Health isn’t about how you look, it’s about how you FEEL.

I used to have a very toxic relationship with my body, with food and with exercise. Although it has taken hindsight for me to realise this, I once had zero respect for my body and didn’t treat it with love. I’d flog myself in the gym, restrict my eating, count calories, weigh myself not just every day, but after every meal and I used to hurl abuse at the person standing before me in the mirror. I used to take selfies in the mirror to watch my ab progression and make sure my ribs and hipbones started protruding a little more each day. I’d starve myself for days leading up to an ‘important event’ to make sure I was ‘skinny enough for it. I didn’t realise at the time how unhealthy it was and the damage I was doing. In fact I thought I was killing it! I was fit. I was skinny. I had abs and quads. Biceps and hard rounded glutes. I was healthy. I was disciplined. I was in control.

I was under the illusion I was healthy af. Even despite my sister coming to me from a place of love and telling me I needed to calm my farm, I thought she was cray cray. I thought she was delusional and possibly even envious that I had such discipline. Pfft! How self-righteous of me!!! But now, now I can see that she was right. I was the delusional one. It was excessive. I was excessive. I would exercise every single day, mostly twice a day, and sometimes 3 times a day. I used a calorie-counting app to track every single morsal of food that entered my mouth, down to each individual almond. It wasn’t a successful day unless I out-exercised the calories I put in. On days when I knew I’d only be able to exercise once, the only thing I would consume was a small can of tuna. Other times I even tried to be in calorie deficit (burn off more calories than I consumed.) When I discovered that, it quickly became a dangerous obsession. It was a new challenge. How does any of this sound healthy?

No part of me was listening to how my body felt. It was all about how I looked. Exercising and feeding my body wasn’t coming from a place of love but a place of fear. A fear of ‘getting fat’, a fear of putting on weight. A fear of being ugly. A fear of loosing muscle definition. A fear of being unattractive and unworthy of love. I exercised because I hated how my body looked, not because I loved the way exercise made my body feel.

I was never formally ‘diagnosed’ with an eating disorder or body dismorphia but now it’s blaringly obvious that’s exactly what it was. My earliest memory of what I now know are signs of disordered eating is age 10. 10! I was in year 6! I remember going to school with no packed lunch. Intentionally. With a busy shift-working Mum, I was expected to make my own lunch at that age, which worked perfectly for me because I could get away with not eating. I thought I was fat (at age 10! Wtf!). So not eating meant I had control over my weight. After school I would binge, out of pure starvation. This continued (and probably worsened) throughout high school. But by then it was noticed by my friends and my mum, who tried to intervene and threatened to take me to a physiologist on many occasions.

That was obviously the beginning of some unhealthy habits but the issues really peaked when I was in my early twenties. Low self-esteem was already raging and then I got into the bikini-modelling world, which I’m sure you can imagine really didn’t help my lack of self-worth and only exaggerated my ‘need’ to be ‘skinny’. I look back at photos from those days and remember exactly what I was thinking in those moments. I genuinely thought I was fat! I remember going to competitions, having not eaten all day (but still somehow having completed two hours of intense exercise), a tiny-framed 47kg girl and thinking I was huge next to the rest of the babes there. I wasn’t though. I was the furtherest thing from fat. Photo evidence and hindsight has made me realise that I was tiny! I looked fit and healthy because I had abs and defined muscles but I was verging on too skinny. What was going on in my head was the epitome of self-loathing, disrespect for my body and a completely dismorphed view of myself. I may not have appeared it, but I was unhealthy af. Every workout was fuelled by self-hatred and every meal (or lack there of) was eaten with underlying guilt. Nothing about how I approached my health and fitness was healthy! (Yes, this was about the time my sister had words).

A few years later, I went through a stage of binge-eating, purging then overeating again. It was fuelled by depression. I was living in a small apartment with a not-so-social housemate. I was lonely, I’d had my heart stomped all over by someone I trusted and things just spiraled. I still exercised, but not as much. And when I did, I felt so self-conscious and uncomfortable in my body that I didn’t like being at the gym. I knew so many people there that I was embarrassed to show face. I would lock myself away from the world and I would secretly overeat – searching for happiness through food. At this time I was the unhappiest, the unhealthiest and as a result the heaviest I have ever been. It took an eye-opening conversation with my Mum to realise I was depressed and needed to get help.

Like Oprah, my weight yo-yoed for years. (Just trying to connect myself to Oprah ya know?) I did so much damage to my metabolism that my body didn’t know what was going on. It had gone through starvation and then overeating, to starvation again. Throughout my adult years I have been as light as 46kg and as heavy as 63kg. None of these weights or any numbers in between were ever healthy. Because throughout all those years, my relationship with myself, with food and with exercise was toxic. It was based on hatred not love.

Fast forward almost a decade from those undereating, over-exercising, calorie-counting, gym junkie days, and here I am, the happiest in my body that I have ever been! But more than anything, my mind is the healthiest it’s ever been. My whole philosophy around food and exercise has transformed. I approach my health from a place of love and respect. So much so that I only want to do what’s best for it. I listen to my body. How it feels, when it needs fuel and when it desires movement. I don’t have a regimented fitness routine like I once did or plan my meals out down to the minute. I eat when I am hungry and exercise when I feel like it. I fuel my body with nutrients and nourishing foods. But I treat myself too. I don’t bust my ass in the gym daily. Gone are the days when I would approach training with the objective to look good. I no longer focus solely on aesthetics and how I looked in bikini. Now I exercise to feel good. To feel fit and healthy.

Weirdly, once I stopped acting from a place of fear (of getting fat) and started acting out of love for my health, my body seemed to find its own happy weight. Sounds strange I know. But when I used to slog myself at the gym and feel guilty about the food I was eating (especially if it wasn’t a salad), I was never happy. My body wasn’t happy. There was always something to improve or weight I couldn’t shift. But now, I’m pretty fucking happy with how I look. My body has healed itself from all the metabolic damage and within the last few months I’ve unintentially lost weight and dropped a size without even trying. (And I’m stoked about it!) I didn’t put a plan in place or start weighing my food or even weighing myself. It just happened when I shifted my focus from aesthetics to how my body feels inside. I guess there really is something to this whole ‘listening to your body’ thing.

Of course I’m not completely healed from my low self esteem, disordered eating, body-dismorphia years. Fear still rears it’s ugly head every now and then. But I tell you what, I’m pretty fucking happy to be in the place I’m at now. My relationship with food, fitness and my body has completely flipped. I may not look the fittest or strongest I’ve ever looked but mentally I’m the healthiest me I’ve even been. I’m comfortable in my skin. I eat to fuel my body now. I even eat chocolate and ice cream and other ‘no-go’ foods sometimes. If that’s what I feel like, then I have it. (I seem to do better without self-inflicted restrictions). I probably only go to the gym 1-2 times a week but still move my body most days. I don’t even own a set of scales and couldn’t even tell you the last time I weighed myself. Numbers shnumbers! When I’m hungry, I eat. When I want to exercise, I move. I understand the importance of looking after my body from the inside out. It’s the place where my soul resides so I have to and I WANT to look after it!

Health is not a number on the scales, a particular shape or a specific size. Health is all about how you feel. From within. Not how you look. Remember that.

Love Eloise x

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When you want a hot bod but you also love food

My number one dilemma in life is this – What do I want most…a bangn’ beach babe bod or to devour all the delicious foods?

I love food! All the foods! Sometimes I really wish I didn’t love food. Any of the foods! Because well, what I would reeeeeally love is cheese-grater abs and the type of defined legs that don’t wobble when I walk.

Raw balls or buff biceps? Burrito bowls or a bountiful booty? Hot chips or hot rig?

Life’s tough decisions.

Going out for brunch and trying new cafes around Perth is probably one of my favourite past times. I mean, who doesn’t appreciate a piled-high avocado bruschetta or a decadent warm chocolate brownie?! My camera roll is a smorgasbord of screenshots of food to try and places to eat. Yet, there are just as many snaps of bikini babes and #fitspo motivation.

It’s like my brain is constantly fighting between ‘treat yo self’ and ‘eat for sustenance.’ I want to be able to eat all the yums, but I want a ripped rig just as much!  You see the struggle?

Taking your tastebuds to pleasure town is all well and good (in moderation), until the kilos start creeping on and your jeans don’t zip up anymore. And if that still doesn’t drive the point home there’s always that moment when you stand in the Myer fitting rooms and see your cellulite from every possible unflattering angle. Every last, wobbly inch of it!

For me, it was the Target change rooms (those bloody mirrors don’t lie) and the realisation that my bali holiday was no longer months away, but just a matter of weeks. Maybe those sneaky kgs were easily hidden in the cold winter months under layers of clothes, but now the sun is (occasionally) making an appearance again, shit’s gettn’ real yo. And did I mention I go to Bali in less than 2 weeks?!

If like me, you struggle to say no to temptation as much as you should or you are also stressing that bikini season is fast approaching, well it’s time to get your shit together! Food should be fuel for your bodies not just for sensory satisfaction. Before reaching for that treat, ask yourself, is this going to nourish my body and fuel me throughout the day? Is it going to help me achieve my desired body? Are my goals really worth sacrificing for that piece of cake? Will I regret it later? Is a fleeting moment of tastebud satisfaction more important than feeling happy, confident and sexy every single day?

Look, I get that it easy to say ‘no’ in theory (especially for me right now, as I sit here writing, love handles and stomach rolls buldging as a reminder of all the calories consumed the past few months). It’s easy to say, ‘I’m not giving in to temptation anymore!’ but when you come face-to-face with a cabinet of raw treats will you still have that focus? Or will the internal monologue start all over again as you debate with yourself whether to eat the cake or not.

I’ll tell you what works for me in these moments, other than knowing I’ll be in sunny Bali exposing all my limbs in under two weeks. It’s this.. DON’T GIVE UP WHAT YOU WANT MOST FOR WHAT YOU WANT NOW!

And so from here forward I’m going to go all Charles Boyle (hello Brooklyn Nine-nine fans) and only eat for sustenance now! Or at least try.

Love Elo xx

Becoming A Human Pretzel

I gaze towards our guru – a blonde, bright blue-eyed version of Hugh Grant with the accent to match and beautifully bronzed skin. Perched peacefully on his mat, legs comfortably intertwined like a pretzel, he speaks words of affirmations.

“Choose a positive word to focus your practice on today,” he soothes.

“Confidence. Joy. Love. Peace. Whatever the word, keep coming back to this focus throughout your practice.”

And so begins the best yoga experience of my life.

Surveying the room, I am surrounded by glowing yoga gods and goddesses. All with radiant sun-kissed skin, lean limbs and muscles so sculpted I wouldn’t be surprised if they had all stepped off the set of a photoshoot straight into the joglo. With perfect posture and rhythmic breathing, they effortlessly flow from downward dog gracefully into half-plank with as much ease as I walk. Every movement is fluid, agile and elegant.

Meanwhile, shaky legs and twitching muscles accompany every clumsy position I attempt. Sometimes I forget to breathe and my mind wanders to what I am going to eat for lunch. Salty sweat trickles down my nose and drops onto my mat. I look to my left. There’s an Amazonian-like beauty next to me performing callisthenic type movements, her skin glistening with perspiration. Then here I am. My clothing saturated with sweat and my rigid knees hinged in protest.

“… And forward fold. Exhale,” blonde Hugh Grant instructs us with a voice as tranquil as trickling water.

“Now remember to come back to that positive feeling.”

I had started the yoga practice with the word ‘enjoyment’ in my mind. Part of my genius plan to fool my subconscious into believing I was loving every minute of contorting my inflexible body into positions I deem are only possible for those with double-jointed limbs. Now my focus had shift to ‘determination’. Determined to enjoy the class. Determined to keep my thoughts from wandering. Determined to one day become as ridiculously nimble, tanned and exceptionally good-looking as the yogis neighbouring me.

It’s safe to say, I am no seasoned yogi. It’s not a practice I have ever excelled in, nor truthfully enjoyed. I have stretched (and I use that term loosely) my way through various classes here and there in attempt to discover my inner Zen. I even signed up for a whole month of Bikram Yoga once – because exercising in a dark, windowless, 40-degree room is always a great idea. Regardless of these previous attempts, I have always found the gradual, smooth (yet surprisingly difficult) movements of yoga very unpleasant and somewhat monotonous. When I am meant to be meditating, my conscious-mind seizes the quiet as an opportunity to entertain disruptive thoughts. More experienced at fast-paced cardio workouts and interval weight training, the slow speed of yoga has always bored me.

Until now.

With ‘determination’ as my guiding light, I silence my mind of distraction and hone in on the singsong of the birds chirping their morning melodies. Positioned in tree pose, with my eyes closed softly, hands in prayer position over my heart chakra, I return back to the present moment, remembering where I am and how lucky I am to be here. I am practicing yoga in a traditional joglo in Bali. There are lush green gardens surrounding me – the smell of morning dew on the grass still fragrant. My stiff shoulders tremble as I unfold my arms but I still feel at peace. I am starting to respect the movements of my body.

Inhale. Exhale.

Spending the month of January in Bali, quite possibly the number one Yoga hub of the southern hemisphere, has coincided perfectly with my 2016 goal of practicing yoga once a week. Within the first 18 days I had given Yoga four opportunities to convert me from a hater to Eloise ‘yogi’ Smith. Four different classes with four different teachers in four different settings. After the first experience in which mosquitos irritatingly buzzed by my ears and attacked me persistently, all whilst I dripped with sweat in the 35-degree heat, I am surprised I even gave Yoga another shot.

Guru Hugh with his turquoise eyes and soothing voice (I don’t even like English accents usually) may be partially to thank for this sudden rise in enthusiasm, but I do think the credit can be extended further than that. This Yoga class, which by the way was 90 minutes but felt like 45, was the most peaceful and serene I have ever experienced. Despite being out-bended by supple women twice my age balancing on their heads while I remained in child’s pose, I was able to let go and be in the moment. I relished in the beauty of nature and focused my mind back to my positive feeling every time it wandered off. I even managed to progress my pigeon pose from dying bird to something more reminiscent of a graceful swan.

Unlike my attempt to become a gnarly surfer chick, the longevity of which failed to surpass just one lesson (but that’s a whole other story), I am persisting with Yoga. Acknowledging how out of my element I am with this whole Namaste thing, I’ve realized the only way to become the sexy, flexible yogi I have always dreamed of, is to continue feeling uncomfortable until it becomes comfortable. To sound totally and utterly cliché, nothing ever starts out easy. It is with continued practice, patience and consistency that success comes.

I still have a lot bending to do until I too become a human pretzel, but I am opening up my heart chakra to the possibility of falling in love. Yoga, I am willing and ready to be wooed!

Love Eloise x