Today, I have Anastasia Amour on the blog sharing her story and lessons on fearless body love! I started following her on Instagram a few months ago and am always impressed by her honesty in what eating disorder recovery and fierce body love actually looks like. This is SO needed because often, the messages oversimplify body acceptance as this amazing, fun experience when in reality - it is amazing but it's also hard work at times. Check out the interview and her NEW book - Inside Out - which is now out!
EVERY WOMAN HAS THEIR OWN UNIQUE STORY. CAN YOU TELL US ‘YOUR STORY’ WITH FOOD OR BODY IMAGE?
Although you might not know it from how happy I look these days... for a very long time, I wanted to die. To say that I've had a turbulent relationship with food and my body is a total understatement! After being obese all throughout childhood and being relentlessly bullied, the pressure started getting to me. I set out to diet to get to a healthy weight in high school, however what started out as healthy weight loss quickly deteriorated into something much more sinister.
I started battling anorexia at the tender age of just 12 and I fought long and hard with it for 5 years. I was in denial about it for most of that time - it was just my little secret; I knew that what I had was far more serious but I tried to convince myself that it was "just a diet" and a healthy way of living my life. After spending all of my childhood as the fat kid, it felt good to finally feel like one of the beautiful girls.
I sought validation and acceptance so desperately from others, and I couldn't see that the only person that I needed that acceptance from was myself. Friends and family told me that I was far too thin, my parents had no idea what to do. I'd lost more than 50% of my body weight, hadn't had a period in years, was deathly pale, malnourished and anemic, was growing lanugo all over me and was dangerously close to death.
When I made the decision to recover, I knew that it would be a battle. My recovery was far harder than I ever thought it would be, and I worked my butt off to still be alive today. And today, here I stand - happy, healthy, thriving and loving the skin that I'm in. I've worked hard to get to this place of self-love and body positivity, and it's not always easy.
Like many, I have days that are hard, days I want to give up and days of relapses. But I know that I can get back up and keep going; keep choosing recovery. I've been recovered for just over 5 years now and in that time, I've completed qualifications in Psych. & Mental Health Studies, and I dedicate my life to helping women from all over the world of all ages to overcome EDs and body image issues of all kinds - because there are so many of us struggling to varying degrees and when you're struggling, you can feel so alone.
It's my goal to end that sense of isolation, equip women with the tools they need to come to a place of peace/acceptance/radical self love, and show women that even in a society that profits on our insecurity, it IS possible to fearlessly love your body.
WHAT ARE THE TWO BIGGEST LESSONS YOU LEARNED IN ORDER TO HEAL DISORDERED EATING AND BODY SHAME?
#1. That the power I need to change the way that I feel about my body has been within me all along! For so long, I bought into the idea of miracle potions and quick fixes and snake oils, neglecting to realise that changing your exterior does nothing to make sustainable changes to what's going on on the inside. They need to be in sync to achieve true body peace!
#2. That we need to stop attaching such huge emotional connotations to food. We put "superfoods" on a pedestal (and by the way, most "superfoods" are nothing but marketing malarkey!) and vilify foods that we tell ourselves are bad/wrong/immoral.
So many of us approach food from a black & white thinking perspective - that foods are either fuel or vessels of pleasure, and not both. What we need to see is that a healthy relationship with food has nothing to do with cheat days and "guilt free" labels and compensating for your calories.
It involves establishing a rhythm with your body and being in-tune to its needs; giving yourself a variety of food groups and not beating yourself up for also consuming for pleasure. When we lose the notions of guilt, shame and fear around food, it suddenly becomes so much easier to latch onto notions of balance, moderation and mindfulness at the dinner table.
IF YOU COULD WRITE A LETTER TO YOUR FORMER SELF, WHAT WOULD YOU WANT HER TO KNOW?
I'd tell myself that I am worthy and that the validation that I seek needs to *always* come from within myself first, before absorbing anything that others have to say.
For much of my life, I beat myself up for not being good enough, thin enough, pretty enough, smart enough... the pressure that I placed upon myself was immense. As a child, and being acutely aware that I was very overweight, I felt as though I needed to compensate for my body by being the funniest, the smartest, the best friend. I didn't realise that I was enough, just as I was. I didn't realise that all that pressure I was putting on myself was only contributing to my body-based insecurities by reinforcing ideas of worth being based on a woman's appearance.
I had previously always assumed that in order for a woman to feel good about herself, she needed to be complimented frequently by others - the more people told you that you were pretty, the more attractive you were. It never occurred to me that maybe, self worth and self perception needed to start from within the individual and any compliments on top of that were just a bonus.
All the compliments in the world won't make you feel good about yourself if you're so reliant on them that you can't feel good without them, or if you're so determined to hate yourself that whatever compliments that you receive are immediately negated by your own internal dialogue of "They're lying!".
I wish I'd known that years ago.
LET’S CHAT TOOLS. WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE BOOKS, TOOLS, APPS, COACHES, ETC. THAT HAVE HELPED YOU ALONG YOUR JOURNEY.
For me, healing myself involved taking a good hard look at the messages that I was consuming, and choosing to be more selective. During my anorexia recovery I discovered the extent of how much information that I was consuming - and a large portion of it focused around diets ideas of the body as a woman's defining attribute. Upon realising that, I tossed aside a lot of the books, publications & websites that I'd previously been taking as the gospel. I'm very selective about the media that I consume these days, because I recognise the massive effect that this can have on your mental health - positive or negative!
Some of the books I've loved:
- Secrets From the Eating Lab (Traci Mann)
- Body of Truth: How Science, History, and Culture Drive Our Obsession with Weight--and What We Can Do about It (Harriet Brown)
- Body Respect: What Conventional Health Books Get Wrong, Leave Out, and Just Plain Fail to Understand about Weight (Linda Bacon & Lucy Aphramor)
- The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are (Brene Brown)
- Fat Is A Feminist Issue (Susie Orbach)
- 8 Keys to Recovery from an Eating Disorder: Effective Strategies from Therapeutic Practice and Personal Experience (Carolyn Costin & Gwen Schubert Grabb)
- When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies: Freeing Yourself from Food and Weight Obsession (Jane R. Hirschmann & Carol H. Munter)
In terms of women that I look up to, there are countless. I have huge admiration and respect for any women that actively challenges diet culture and dares to love herself in a society that profits from her insecurity! Sarah Vance, Amber Rogers, Michelle Burmaster, Jes Baker & Taryn Brumfitt are all total badasses who are making huge contributions to the way that women see themselves.
WHAT KEEPS YOU INSPIRED, ALIVE, AND VIBRANT THESE DAYS?
The desire to make life better - both for myself and for others.
Favorite place… Home
Bucket list travel location… New Zealand
Favorite way to move your body… Walking, dancing frantically around my living room to Britney Spears and weight training.
Quote you love? “You are imperfect, permanently and inevitably flawed. And you are beautiful.” ― Amy Bloom
WE’D LOVE TO SUPPORT YOU. WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON THESE DAYS?
I'm super excited to launch Inside Out, which is my debut self help book, on November 14th 2015! Inside Out is is for all women who’ve ever struggled with negative self-talk or body loathing in any form. It doesn’t matter whether you’re 16 or 60; whether you’ve been diagnosed with a body image or mental health disorder, or whether you suffer from negative body based thoughts only occasionally. If you want to improve your body image and equip yourself with the tools to make your self-esteem stick around for the rest of your life, then this book is for you.
Inside Out is available in paperback and eBook formats from $12.00AUD, available exclusively over on my website www.anastasiaamour.com from November 14th.
All About Anastasia
Bio: After fighting a 5 year near-fatal battle with anorexia, Anastasia Amour has dedicated her life to making sure that women everywhere have access to the tools, information and resources that they need to make peace with their bodies. A Body Image Educator, Anastasia's advice is honest, vulnerable and raw; appealing to women from all walks of life - from those struggling with eating disorders to those who just seek to feel in their own skin. Drawing on her knowledge and certification in Psychology and Mental Health, Anastasia encourages women to embrace Fearless Body Confidence; empowering them with the knowledge they need to pursue a lifelong healthy relationship with themselves - mind, body and soul.