Like many others, I have spent my entire adult life battling with eating disorders and although being in the wellness field has helped me to come a long way, I'm still a work in progress.
As a product of these struggles and overcoming many of them, I am a proponent of eating disorder awareness and a passionate advocate of self-love, especially in our youth.
When I speak, it isn't because I have all the answers or that am ‘cured' but because I am empathetic and I know all the ‘what not to do's'.
One of the subjects I find extremely fascinating and confusing all at once is that of body image. Not too long ago I saw a funny Facebook pic and it was of a pie chart representing women's magazines. Half of the pie represented the message of: love yourself and the other half was: how to lose the most amount of weight in the least amount of time.
These made me want to laugh and cry all at once. But doesn't that really summarize our whole body image dilemma in a nutshell? We are living in a world of mixed messages and media confusion. We walk around on the one hand wanting to love ourselves the way we are but on the other hand wanting to achieve ‘body perfection' at any cost.
But what is the perfect body? What does the perfect body look like? Is the perception of the perfect body innate or learned? Is the decision based on nature or nurture?
From an anthropological standpoint we are attracted to those who we subconsciously or instinctively perceive will help our species survive and thrive. Ultimately, this translates to health or healthy humans.
Which begs the question: “what does healthy look like”?
I have lived all over the world and I have found it fascinating that different cultures have a different perception of beauty and health.
When I lived in Samoa (from where my mom originates), I was considered ‘small'. If I lost any weight I would be told to eat because I looked sick. Yay for me, boo I suppose for people who are just naturally skinny right?
When I used to visit my grandparents in Egypt (my dad is part Egyptian) I'd lay on the beach in my bikini next to my younger sister whose body I was always jealous of and my dad would tell me to cover up because everyone would stare at me. Me? Again, fuller was better there. Yay for me again!
Sometimes it all boils down to perspective
But, that same me in Lebanon (my father is also part Lebanese) was perceived quite simply as ‘fat'. The women in Lebanon strive for model-esque bodies, very much influenced by the runway scene and Western culture. A colleague of mine approached me one day and said “Ioana, how come you're so fat? I could never live with myself if I were that fat”. She didn't mean it in a ‘mean girls' kind of way; it was simply a statement and observation.
Fast forward to today: I now live in Canada. And I believe I'm the most confused I've ever been.
Watching almost any show on television, during a two-minute commercial break I can see anything from a DOVE campaign of different women of different cultures and shapes and sizes all-embracing their ‘natural' bodies whether it be super ‘curvy' or ‘stick thin', and in the next commercial of a bunch of super stick thin sports illustrated type models drinking diet coke running on the beach and loving life. So do I love my curves or not? What are you trying to tell me?
One second I am in love with my curves and think they're healthy and the next minute I'm wondering if people are judging me – the ‘fat' fitness instructor.
When I owned a fitness studio and had to have someone cover one of my Pilates classes, I actually had one of my clients approach me and say she didn't enjoy my replacement instructor's class primarily because she was bigger. So no matter how happy you are with yourself, you can't help but be affected by comments like that.
Facebook Says healthy looks like…
When I asked the question on Facebook about what people perceived as sexy and healthy I got answers like: confidence; glowing skin; intelligence; positivity. Interestingly none of the answers related to the shape of the body.
At the end of the day I know – intellectually – the most important ‘state' of being and existence is to be in a state of balance and holistic health. “You are what you eat” doesn't mean – in my humble opinion that if you eat a burger you'll look like a burger, it just means that if you eat ‘junk' you'll feel like ‘junk', if you eat clean you'll feel clean and energetic. And guess what?
Healthy Mind, Body and Spirit
When you move, and are fit (which could mean anything from running a marathon to running around the backyard with your kids) and eat well and clean and have a positive outlook on life in general, in other words healthy mind, body and spirit, it's going to all show up on the outside, and everyone's going to want to be in your ‘tribe' because you're THAT person that's going help our species to survive and thrive. That could mean anything from a figure model to a mom of three with a bit of left over pregnancy jelly belly from giving birth a few months ago (‘wink').
Thank you for reading. I wish everyone health and happiness from the inside out.
Creator/ Founder of KELANI International
“Take off your shoes and feel the rhythm of your souls”
Ioana is a wife and a mom of three girls who she refers to as her inspiration. She is the founder and creator of KELANI International, a Polynesian inspired ‘holistic' movement. Ioana is a Kelani dance instructor, Pilates instructor, holistic nutritionist and wellness speaker. She is also a passionate advocate of eating disorder awareness, self-love and positive body image, especially in the youth.