The more I've read and studied about disordered eating, and my experiences with it, I always get to thinking about the whole weight=worth, diet-culter phenomenon. When I get to thinking more about it, the memories that pop into my head are:
"Just 3 inches off the hips, and 2 off the waist."
"They love you, but they want your hips at MAX 35"."
"They love your look, but your legs are too muscular."
"They need you to tone up a little, you're soft."
"They think you could work well but the clothes are really small over there."
All words spoken to me (lovingly, not maliciously) by my modelling agents over the years. I understand the industry and that it IS just like that, and you need to have a very strong head on your shoulders to survive in it. I always thought I did, now I'm not so sure.
Every time I have ever planned to go to the gym in my life, has been to lose weight. Being in the modelling industry, it seemed like there was always some work to do.
Whenever I would walk into a gym, I would B-line it straight for the treadmill, elliptical or bike and sweat my brains out for an hour. By the time I got off that treadmill, I felt like I could faint. Cardio, cardio, cardio. I thought that by burning X amount of calories per day would do the trick, and I wouldn't have to do anything else. Or, at the very least, a few pilates exercises and stretching. I mean, it was pretty easy. Feel like you want to die for an hour out of the day (maybe 2 with recovery time), and then be carefree and do whatever you wanted for the remaining time you had. I used that time to fuel my body with shitty foods, not enough water and a lot of alcohol. For years I saw no results, and I was so frustrated because I didn't understand why. Now I see it clearer than ever, but back then it seems I was blind.
I never gave it my all when it came to modelling. I was too caught up in being a teenager. It was very hard for me to do both. In high school, I wanted to play volleyball with my friends (but it made me too muscular for modelling). I wanted to go to parties and drink like everyone else was (but drinking made me break out, and gain weight). I wanted to have 10-day sleepovers and do everything with my best friends (but that meant I never went to the gym and always had shitty eating habits). I couldn't find the balance, and I didn't see that then, but I see it now. I always wonder what could have been if I just committed 100% to modelling, but then I think to myself, I would have regretted missing out on all those times that I did have. Some of my best memories are from high school and the few years after, I wouldn't trade them for the world. I did have some pretty amazing experiences while modelling, but I was always jeaporadizing something. A lot of the time it was my health, sometimes it was my relationship, sometimes my happiness. Three things I don't want to jeapardize.
I'm finding it really hard to let go, and I feel like I am constantly looking to find balance with modelling now in my life. Constantly telling myself I can do this recovery thing while immersed in the modelling world. Even though I haven't don't anything myself in almost a year, every single day I am bombarded with it - through my thoughts, my friends, and especially through social media.
I'd say a good third of the people that I follow on Instagram are one of the following:
Modelling agency - mother agencies, international agencies, top agencies and very small ones
Victoria's Secret model
Victoria's Secret Angel
Up and coming model
Modelling opinion pages
Model diet & workout tips
The list goes on and it just gets weirder.
So riddle me this. How in the world is it possible to find balance in that ^ world, and in recovering from disordered eating? Well, I think that I am lying to myself when I say that it is possible (I can tell you now that I've unfollowed 99% of those accounts).
I mean, obviously I know and love a lot of people that are working in the industry. That is ok. I still love them dearly and wish them all the success in the world. IF it's working for them and they are happy and healthy. I consider my mother agent my big sister, and I love her to death for all of the hard work she's put into my career and every single other one of her models. She does everything the right way, eat healthy and workout. She would never be the one to grab your "muffin top" and say "This needs to go". Yes, that did happen to me. I think I was 15?
I'm proud of 15 year old me, for NOT developing an eating disorder. It could have happened so easy, but I was so headstrong. I always remember saying that my body will never look that way (referring to the "perfect" 34-24-34 measurements). I was right! My HEALTHY body would never look that way. I was skinny, but not skinny enough. I was told if I gained 2 inches all around my body that I could be a plus size model. I thought to myself - is she crazy? I was never good enough the way I was. It's just how the industry is. So, I learned to hate my healthy body. Pulling at that "muffin top" that I didn't have, looking at my muscular legs and thinking they were huge. I could have fell under that eating disorder spell so quick, but I didn't. I guess you could say I stored it all away for my quarter life crisis ;).
It wasn't modelling that caused me to develop habits of disordered eating, but for some reason I always feel bad about myself when I scrolled through my Instagram feed. And I'm the one who put those things there!! I followed those people and I wanted to live their lives instead of mine. I didn't look for inspiration, I looked because I actually wanted to live the lives of the people I followed on the web. Now, when I scroll through Instagram and I come across some of the accounts that used to make me feel like shit, the thoughts that cross my mind are mostly worry. Are they okay? Are they trapped in this cycle and don't know how to get out? Are they healthy? I wonder if it's possible to look like that AND be healthy? I hope they are happy.
I guess my intention is to be the voice opposite of those accounts. I want 15-year-old Emilee to have a role model to look up to, that knows weight and worth have nothing to do with each other. No one is going to like me more if I can wrap a measuring tape around my waist and pull it till the end meets the number 24. My dreams will not come true just because my hips are 34" around instead of 38". My dreams will come true when I stop relating weight and worth. I am enough just the way I am. Saying "no" to diet culture nowadays is hard. The amount of advertisements and influencers that promote weight loss is CRAZY. It seems like everybody on the planet wants to lose weight, I can see why there is such a huge diet industry.
I don't know if I'll ever be able to balance my love for the modelling industry and recovery. But I do know that my love for myself, my life and my health trumps anything else. I know that if I want to be able to look back and say "Wow, I'm so grateful that I committed to recovery", I have to do just that. COMMIT. Commit to my life. To my well-being and to my happiness. Every one of you reading this right now, I challenge you to commit in your own way. Be responsible for yourself and love yourself, even on days where you feel like you absolutely can't.
I know I will be.
Thank you, body, for forgiving me. I'm sorry that I put you through all of that. I'm here for you now, as you are for me.