Hi there! My name is Ashley, and I’m the newest member of Erica’s team. I’m super thrilled to be here, and I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you a little about myself, specifically how I came to work with Erica, and how my relationship with food and my body has impacted my life. Believe me, that’s a long list of things that I won’t have the time to really dig into now, but I thought I might at least share the tip of the iceberg.
I, like many of you, was preoccupied with food and my body at a young age. From the first time I can remember being aware that I had a body, I can only recall an overwhelming feeling of discomfort. As I moved through puberty and my body began changing, things really started to heat up. I was getting subliminal messages every day from family, friends, and the media about what my body was supposed to look like, what I was supposed to be eating, and what I had to do to be worthy of anyone’s time and effort (re: be pretty and skinny). Food was a constant point of contention – I can recall scarfing down freshly fried chicken cutlets in my formal dining room, hiding because I was afraid of my own hunger and ashamed that my mother would see me bingeing and think I was a failure – and my body consistently made me feel at odds with everyone around me.
Eventually, intense trauma triggered my disordered relationship to food into a full-blown eating disorder during my late high school years, and by the time college came around I was in deep. I spent so many nights tracking and restricting, only to binge when the growling in my stomach became too much. I spent a better part of my college career being more preoccupied with food than with finding myself, and as a result lost a lot of my time and myself within my eating disorder.
Thankfully, I found a wonderful therapist early on at school, and eventually, through intensive work on my childhood experiences, dissecting dynamics in my family, and beginning to see myself as a valuable person no matter what my size, I began to find recovery. Eventually, I even found intuitive eating. Recovering was a messy thing for me, as it is for everyone, and I certainly had some hiccups along the way. Also, dealing with depression and anxiety alongside my eating disorder, which is very common, made fighting the good fight that much harder. But I did it, I made it, and I can say I’ve been in strong recovery for about two years now.
Once I really ventured outside of my eating disorder, I began to reconnect with my passions outside of food. I found social justice again, and I found feminism, both of which were a huge part of my recovery in and of themselves. Understanding my eating disorder within the framework of patriarchy and oppression, understanding that I, as a woman, am allowed to take up space in this world without feeling guilty, was my biggest turning point, and something I think about when I am struggling even today. But I digress… reconnecting with my passions my senior year of college allowed me to reconnect with my desire to help others. Due to my experience dealing with food and my body, my new mission was to help others with this very same issue. And so when I began looking for jobs post-college, I entered the body positive, Health at Every Size, eating disorder recovery, intuitive eating, self-love community, and I have never looked back. Through the last few months I have been making connections with various professionals in the field, and now here I am, helping out on Erica’s team, and I am so proud to be a part of a community that has been so welcoming and kind.
So that’s me! Or at least a little nugget of me. I’ll be stopping in from time to time to write about my take on some smaller tidbits within this big umbrella of a societal problem that we have. I hope you’ll join me on that journey, and not mind too much that I curse every other word when I’m in one of my rants.
If you’re interested in hearing more about my story, you can head on over to ashleymaeseruya.com where I blog about my experience, and also write some creative pieces that are often related to the same topics. My Instagram is also a great source to see a little bit more about my life, so go follow me! I would love to connect on a personal level with all of you. It is my humble opinion that sharing our stories, understanding that we are not alone, and finding people who feel the same way we do, is one of the most healing things in this world. This is why I write, and this is why I share. So many people’s writing and blogs and YouTube videos… they saved me. I won’t suggest that my writing might do the same, but I do hope it makes you feel just a little less alone.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, and have a wonderful day!
Here’s a little taste of my writing below:
Dear All of Those Little Girls
Please do not try to make yourself smaller, make yourself fit into this world that wants to see you cave in upon yourself.
Please do not listen to those boys who yell at you in the school hallways and poke at you for their own fun; they like you, you see, but society has told them that because you don’t look like the magazines, they aren’t allowed to like you. And so they hate themselves and they take it out on you.
Please ignore your mother when she asks you if you’re really going to take that second piece of cake, and respond with an indignant, “Yes, I am.” Please do not take her disapproving glances and tilt of mouth, and carry it with you all the way upstairs to the porcelain basin, and empty your sorrows within. You won’t leave them there; they follow you.
Please do not go to the yearly Christmas party and refuse to take a single bite of the holiday turkey, as you feel your stomach vibrate with hunger and desperation. It needs you to take care of it. You need to take care of it… because no one else will.
Please do not eat an apple and a bottle of water for lunch because you saw the most popular and skinniest and prettiest girl in school do the same. Please do not starve your brain, and let your amazing brilliance dim into shadows in the hopes of fitting in and getting that boy to look at you.
Please do not sit silently in the background, afraid that your size will offend someone. Do not sit idly by as your life lives itself, as your classmates learn all they can, as your peers experience everything the world has to offer because they have decided that they are worth that; that their existence is worth being noted, and that they will not hide behind silence and inaction.
Please do not listen to your friends who download calorie counting apps, discuss their excessive exercise regimens, and wonder aloud to one another every morning whether or not their outfit makes them look fat. Please do not choose the big, body-hiding sack of a costume for Halloween, because you feel you do not measure up to those friends of yours in their leotards and bunny ears. Please do not measure your worth by your jean size, or decide that you aren’t sexy or attractive because you can’t wear those things; please, never buy into the word can’t, or deny yourself something simply because others will feel uncomfortable.
Please never forget that fat does not equate to ugly and that skinny does not equate to beautiful; that your beauty emanates from the core of your being, from your luminescence that beats with every thought that flows through you.
Please do not try to make yourself smaller, make yourself fit into this world that wants to see you cave in upon yourself. Grow outwards. Expand. Make them make room for your huge laugh, bountiful energy, enormous smile. Never make yourself small; make yourself as large as the whole universe. And fuck anyone who tells you otherwise.
Erica Leon is a Registered Dietitian and practices from a Health at Every Size (HAES®) lens. She is certified as an eating disorder specialist and is passionate about helping women at midlife, menopause and beyond to make peace with food and body image.
Erica is a highly sensitive nutrition therapist who takes the time to learn where you or your family are in the pursuit of health. Respectful of your individual needs and lifestyle, she will provide an honest assessment of whether or not you are a good fit to work together. Click here to schedule a 15-minute Discovery Call with Erica to let us know about your needs, and to see which of our Dietitians is the best fit for you!
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