In this Live with Lisa: Candid Conversations Series, I interviewed Christina Marie as we reviewed the topic: Body Image.
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Featured Speaker Biography
My name is Christina Marie, founder of body confident events. I want to take you back to where this all started and where MY MANTRA became the core of who I am and how I am going to be a catalyst for change in your life.
The battle with anorexia controlled most of my young adult life until I was 21 years old. I had a battle in my mind where anorexia was the only cure. It seemed anorexia itself could numb out all the bad feelings and allow me to feel good about my thin body. My value system (or mantra I later discovered) was, “As long as I look like I have it all together, no one can hurt me anymore.” This was the lie I told myself, and even as my weight continued to decrease, my self-confidence and quality of life didn’t improve.
Then a powerful moment happened in my life that changed EVERYTHING. I discovered power in MANTRAS. My mantra went from hiding the truth, to simply leaning in and embracing it. I discovered “If my mentality can create this much negativity, what if I used that same energy into getting better and empower myself?” I discovered a DEEP desire to impact others who were struggling so I started creating events as a spin off from a three year career in self made modeling.
My events and mentorship programs create a safe space for individuals to believe they were worthy of more and find SELF LOVE. I want people who attend my workshops and programs to leave with the feeling that they have knowledge in the areas of physical, mental, nutritional, and social health to best take care of their bodies and minds. If I can help anyone avoid going down that dark path I did.... then my mantra has served a purpose.
Lisa: You have been very open about your battle with anorexia most of your young adult life. Tell us your story.
Christina Marie: My story with battling my body started at an early age. I had issues with self esteem and self worth from being made fun of. I was bullied in my private school from kindergarten to about sixth grade. I think regardless of what school you go to, or environment you grow up in, there are kind as well as unkind experiences that play a formative role in your identity as well as self worth.
I felt early on there was something wrong with me. I was awkward, shy, and had a hard time socializing. All I ever wanted was for people to like me, to feel good enough for my family, and to enjoy my own reflection in the mirror. Unfortunately I would not learn to embrace the person I saw until much later in life and saw within myself the pain of ten years of no self acceptance.
The first time I ever went into eating disorder treatment was when I was eleven. I remember my parents picking me up out of bed when I hadn’t gotten up in three days. I had not eaten or drank anything, could not walk, and at this point I wanted to die. My eating disorder hijacked my identity, any sense of self worth, and had completely convinced me I was never going to be worthy enough to live a happy life. When I almost died at Boston Children’s Hospital that day, it still wouldn’t hit me for a very long time how badly I needed to change the path I was on. I would end up in treatment again, leave school, leave my family, and leave behind any sense of self for the next ten years. Anorexia was my life and the most serious relationship I have ever been a part of. I forgot what “healthy” was and had to relearn, as well as rewire my brain to enjoy food again.
With the help of doctors, spiritual community, family and friends I was able to find recovery in my twenties. I started eating more regularly for my body, I gained back weight, stopped wearing as much makeup, and started to stabilize emotionally. As I healed myself physically, I still had to rely on myself. I had the resources I needed to stay well, but it was my job to choose recovery versus anorexia everyday.
It has been a journey full of ups and downs. There were days I didn’t know living on my own how I could handle the anxiety without my anorexia crutch. Or if I could afford to eat food when I moved out in college to Colorado. But I learned from my eating disorder that I had an unbelievable superpower called grit. And when I moved here six years ago to start over again, I found hope. I found that through sharing my honest, painful, beautiful, authentic journey, I could really empower other people. I formed my LLC in 2018, Christina Marie’s Mantra and it is my powerful statement to the world that body acceptance as well as self love is out there for everyone.
Lisa: When did it start? Was there a moment, thought, life event?
Christina Marie: I would say the bullying was a trigger as well as a few other factors. My mother as well as other family members had struggled with eating disorders and addiction. My treatment team early on felt I had the perfect storm of life events, family dynamics, genetics and temperament to breed an eating disorder. I feel my disorder was a symptom of a much larger problematic negative set of beliefs. Bullying reinforced these beliefs, my family’s high standards of perfection, and lack of education on mental health as well as addiction treatment all could have very well contributed to my mantra of: “There’s something wrong with me.”
Lisa: What did a day in your life look like back then? What were you doing? What were you thinking?
Christina Marie: Oh god lol. The real honest answer is a painful one. But I think it brings awareness to how much a person can lose themselves in a disease. This is not who I am any longer, but I have my challenges in living with this disordered, wounded part of me. I wanted to preface this by saying I am SO happy and blessed to not live the way I once did any longer.
A day in my dysfunctional, disordered, ill life was where anorexia dictated my decisions. From the second I woke up till the second I went to bed it was whatever “Ed” wanted (my eating disorder). I would usually start my day with exercising at 5 am, cutting my breakfast up into tiny pieces and throw it into the garbage. My thought was I could somehow continue fooling people into thinking my weight loss was not eating disorder related. Then whether I was at school or home, I would find any excuse possible to starve and prove I had power over food. The euphoria from not eating was truthfully fantastic. It was like a high once you suppressed your body’s urge to eat. It was like a power I had never felt before. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t make anyone love or accept me. It felt good to look good and I prided myself at the time on being skeletal skinny.
When I wasn’t thinking of ways to avoid food, I would lie. Often. To people I loved or anyone who asked what was wrong. I had to hide my shame and my fear of being discovered. Then after dinner I would exercise in my room most evenings. I would run, jump, and stretch my abs till I saw stars from dehydration and starvation. This was my day, my night, my cycle to avoid having to feel any discomfort.
Lisa: You were/still are, a model. Did that have anything to do with it?
Christina Marie: I actually am still a model here in Denver. I started my career in recovery and I love doing it now ! I also host fashion show events for mental health awareness where myself and other models of all shapes/sizes are welcome. It’s become more of an empowering thing being a model in Denver, than if I had ever started in Massachusetts.
Lisa: You talk about a powerful moment that changed everything. What was it?
Christina Marie: My most powerful moment was the last time I was in eating disorder treatment. That was about ten years ago. I was laying on my hospital bed, staring at the ceiling tiles wondering how this was my life. How had I allowed myself to get this lost or low? It was a powerful moment to question: Was my eating disorder really a lifestyle I wanted to have for the rest of my life? Or could I consider recovery? It was a low moment where my mantra became: I can only go up from rock bottom.
Lisa: Eating disorders correlate with an individual's underlying sense of powerlessness. Covid has made us feel a lack of control. Have you seen an increase in client bookings?
Christina Marie: I have! And with particularly women wanting to do photoshoots. I like to think I help people feel safe, seen and nurtured in my line of work. Whether it be shopping together, taking some body confident photos, or meeting one on one for mentorship.
Lisa: You are the founder of body confident events. Tell us more about what you do.
Christina Marie: I host events that help individuals to go from feeling lost to feeling found through the power of self love. I host fashion shows centered on bringing the community together to celebrate body as well as cultural diversity. I let my designers and models actively participate through the show and through mental health panels that address everyday questions. My events are to show people what is possible to have in our world through mental health awareness and what a body acceptance, as well as confident culture could look like!
Lisa: What are some common signs that you may need help?
Christina Marie: I am not a doctor so I cannot formally diagnose anyone. But besides changes in weight, not all eating disorders have a size. So I always encourage people before passing judgement or assuming, to see if someone you care for is being more secretive. That was a HUGE sign for me when it came to meal times, after meal times, skipping out on dinner plans to exercise, or some statements that I made around food. I would speak more negatively about myself and be very preoccupied with sharing “diet tips” and not sharing when the last time I eaten was, if this makes any sense.
Lisa: What should parents/loved ones be looking for?
Christina Marie: I didn’t know how to ask for help. And I think right before my lowest point, my parents still did not want to admit that their eldest child needed mental help. For loved ones, look for preoccupation with body image, exercise, food, and changes in personality as well as interests. I didn’t want to socialize as much and I tended to pull away from meal scenarios. I didn’t know how to ask for help, so I would say my best advice for loved ones: Ask the difficult questions coming from a place of love.
Lisa: What do you battle with on a daily basis?
Christina Marie: I battle to love the parts of me that aren’t perfect. I still have some old conditioning to work through. I might not starve myself or harm myself any longer, but I still struggle with unhealthy thoughts, asking for help, and speaking up when I am uncomfortable. The disordered part of me LOVES being right and behaving perfectly. But being my most authentic self means learning how to sit with my anxious feelings/thoughts as well as accepting mistakes are a part of life.
Lisa: How do you cope with your daily battles?
Christina Marie: Mantras and meditation. In the moment if I can’t ground down and connect to my body through conscious breath; let's say when I am at work or out of my house, I have my mantras to come back to. Here are a few I will share with you that help me with on the spot anxiety:
- Shaming my body distracts me from the real problem.
- I am worthy.
- Anxiety is here to help me get better and learn from my life.
- I am healing everyday in every way.
- I did not come this far simply to come this far.
- My gut is always guiding me to safety.
- I can trust myself completely even in my mistakes.
- A mistake does not mean failure.
Lisa: What are the greatest joys?
Christina Marie: Waking up without anorexia in my head. Spending one on one time with a friend without having self doubt or anxiety the entire time. Alone time in nature to connect to my body as well as my feelings. Finding worthiness and self acceptance even when I make mistakes (like not reading all the details in emails !)
Lisa: What is the best first step for someone who feels they may need help?
Christina Marie: For me it was admitting that my everyday happiness was severely impacted by whether or not I was having a good body image day. I saw myself living in these extremes that all came back to whether I felt good about my body that day or not. The thoughts would overwhelm my personal as well as professional life. If someone finds themselves so preoccupied with body mage, body checking, food, dieting, behaviors of restriction or purging just to get through the day, that’s when I should have known I needed help.
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