What is a Role Model? Not too long ago, we decided that it wasn't enough to cast fashion models based on height and comp cards. We wanted to showcase the stories of real people, who are brave enough to wear their label. Gina is one of those Role Models. Here's her story.
Tell us a bit about yourself
My name is Gina, and here are some things about me:
• I’m 30 years old
• I grew up outside of Detroit
• I was bullied severely throughout elementary school
• I transferred to an all-girls catholic school for middle and high school
• I’m an ED survivor and a body positive activist
• I’m the owner of the instagram account @nourishandeat, and creator of #embracethesquish, a movement dedicated to embracing and loving all the squishy parts of your body that the media airbrushes away
What is your connection to mental illness?
From 2011 until August of 2014, I struggled with anorexia nervosa, orthorexia, and general anxiety. I was constantly thinking about food, dividing portions, calculating how many calories I was consuming, how many I was burning, and how I could manage to fit in more exercise. How I could save on calories by modifying my already heavily restricted diet. I would stare at other women on the street and constantly compare myself to them, my legs to theirs, my arms, everything. And very quickly it got worse. I increased my time at the gym to over two hours a day, almost every day. I skipped breakfast and lunch, and took over the role of preparing all our dinners so that I could control my portion size and keep my calorie intake as low as possible. I survived on fewer than 600 calories a day, and burned over 1,000, so I was in calorie deficit almost every single day.
Emotionally I felt empty. Like I was nothing. I was depressed all the time, I had panic attacks regularly, I was constantly tense and irritable. I had no sex life and I got dressed and undressed in the dark because I was ashamed of my body and didn’t want my husband to look at me. I knew how to fake being happy. That’s not to say that there weren’t some days where I was genuinely happy, because there were -- my wedding day was by far the happiest day of my life, and it was smack in the middle of my eating disorder. But I bought the wedding dress that I felt the skinniest in. I wasn’t able to participate in our wedding tasting because I was having panic attacks, and just the smell of food made me sick. I exercised myself to exhaustion every day leading up to and after the wedding.
When did you realize that you needed help?
One night I was preparing to make dinner, and, sensing that something was wrong, my husband offered to help. I broke down. I had a panic attack in the middle of the kitchen. We sat there and talked, and we both agreed that we knew I needed to get help. Later that night I started my research into recovery, I took a quiz assessing my risk for an eating disorder (even though I knew the answer), and I made an appointment with a therapist that I’d found through the NEDA website. I also found LETSRECOVER.tumblr.com, a blog in question/answer style that was written by a girl going through the exact same thing I was. It literally changed my life.
What is your fav method of self-care?
I love taking a bath - lighting some candles, or turning the lights down low, and just relaxing in the water. Unfortunately, my legs are too long and my bathroom is too old, and I don’t really fit in the tub. So for me, baths are usually reserved for hotels! Otherwise I usually take a hot shower, do a face mask, and curl up under a blanket to watch one of my favorite movies on Netflix.
Who inspires you?
One of the best things to come from my recovery journey has definitely been the people I’ve come to know, who now hold special places in my heart. I never would have met them had it not been for Instagram, and honestly don’t think I would be where I am right now without these amazing women in my life. They inspire me to be the best version of myself:
1 Megan Jayne, of @bodyposipanda - another ED survivor and BoPo activist, and an incredible ray of positivity and strength, so inclusive and so insightful, accepting and non-judgemental, gorgeous on the inside and out. She reminds me on a daily basis that even when things seem difficult, I can get through it.
2 Amalie Lee of @amalielee and LetsRecover.tumblr.com, which was the blog I found the night I knew I needed to get help, and the first instagram account I followed. She taught me how to push through recovery, and her blog literally saved my life.
3 Demi Lovato, who has overcome so much, built herself back up from a place she thought she’d never get out of, who, despite her struggles with eating disorders, addiction, and self harm, and despite being surrounded by triggers and in an environment where voicing your vulnerability is discouraged and sometimes misinterpreted, has flourished. She’s become a light in the darkness for so many people, myself included. I feel truly honored to call her a friend.
4 Iskra Lawrence, not only an absolutely stunning body positive babe, but an incredible example for young girls and women. She’s come from struggling with disordered eating and body image issues to working with NEDA and Aerie to help others end the stigma and know that they are not alone -- she refuses to be photoshopped or airbrushed, she posts photos of her bum (cellulite and stretchmarks and all), and she is a brilliant, sweet, and warm-hearted pioneer of body love and recovery.