10 minutes with Anastasia Amour

  Hey guys! For today’s blog post I thought I’d take a different approach & introduce to you one of the bloggers whom I follow on social media. In our quest to be more body-positive and break free from the cycle of disordered eating, we look to others for inspiration, to give us hope, love and support, as well as the derivation of comfort in the knowledge that we are not alone in our fight to recover and develop a positive body image.

I’m always on the lookout for people to follow, be it through blogs or Instagram, to get inspiration and encouragement for my own journey & always want to find out more about their own personal journey, their personal stories, and their personal perspectives on issues that are important to me. So today I’d like to introduce you to one of the very first persons I looked up to. Say hello to…Anastasia Amour!

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Anastasia is an eating-disorder surviver (read her story About Anastasia) & body-image educator and blogger from Australia, where snow falls in June and where the summer heat sears in December! She is the founder of her blog: http://www.anastasiaamour.com where she dishes out practical and empowering advice about developing a positive body image, being an empowered, self-confident woman & well as coping with the challenges of an eating disorder based on her own experience with anorexia. Anastasia’s was actually the first blog and IG account I followed when I was searching for body-positive and ED recovery accounts to follow (hehe) and hence, I thought it fitting to dedicate this first interview to her & introduce this wonderful woman to you, & also to pick her brains about her  thoughts and reflections about some of the tribulations and triumphs of eating disorder recovery.

 I love her blog and her other social media accounts because its just jammed-packed with so much empowering and positive posts that cover the tiny little everyday things that affect the way we see ourselves – such as the words we use & the things we do –  to dead-serious issues that make you stop in your tracks and wonder why you’ve never thought about it impacts women. She posts encouraging motivational quotes to remind us of our worth, what it means to be an empowered womb, as well conducts her own social media movements, such as the Fearless Body Confidence, to spread messages of body-love, healthy, diet-free living, confidence & self-acceptnce.

Plus her blog & all her posts are so pretty!! ❤ ❤ ❤ Makes me wish I knew more about HTML! Sigh pie.

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I think what made me decide to want to personally reach out to her is because I wanted to create a bridge from the superficials of what I know about her and what she does, as well as gain insight into what she really thinks about some issues that I, as well as other women, go through during an ED recovery. Sometimes, when I read blogs or even Instagram feeds I feel a slight sense of disconnect from the user even though we share the same struggles because while I love their work, part of me always yearns want out to find out more. I wonder if she felt this way. Did go through the same thing I did. Does this affect her as well? I wonder what she thinks about this issue I’ve been thinking about.

When I read her responses to the questions, I was so floored! I kept going “OMG yes exactly this is what I’m thinking too. OMG yes, girl I know what you mean. OMG yes now somebody i know feels the same way about this. OMG yes, this was what I went through.”   Hence, I wanted to introduce you to her and the awesome work she does to uplift women because isn’t that what the blogging and body-positive community is about? 😀 Also, I think it pretty much reinforces this important fact: you’re not alone in this struggle. Sometimes I keep thinking that I’m the only one feeling this way because I can’t seem to find anyone sharing the same experiences. The information I source online are all…impersonal. If you get what I mean. Written by the hands of a journalist or researcher instead of one who has actually experienced what I’m going through. But then there are people like Anastasia, advocates who reach out to other women in wonderful awesome ways to empower them, to help them reinvent themselves and be confident queens ❤

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Anyway, here’s Anastasia for you ❤ For those in recovery, I hope her responses strike a chord in you that motivate you to continue reaching for that shining light that will help you stay on recovery!

heart border1Hi! For those unfamiliar with your work and what you do, please introduce yourself.

Hello! My name is Anastasia and I’m a Body Image Educator from Australia, writing at anastasiaamour.com. Suffering from Anorexia Nervosa in my teens, I went through some very dark things – now having recovered, I’ve gone on to study Psychology and Mental Health, and I dedicate my life to empowering all women to feel beautiful, whole and amazing in the skin that they’re in.

What made you decide to reach out to others?
I know that there’s such huge power in community and sharing our stories and when I was at my lowest points, I longed for a sense of camaraderie with other people who were going through the same thing. None of us are truly alone in life.

Your eating disorder story that you’ve shared on your blog touches the hearts of so many women struggling with the same things! What were some initial struggles you faced with your recovery?
The hardest thing about recovery for me was the fact that I chose to do it all myself. I was very secretive about what I was going through and although my parents and friends could easily tell I had an eating disorder, I never actually said the words to anyone or let them in on what was happening to me. I felt sure that I would fail everyone around me if I told them and I falsely believed that needing help would make me weak, so my recovery was entirely self initiated and managed. It was without a doubt the hardest thing I’ve ever done and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone.

As someone who’s recovered from your eating disorder, have there been times when you felt tempted to return to your old habits? How did you overcome them?
Plenty of times! Relapses are real and sometimes no matter how well you think you’re doing, those old thoughts and habits can infiltrate your mindset. With many cases of Anorexia Nervosa, even when a sufferer has “recovered” there will still be old thought patterns and pathways within the mind. I say many cases because in some ED sufferers, the triggers for their ED are largely internal but for most, external variables are merely the catalyst that sparks an internal imbalance caused by a complex series of processes in the brain that misinterpret hunger and emotional cues, to name just a few elements. Knowing this, relapses are inevitable and for me, knowing that my ED is always going to be a part of me, it’s about prevention. If I can take steps to minimize the impact of relapses, they’re usually much less severe.

There will be times when people think about cutting back their food intake, or exercising to compensate for their meal & sometimes wishing they were thinner, even when they say they are fully recovered. What are your thoughts on that? What is recovery, then? Do you think that one can be “fully recovered” from an eating disorder?
This ties back to what I mentioned in the previous question, and the definition of “recovery” will vary from person to person depending on what they’ve been diagnosed with and whether the triggers for them are internal or external. It’s a complex subject because the definition of “relapse” may also vary between sufferers – for example, one sufferer might count a relapse as any thoughts of bingeing/restricting whereas another sufferer might only count a relapse as a full blown episode of disordered behaviors. For me, recovery is a symbolic concept of inner peace and acceptance, and knowing that even in the midst of my relapses, I have the strength and tools to handle it. Personally, tying recovery to a concept that comes from within is much more satisfying than putting a condition on it because I don’t consider my relapses to invalidate my successes and triumphs. After all, mental illnesses aren’t a choice.

What has changed since embarking on recovery, in terms of your perception of yourself, your mindset or your attitude? What prevented you from relapsing?
I’m constantly changing, learning and growing and I think that’s a beautiful thing. I’m not the same person as I was yesterday, and I’ll be slightly different again tomorrow. I don’t want to hold myself to a definition of what I “should” be because I know that we’re all ever-evolving, and I want to embrace that. And like I said, relapses are very much a reality for me sometimes. You can’t predict that, so the best you can do is to be well prepared knowing that they might happen again at any point.

How do your blog and Instagram help girls and women struggling with body image issues & eating disorders?
I’ve had a lot of comments from girls & women suffering telling me how helpful it is just to see a range of bodies. I’m all for diversity in representation of the female form in the media, and I want to shatter the idea that only a certain type of woman’s body can be attractive. I love disconnecting the notion that your worth as a woman only comes from your appearance; instead embracing the idea that it’s totally okay to be at peace with your body and love it.

Losing weight can be a very personal decision & can be motivated by many reasons. The body-positive movement encourages women to accept & embrace their body; to exercise to reap its health benefits more than to achieve aesthetic objectives, yet there are people who choose to embrace the latter. What is your response to that? Can a person struggling with body image issues learn to be more body-positive yet still want to lose weight to look a certain way?
I think it would be naïve to attempt to completely disconnect body satisfaction with wanting to look a certain way, and where you draw the line at wanting to change your body and how that affects your mindset varies for the individual – one person’s obsession is another person’s norm. It’s entirely possible to love your body but still want to change it in one way or another, and whether or not the desire to change is “healthy” is largely connected to the motivation behind the change.

Recovering from an eating disorder is slow and can be tiring and equally stressful with lots of obstacles along the way. What advice do you have for other women struggling with their own eating disorder journey?
Recovery can be exhausting and it’s hard to explain that feeling to someone who hasn’t been through it! Perhaps one of the most important things to remember is that even though those around you might not understand what you’re going through, they want to help you. If you can’t talk to a friend or parent, there are counselors and psychologist and help line workers who are all happy to listen to you, and sometimes it’s so helpful just to get your feelings off your chest. Never underestimate the power of talking about what you’re going through!

People struggling with eating disorders have a distorted relationship with food. Based on your own recovery journey, how can one reframe his/her thoughts about food to see it as fuel instead of as the enemy?
One of the biggest mistakes that a lot of people (including those who aren’t suffering from ED’s) make with food is forming these intense emotional connections to it, especially around the emotions of guilt, fear and loneliness. It’s very hard to see food as just fuel when you lock yourself in a cycle of treating food as this big, scary and highly emotionally stimulating trigger. Again, this is going to vary for the individual and their specific issues but it all starts with tracing back your relationship with food to understand when you first started to form emotional relationships with what’s on your plate. You can then begin to unpick that and work from there.

We live in a society that continues to glorify thin bodies. Despite your acceptance of your flaws and your vulnerabilities, have you at times, wished you were thinner? How do you overcome that? What can we do?
For sure. I don’t tend to think of my body in that way any more and glorification of thin bodies doesn’t have to come at the vilification of larger bodies, and vice versa. For a long time I perceived my body as the polar opposite of thin, and it’s that “black and white” thinking that can be particularly damaging, particularly to ED sufferers. These days I prefer not to slap a label on my body, as seeing where my body fits on a spectrum doesn’t necessarily add anything to my existence. My body is just my body, and I don’t need to label it as fat or thin or anything in between. It’s just mine.

When you look back to who you were before embarking on your recovery journey, what are some thoughts and feelings that you have about how far you’ve come in terms of how the process of recovery has empowered and changed you?
The transformation within myself has been huge. I’m sure those who’ve known me for the entire time can certainly see that change but I think the full extent of the person I used to be vs. the person I am now is something that only I see fully – I’m a fairly private person and at the height of my struggles, I didn’t let anyone in on with what was going on with me. Even after recovering, there are still maybe 60% of the details of what went on with me that no one else knows. So introspectively, the change is really noticeable to me. These days I find empowerment in sharing what I’m going through and overall, I feel whole inside. The crushing emptiness and nothingness and great hatred and sadness that used to live inside me is now filled with light. And that’s not to say that I don’t have my negative moments because I certainly do, but I don’t actively open the door to negativity anymore.

What do you think it means to be an empowered woman?
The beauty of empowerment is that it can mean whatever you want it to mean – it’s up to you to define it! Personally I feel empowered when I’m not comparing myself to others and when I’m celebrating the success of some of the amazing women around me. I know that someone else succeeding doesn’t invalidate my own success, and it’s such a gorgeous feeling to be able to embrace that and lift up others

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Follow Anastasia’s journey and learn to be an empowered confident woman at: Anastasia Amour

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wise words to think about when you have a major slip in recovery

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2 days I went through something that triggered a range of thought patterns and behaviors that were most prominent on the height of my eating disorder 3 years ago when I was 21. Usually when I experience a trigger, I slip and I take 2 or 3 steps back in my recovery, but then I’m able to bounce back from it within the hour. This particular trigger however, was much more severe. I didn’t take any steps back. Rather, I fell into a bloody pithole and I’ve been struggling to get out of it ever since.

Sharks are pulling at me. My arms are flailing madly. My mind is overwhelmed.

I was criticizing my body. I was in distress. I was thinking that I needed to lose weight by the weekend. I started thinking of restricting and going on diets, wanting to exercise a lot more, and even contemplated taking diuretics. I was almost tempted to do so yesterday; I was staring at the bottle that’s being kept in the kitchen, playing with it. fiddling it and reading the pamphlet over and over again. After about 5 minutes I abandoned it and went back to my room to continue packing. What’s scarier was that I never took diuretics and/or laxatives during when I was severely struggling. Never. In the past I never dared take diuretics and or laxatives yet now here I was, just suddenly picking it up and wanting to consume them. I had wanted to get skinny so much yesterday that I went to a new extreme of wanting to consume diuretics / laxatives after my meals. This was a new behavior. Very new. I myself was so surprised at how easily the thought of taking it came to my mind.

What had happened to me? Why am I becoming like this? This isn’t me. I don’t know this person. 

I lay in bed at night with my heart racing. I was panicking and thinking of how fat I was. My body felt incredibly big and I didn’t like it. On the one hand, I was attempting to reason the ED voice, but the other, Snix told me to just screw it and do whatever I wanted to get skinny.

I went from practicing mindful eating and learning to love myself to suddenly wanting to starve and restrict, wanting to take laxatives, fearing feeling full and exercising as much as I can to get skinnier.

Something had seriously gone wrong.

I tried changing my thoughts and reading self-affirmations online. It didn’t work.

But so so so thankfully, my bestie said something this afternoon that struck a chord in me, and I want to share some of her words with all of you:

‘What do you think you’ll achieve if you indeed become as skinny as you wanted to be? What is this thing that’s so important to you? You are everything great too, dear. You’ve got a family, a healthy body, a great exercise regime, freedom to eat whatever you want and go dancing whenever you want, so many coo ass friends to chat with, a spiffy blog, a sense of humor etc etc. Why, I don’t understand, out of all these things, being skinny is important to you? Is there something else that’s really the problem?  Do you want other people to smile at you, hiding their fangs, telling you you’re sooooooooo skinny, sooooooo pretty, soooooooo enviable? Because I don’t think you do. I think you’re happy with what you have, but the Devils are telling you you need more when you really don’t. “

If you’re struggling right now, ponder over these words.

What is this thing that is so important to you?

(too) clean eating

Last week for a few days I’ve been noticing a pattern. I’d eat regularly as I always do, but then at the end of the day, I find myself just wanting to have something sweet. Now that pretty much sounds normal, to end of the day with something sweet. But this was different. I didn’t just want it. I needed it. Badly. A craving for sugar would come and I’d ignore it for a while, but then give it and allow myself something sweet. Usually I go for chocolate or Ben and Jerry’s because that’s the only sweet thing available in the house. However the thing was even though I had already let myself have that something sweet, I needed more. Like more of it. And I couldn’t stop thinking about just wanting to have all the ice cream in the world and just continued sitting in the kitchen and having that ice cream and the next thing I know, I had finished half almost half the carton of ice cream. 

Bugger.

This happened again on another 2 separate occasions. I’d eat as per usual, but by the time I’ve showered after my evening run I find myself battling this strange craving for something sweet. I’d fight it for a while, but then I gave it and go back to the kitchen for the same carton of ice cream and smother my tastebuds with that sweet relief until I’d say only a few spoonfuls of that milky goodness was left pooling at the bottom. 

And I just didn’t know what was going on. I was so confused. I was eating normally and running as per normal so why was it that I started battling the urge to eat more at night. It was only when I lay in bed at night and reviewing what I ate and did during those couple of days that I realized something. All throughout day, I had been doing nothing but clean eating. No sweets, no sugar, no cookies, no ice cream, no nothing. I had almost completely cut off sugar from my eating during these 3 days and eating, as much and best as I can”, whole unprocessed foods – wholemeal bread, tuna, chicken, fish, peanut butter, broccoli etc, though with the exception of rice as its a staple in the Asian diet. I’ve been eating very clean without eating a single cookie or chocolate during these 3 days. 

I suspect that in my zealous pursuit to become healthy and get my eating habits back on track, I might have taken it a little bit too far, focusing only on clean eating and cutting out sugar in its entirety without realizing that doing so might have led my body to become deprived of energy. These 3 days I became so dedicated to healthy eating that I forgot that doing the exact same thing in the past had contributed to my obsessive behavior with rigid dieting, cutting out food groups and punishing myself every single time I had a slip up. 

First of all, I really do need to take a step back and congratulate myself on actually not punishing myself for eating all that ice-cream because I know that 3 years ago, I would probably hastily made my outside and run for 2 hours for even start a torturous round of fasting the next day to balance out the calories. Well OF COURSE I felt guilty for eating all that ice cream and OF COURSE I started panicking a little and questioning where and why I went wrong. But it was only after I reassessed what I had eaten during the day that I realized that okay maybe I had been too strict and obsessive with eating clean because I wanted to eat right and not eat junk food the way I did when I was struggling loads with my ED. I couldn’t really do anything about that ice cream anymore could I? So I just went for a long walk round the block, came home, read Harry Potter and went to bed determined to start afresh the next day. 

And it was better. I allowed myself sugar during the day, ate when I was hungry and stopped when I was full and also allowed myself Ferrero Rocher at night. Never once during the day did I obsess about sugar and cravings. 

I’m sure some of you going through recovery have been through this. In your quest to relinquish your bad habits of overeating junk food or for those not going through an ED/recovery and simply wanting to clean up your diet and reduce sugar from your diet, there’d be times when you pushed it just a tad too far – eating nice and clean the entire day, feeling extremely pleased with yourself and going “Yeah this isn’t so bad I can do this healthy clean eating thing for days” and the next thing you know, you’re scoffing down cheese fries and a bacon cheeseburger and wondering where in the world you went wrong before vowing to start over the next day, only to find yourself making the same mistake again in the week.  

I’m no nutritionist and I’ve no clue how body cells work in response to the food we eat, but I suppose this is what happens when we start a phase of eating “too clean” and not allowing ourselves a little sugar in our diets. We become rigid in our thinking and are determined to only eat certain foods that are whole and unprocessed: brown bread and rice, lean chicken and fish, low fat milk, salads and hold the sauce please but I’ll just have one piece of crouton thanks. No cookies, no chocolates, no muffins, no ice cream, no dessert. Nada. You become so conscious of the food you way that you reject foods that don’t fit into what constitutes clean and healthy eating. As humans we’re programmed to enjoy the taste of sweet foods and sugar cravings are a natural thing to experience and so when we ignore our cravings for far too long, we end up binging on the sweet stuff that we’ve been ignoring. 

And that’s what happened to me. A fair number of times I should say before I realized how my restrictive eating was contributing to this problem. I didn’t allow myself a treat when my body craved it. If you’re a Harry Potter junkie like I am, think of it as a Howler – if you don’t open it soon, it explodes. Similar principle: the more you try to control the craving and your body, your body will rebel. 

Such experiences always bring me back to the one important principle my online ED support group told me: always listen to your body because it knows what it needsThere is nothing wrong with having ice cream and chocolate but to cut it out completely from your diet and remaining determined to eat only certain types of foods instead of eating flexibly can be harmful, both physically and mentally. In the long run and if taken to the limit, your body might start breaking down due to its receiving nutrients from a restricted set of foods,  you start developing rigid and obsessive thinking patterns (e.g. I can’t eat this, I can only eat that) and it might also impinge upon your lifestyle (e.g. unable to eat out without worrying about whether a restaurant serves food that you deem acceptable). Its really a very real thing and really incredibly scary because I myself have been through that – eating only brown bread and maybe potatoes but not rice, only chicken and fish but not beef and pork, only salads without dressing. I didn’t like going out to eat because I hated how I couldn’t predict what foods a cafe would serve and it was a hassle to have to look at a menu online and decide I would only eat the rice and chicken when what I really could try was a creamy pasta even though I’m not a fan of pasta but I had deprived myself of creamy sauces for so long that I just wanted to taste it again.

At the end of the day, your body knows what it needs to eat. You can’t be on a diet forever because you’ll end up miserable. Its all part of mindful eating. Listen to your body because it knows what and when it needs to eat. When you’re hungry, eat. When you’re full stop. Eat chocolate and sweets if you want, but keep it in moderation (though I sometimes I find hard to do that) and if you end up overeating. Don’t punish yourself. Drink tea and go for a long walk and start again tomorrow. 

It takes effort to do something like that I know especially because you’ve been eating in disordered patterns for so long, but Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you won’t get results if you’re not willing to put in the effort to changing your habits. Tell yourself that you are stronger than your old habits, and you are. If you’ve had your share of sugar and find yourself wanting more, get up and walk away instead of giving in again and again. 

You can do it, you may encounter setbacks but you will get up again and you will try again.

You will make it. 

We will all.

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