has got to do with any numbers on the scale (by the way, I don't own a scale and I haven't weighed myself for years - also a tip if you want to get rid of your inner ED demons!). And I remind myself how I'd rather enjoy food, eat out with friends, not obsess about every meal, rather than have a fat-free stomach.
I walk around a lot in underwear/bikinis my house (probably because I live in Santa Monica and it's warm here!) but what I've come to notice is that the more unhide/flaunt my body, the more comfortable I am in my own skin. I see my untoned arms and thighs touching and my thought is that "I'm so glad that I'm healthy and not malnourished like before". Now, I know that I am still considered "thin" by society - as I have a naturally "slim" body type. But compared to my old view of myself, I am huge - but I am okay with that. I've changed my mindset to believing it is cool to be carefree - and not as cool to live a restricted life where you are always hungry and obsessing about food.
I also look at my body today and see it truly as beautiful although it's not barbie doll perfect. I see other people's bodies as beautiful as well - and judge less in my mind. We as women are meant to have an excess of fat on our bodies - we need it in order to carry children and to have regular periods.
I also don't see food as calories. Before, that was really the only thing I saw - calories. Now, I see food as pleasure and a way to nourish my body. I don't read the backside of boxes/calorie labels. I honestly don't need to read if I'm eating for two or for three - I listen to my body and eat until I'm satisfied.
I used to be afraid of the term fat, fat in food, fat molecules in the air - you name it. Today I'm fat-positive. I think it's a shame that something as crucial as fat is such a condemned word. When you say the word "fat", it almost automatically should mean something bad. But I honestly don't think so. I rarely eat non-fat products and see fat or curvier people just as attractive as any human being. There is nothing more liberating than seeing curvy girls being comfortable in their own skin, because that is the way it's meant to be!
To sum it up, I was fed up with sacrificing a healthy mindset for a smaller body. I was tired of having that shadow of fear and doubt following me around, and chose to not put myself through that anymore. Remember that you - and no one else - holds the key to make you recover. Yes, it is important to get all the help you can get from professionals and your loved ones, but in the end, it is your willpower that will change your life.
How can I have a positive body image when I don't have the body I would want to have?
First of all, think about this: Why do you want to have the body you think you want to have? For most of us, the bodies we have are already doing what they're supposed to do - our bodies give us warmth and carry us around from point A to B. Our arms fill the function to hold, hug and write. We do not need toned arms to hold, hug and write.
If you are restricting, purging, over-exercising and punishing yourself to stay where you are - that is not the body weight you should be at. You should be at the weight where you are are not restricting yourself - where your mind feels at ease. It is not worth it to sacrifice your mental well-being for any type of body.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read ♡ Feel free to send in more questions through DM to @elsaandrose and I'll be answering as many of you as possible / adding more Q&A's here. Please remember that I'm not a professional ED coach - I'm just sharing my own story and journey, in the hopes of inspiring you to live a happier, more full life.