What does it mean to be yourself?

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Be Yourself Blog is a chance for Little Voice to share the stories of those finding their little voice, those struggling to hear it, and those using it to inspire others. These are the stories about people just like you, and how they listened to their inner voice to build, create, explore and discover.

AFTERTASTE is a unique three part blog that shares the personal story and struggle of Little Voice’s illustrator Samantha Clusiau-Lawlor. 

“When Samantha came to me with her story and her hope of sharing it with others, I immediately stood by her like any partner would! Little Voice is more than just a children’s book, we are a movement. Not just one movement, but many movements. Whether we are supporting Alzheimer’s disease or other causes in our community, or even Samantha’s story, we want to use our platform to support every little voice; in times of strength and times of weakness.” – Amanda Bernardo, author

Last week on June 2nd, the world came together to promote the World Eating Disorder Action Day. Today, Samantha is opening up with all of our readers on her own personal experience in an effort to promote a worldwide knowledge of eating disorders and the need for comprehensive treatment.

This is part three of Samantha’s story:

Weight restoration was a necessary part of recovery. I was eating a total of six calorie dense meals each day and refrained from all forms of strenuous exercise. Despite the strides I was taking, it was hard to escape society’s own obsession with being thin. I remember recently being in a room filled with women talking about their goals for the new year, and almost every single one of them said: weight loss.

I had to leave the room; I didn’t want ED to feed off a conversation I know would empower him. Instead, I went into the hall and drank the Boost Plus I had snuck into my water bottle.

In that moment, all my hard work had been tested. Nobody in that room that day had any idea how how their weight loss conversation could challenge someone suffering with an eating disorder, but it did.  And yet, despite hearing the struggles other women were facing, I did not let ED use that opportunity to bring my own struggles back to light. I was proud of myself for not letting ED win.

This moment in my life really made me reflect on the way society teaches us to obsess with our weight. We see this unobtainable and unhealthy image of what women “should” look like wherever we turn. We see it in our magazines, on the internet, on billboard, on the tv, etc… We promote thinness at every turn, and yet, we have no evidence that being thin equates to being healthy. I certainly wasn’t! We need to remember that health isn’t just about weight but also mental well-being. There are plenty of overweight people who move daily, eat well and are genuinely in perfect health. We need to cut the body shaming and embrace all body types without comparing ourselves to others in the process.

Since my recovery, I put my life into perspective. I thought about my future and the things I wanted to accomplish in life. I took a long hard look at myself and realized that I would not risk my health or my future simply for the pursuit of thinness. 

Nowadays, I am a much different person. Diet and exercise no longer control my life. I don’t want to obsess over ‘’clean’’ foods; I don’t want to hear about the latest cleanse, detox, fit tea, fitspo or salad recipe; I just want food freedom and I want there to be a social shift in the way we talk about food and our bodies.

My road to recovery would not have been possible without the support from my amazing boyfriend, my friends, and the parents I have been blessed with and who have supported me throughout this entire journey.

But my recovery also wouldn’t have been possible without my own little voice, the little voice that silenced ED once and for all.

ED would not longer:

  1. Lie to me about how I’d never be enough;
  2. Manipulate me and make me feel guilty after every meal; and
  3. Control me and my thoughts on food and exercise.

To anyone going through an eating disorder much like my own, know that it is ok to be completely terrified to seek help. I was scared but I am so happy now for opening up about my struggle and seeking the therapy that has led to my recovery. Don’t be scared to tell your friends and family, they will be the support system to help guid you on the journey of self-discovery and healing. You are not alone. Listen to your little voice and let it empower you to find your own path to recovery. While your mind and body has been used to ED, it will welcome your little voice and the weight gain that will be necessary to repair your body and your mind.

Don’t listen to Ed. Be yourself, be body positive, and be brave. Your mind and body will thank you.