With our #MyAfter portrait series, Body Boop is completely shaking up your perceptions about what having an eating disorder looks like, and what being recovered from an eating disorder looks like.
- You do not have to be skinny to have an eating disorder.
- You do not have to be bigger than you were previously to be recovered from an eating disorder.
- Your life experience does not have to include in-patient or out-patient experience to have had an eating disorder.
- A formal diagnosis is not required to validate your eating disorder experience.
- If you are from a marginalized community including but not limited to LGBTQ, different ethnicities and cultures, and men, your eating disorder experience is true and valid.
- If you are a white college-age woman, what everyone expects of an eating disorder, it is not just for attention or vanity. Your eating disorder experience is also true and valid.
If you say you have had an eating disorder or that you are recovered from an eating disorder, we hear you, we see you, and we believe you.
We are no longer interested in “before” pictures from when people were sick! Let’s see where you are NOW, healthy and in love with life. And even if you’re not there yet, you’re on your way.
The next person we chose to feature is Nathalia Novaes, a model and student studying the pervasiveness of thinness in the media. Nathalia is obviously a PRO at photo shoots, so we were lucky to have her talent and spirit on set in New York in September.
I had an eye-opening conversation with Nathalia about the conflict in her mind and soul that occurred when she began to recover and feel happy with herself, but lost jobs at a larger size.
I am recovered from anorexia and a binge eating disorder. I started dieting at the age of 9, and pretty much my whole life I thought I needed to “control” my body to be as skinny as my friends or the girls in the magazines. When I started to model (I was 19) all of my body hate was validated and I started to feel like my body was a burden to my career. I had to hear on a daily basis that I would have a better career and get more jobs if ‘only I lost weight.” And so I did it, but in the process I lost my happiness and my health. I started to get great jobs and was in big editorials around the world but I was just not happy and ended up developing an ED. At that time people were praising me for my jobs and body, and it was the saddest moment in my life, which is so ironic.
I started to get scared because I was gaining weight from my cycles of restriction and binge eating. I had extreme anxiety and got to the point that I even occasionally contemplated suicide. So, I started going to therapy hoping to keep my weight down and be happy again. When that happened, I started to unintentionally recover from my body dysmorphia and ED and finally realized that my problem was not that I was overweight, but instead, I needed to recover from years of eating disorders. I finally realized how sick I was. It was simultaneously terrifying and liberating.
It is crazy to look back and realize that I was dangerously sick for at least 5 years, and even got close to losing my life. I started to normalize my eating and consequently started gaining weight. Obviously, the industry did not like that and so I had to put on the superwoman cape and say “whatever,” which was extremely difficult as I love my career so much. But at the same, I was feeling so beautiful and sexy while my clients were not booking me anymore because I was too big. But that changed something inside me and I felt an urge to model because I wanted to show my new kind of beauty: a healthy and genuine kind of beauty.
About 10 months ago I changed my agency to JAG Models because they represent girls of all sizes. I found out that I could be me and still model, I could be healthy and happy and keep working. It was so liberating. I also went back to studying and am currently studying women’s studies and communications because I want to eventually research about the impact that the images from the media have to women in general. I want to spread body positivity around the world in whatever way I can and contribute to more body diversity in the media and the fashion industry. I believe we need to see different shapes and sizes validated in the media to actually learn to respect bodies, both ours and others’. That is why it is so important to have models with different shapes and sizes – it is the way of getting out of the thin obsession (as a society) and that is what gives me fuel to work hard for my career. I also think that every human being has the right to experience the pleasure of loving their bodies while taking genuine care of it. It’s time to redefine health and beauty.
Nathalia has so much life ahead of her – it’s hard to believe that such a beauty inside and out could have succumb to suicidal thoughts, but sadly, this often accompanies eating disorders and other mental health issues. I thank her for her honesty, and for chasing her health, happiness and career at the same time.
Always call 911 with any emergencies, and if you are having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1 (800) 273-8255.
Please share on social with the hashtags #MyAfter #edrecovery! Are you a photographer or recovered individual interested in participating in the next installment of #MyAfter? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tags: #MyAfter, #MyAfter portrait series, anorexia, anorexia recovery, anxiety, binge eating disorder, body boop, body image, eating disorder, eating disorder recovery, eating disorder treatment, eating disorders, JAG Models, mental health, model, modeling, Nathalia Novaes, NYC, plus size model, plus size modeling, portrait, portrait series, recovery, suicide, suicide prevention