I’ve always said, The best way we can learn is through the stories of other people.
While recovering from my fight with Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia, and Exercise Addiction, it was the stories of other survivors that gave me the courage to be vulnerable and move on from a disorder doing nothing more than keeping me trapped and hidden from my true potential.
These stories are what provided me the wisdom I needed to understand my struggle deeper. Why the disorder had become such a lifeline to me, and why I was afraid to let it go.
Today, I’m sharing an interview I did with 22-year-old Tanya Griffiths, a fellow eating disorder warrior, and I truly think those who read this will take something away from her story.
From now on, you can expect an article every second Wednesday of the month where I feature the work, mission, and lessons of an individual to have chosen recovery from an eating disorder.
My goal for this new tradition is to provide education and inspiration for those who read it. I’d love to hear what you think and hope after reading this first one, you will reach out to me or Tanya with your thoughts.
Now, without further ado, let’s get into it.
Tanya is from the Philippines and now resides in Vancouver, BC. However, when I asked her where she calls home she said this:
“I would like to say wherever I am, but that wouldn’t be true. I feel most at home with my parents.”
She recently launched a cookie business in Vancouver called Being Baked Cookies, and as the sole proprietor, she explained it can be both exciting and overwhelming.
Starting a business takes a huge leap of faith (especially during a pandemic), yet Tanya said the number one thing to hold her back wasn’t a lack of motivation, resources, or even the coronavirus. Instead, it was her self-doubt. She confessed:
I didn’t believe in myself to create something more than baking a great batch of cookies from recipes I had experimented with over last summer. My roommates were the ones who encouraged and believed in me when I couldn’t find it in myself to.
Through conversations with others and her time spent taking an entrepreneurship course, Tanya decided to take the leap and says the reward of elevating so many people through her branding is what keeps her going:
What sets it apart from all the other cookie shops is its integration of mindfulness and mental health, which are topics I’m greatly passionate about. Each order comes with a custom note that serves to uplift and comfort others. I’ve received numerous messages of how it’s made people emotional because it’s exactly what they needed to hear.
In the works is an exciting project Tanya’s been able to expand her skillset in and plans to disclose to her community soon. She’s also in the process of making a blog to share more of her writings. In fact, she just created a Medium account! You can find and welcome her here.
I could relate to Tanya when she said, “I’m sorta all over the place right now but I think it’s part of figuring out what I really want to do and invest my time into.”
I’m learning that’s what your 20’s are all about…figuring it out. And it’s easy in that phase of discovery, to forget to let yourself have fun, which is why I wanted to know what Tanya does for fun.
“What activities light you up and spark joy for you?” I asked her. Her reply is one I think many of us can relate to:
I seem to have blurred the lines a bit for work and play. One of the reasons I started my cookie business is because I love baking and have always seen it as a way to release stress and be more present. With writing, I’ve definitely done it for play before as it can be cathartic, but there’s also more structure to it when it’s being written for a bigger project or goal in mind. I’m grateful to know that the work I do sparks joy in me, but if we’re talking about non-work related activities, I’d say spending time under the sun, moving my body, going into the forest, watching films, and spending quality time with my loved ones (especially over food and laughter) allow me to connect with myself and fulfill my needs as a human.
That last sentence especially is one that speaks “recovery” to me. I knew if I asked Tanya that question a few years ago, her answer would sound much different because of the multiple eating disorders she faced starting in 2016. She transparently shared:
From anorexia to bulimia, to binge-eating, to the beginning stages of orthorexia, food and my body image (or rather, body dysmorphia) had taken complete control of my brain energy and capacity. It took me months and a couple of arguments with my mother to realize what I was doing to myself.
Tanya soon confronted the truth that she wasn’t eating enough and needed more fuel to get through her daily activities.
“Recovery wasn’t easy; it took years for me to develop the healthy relationship I now have with my body and food, which is based on love, compassion, and patience,” she said.
I was glad to hear Tanya is no longer held captive by the disordered behaviors to once hold her back. She commented on the little stress and guilt she now has around food, as well as how she manages the insecurity she faces from time to time:
On the days I do feel insecure or see how my body’s changed, I like to wear comfortable clothes and remind myself that those thoughts just want to be loved. I try not to associate myself with whatever negative feelings arise, although I do give them space and eventually tell myself, “It’s time to move on”.
My favorite question I asked Tanya was, “How do you deal with comparison?”
Here’s what she said:
Ever since I started Being Baked, I realized I deal with comparison based on the situation. If it has anything to do with things that are innate such as my beauty, intelligence, and self-worth, I remind myself that, “The presence of another person’s X is not the absence of my own.” This really grounds me and I can snap out of that headspace almost instantly. However, when it comes to my business, it gets harder for me to deal with comparison because success nowadays is heavily linked to our capitalistic system. We view success by the number of sales we make, how many customers we have, how our “competitors” are doing, and how we can be better than them. So when it comes to my business, I have to take a big step back to reorientate and remind myself I define success on my own terms and that it takes time. It’s something that I’m still working on — after all, I am human!
The one thing I’ll say about this is it’s so helpful to have a mantra or affirmation like Tanya’s to tell yourself when comparison creeps in. Not only that, but it’s important to — in situations like Tanya explains with her cookie business — remember how far you’ve come!
Now, this can be a slippery slope, and the reason why is that it’s easy to negatively compare yourself to where you used to be. For example, I used to be so skinny. I used to be so outgoing. I used to have so many friends.
However, comparison can be a tool when you learn to positively compare yourself to your past self and say things like, I’ve come so far. The fears to once hold me back are the fears to now motivate me. The younger me would have never had the courage to start her own business.
Positively comparing yourself to where you once were and where you are now can help drive you forward rather than hold you back.
To end my interview with Tanya, I wanted to know what it means — in her eyes — to love herself fully. Her response was beautiful:
To me, loving yourself fully means to see yourself for who you are, not for who or what you want to be, and to accept that version of you with open arms. It means to embrace and be grateful for who you are this very second; not when you finally get the dream job, lose fat, get over insecurities, or get the partner you’ve been wishing for. Loving yourself is about fostering and maintaining a healthy relationship with yourself that serves you and your highest potential.
What I appreciate most about Tanya is how in tune she is with her everyday needs. She’s very much her own person, and she’s proud to be that person. She is someone — after getting to know on a deeper level — I would say fully loves herself…or is at least close to it because DUH! We all know perfection is impossible.
You can find Tanya on Instagram using the handle @thesmilingtummy, where she posts inspirational content surrounding body image, self-love, and food freedom.
She also had a Youtube account you can find here, where she shares even more inspirational content and I promise, will make you smile and embrace more of YOU.
I hope you enjoyed the wisdom and love shared by Tanya as much as I did. She truly is such a light, and although we did meet over social media, I still consider her a friend I could talk to in a time of need.
If you live in Vancouver, please go check out the Being Baked Cookies Instagram to not only try some delicious cookies but to support a great cause and get a sweet note with your order too!
And if you don’t live in Vancouver, I highly recommend you go whip together Tanya’s favorite snack ASAP. I’ve had it (multiple times) and can confirm it’s indeed a yummy one. All you need is some toast, almond butter, banana, and honey. Pour yourself a glass of milk and it hits even deeper.
Because remember: food rules never lead to freedom. Enjoying the simple pleasures in life — like some almond butter toast with banana and honey — is what will bring you the most fulfillment. And letting go of shame and restriction and accepting who you already are will bring you the most joy.