Hi friends- please meet my guest blogger and my new friend, Holli Clausen Zehring... I think you'll love her as much as I already do!
I want to offer our community an invitation...
An invitation to not only find peace with your own body and self, but to find a way of living that provides a good model for our children, especially our young girls.
The path to this moment, to this opportunity to come together and engage in new conversations about health, beauty, and body image has been a long one, rooted in my own experiences and the organizations that have grown from them.
My mom will tell you that my own story is what planted the seed for Ophelia’s Place. I was diagnosed with an eating disorder when I was 17. The eating disorder had taken over my life and left me zero understanding of who I was. My parents found an intensive program here in Arizona, and where I spent 4 1/2 months working on my nutrition, my view of who I am, my identity, and my family dynamics.
It was an incredible time of healing and it radically changed not only me, but my relationship with my mom. As we worked on the environment I was raised in, I talked about my mom and the relationship she had with her body and with food. I talked about all her food rules, like “If you eat standing up you lose weight,” or “Girl Scout cookies don’t count because it’s for a charity.” I thought it was funny and completely normal. Turns out it may be normal, but it wasn’t funny.
When I told my mom, she was the topic of my therapy that day she was completely blown away and realized that maybe she also needed to look at how she talked about herself and her diet, and what she modeled for me. It was her “aha” moment. I don’t say any of this to place blame or to shame. It was considered “normal” in my family, like it is for so many other families today.
My mom was my biggest role model. As a child, I loved watching her get ready for work. I was in awe of her. I looked at her and saw strength, intelligence, and beauty. She saw cellulite, extra pounds, and wrinkles. None of those things real or imagined made any difference to me, it didn’t take away from who she was, but maybe obsessing about it did.
When I got home from treatment, my eating disorder got bad again. My behaviors came back quickly and my mom, concerned, asked me what was going on. I told her I need a place to be safe, to be heard, and to practice recovery in a inspiring and encouraging space. From that conversation, my mom, MaryEllen, founded Ophelia’s Place. For the last 15 years, they have been working tirelessly to redefine beauty in individuals, families, and communities impacted by eating disorders, disordered eating and body dissatisfaction.
When I was 19 I moved to Arizona and admired the work of Ophelia’s Place from afar. It was my dream to recreate it here. I got married, had 2 children, and saw my husband through medical school, while battling significant depression. As time passed my dream felt further and further away.
Yet, all those pieces actually brought me closer to it. Through these hardships, I continued to see the need. Women frantically working to change their bodies as if they were broken, so much talk about food and weight loss, and diets, and trendy workouts, all the while they were seeking something deeper. I started working on this about 2 years ago. We gathered women around a table, shared a delicious meal and asked “Do you see a need here for a new conversation about health, beauty, and body image?” There was a resounding YES! Every event since then has been filled with tears and pain, but also hope, choices, and transformations.
Hopefully, my daughter, Anna, won’t walk the same path that I did.
Already she demonstrates a great understanding of her body and ownership of the amazing things it can do. When she hears the kind of negative conversations about weight and body image, she finds them unusual enough to check in with me to explore their validity. She’s living what she learns at home.
Join us. Join us in a new conversation. Join us to define beauty on your terms. Join us to better understand what health means, based on your own body's needs. Join us to come back to who you are, instead of fighting for who you are told to be. Discover your gifts, discover your passions, your purpose. Because the world needs you, in your whole beautiful self.
Holli Clausen Zehring