Eeeek! I have so many beautiful things to share with you guys today. One of them being, my lovely friend Emily Formea.
Emily is a 24 year old who grew up in Alton, IL and now lives in Boston, MA. She is an Author, Podcaster, Content Creator, YouTuber, and Coach who specializes in eating disorders and eating disorder recovery. On top of these passions, Emily also works a 9-5 as a Recruiting Executive Assistant through a firm that focuses on improving the virtual experience children have while learning. She finds this work to be a worthy and rewarding cause.
Believe it or not, Emily and I have actually never met. However, the friendship I’ve cultivated with her through social media is one I will forever treasure. Although our stories are unique to our individual experiences and struggles, Emily and I both know what it’s like to battle perfection, anxiety, and feelings of unworthiness.
Recently, I was honored to be a guest on her podcast, Hungry for Healing, where I had the chance to tell my story and we reflected on these things in more detail. You can find the full episode here. But today is about Emily. This blog post is another interview I conducted as a way to raise awareness, spark inspiration, and help others feel less alone through the power of storytelling.
So, let’s get started.
Now, you might be wondering, how does Emily wear so many hats? And that my friend, comes from something called value. Here’s what Emily had to say about both her paid and unpaid work:
I think value can very easily become synonymous with dollar signs and for me, I really try to remind myself that true value is impact, and you can make an impact with no money, lots of money, or something in the middle. Your passions don’t have to be your full-time job, nor does your full-time job have to be something you don’t care about. Finding balance has helped me realize all of this.
Working a full-time job and pursuing my author career on the side, I can relate to Emily. I, too, have had to find a healthy balance to avoid burnout. Part of that balance has come from including rest in my schedule, which is why I wanted to know what Emily does for play. For her, she enjoys running, trying a new coffee shop in her city, or playing with her puppy.
Since coaching has become a new and trendy avenue for entrepreneurs to pursue, I thought it would be a good idea to ask Emily what advice she would give to someone interested in starting their own coaching business now.
The first thing she recommended for prospective coaches is making sure you’ve taken care of your own gunk before trying to help other people sort through theirs. Meaning, you aren’t going to make a great health coach if you still have yet to climb obstacles in your health journey.
Emily used a personal example of when she first starting her coaching business and was telling other women to focus more on their self worth than the number on the scale. While giving this advice, however, she was still counting calories and forgetting about her eating disorder recovery. She said:
If you want to impact someone, action is the greatest way to do that. So, for someone wanting to start their own coaching business, I would say that you must first coach yourself! That is what gives you the love, space, and expertise to then coach others who need you. You have to care for yourself before caring for others. But once you do your own work, you will change the world.
Now, I don’t think what Emily is saying is you have to have all of the answers before walking alongside someone in their journey. I think she is instead, reminding those interested in coaching to do a self-evaluation before starting. Then, if you realize you still have work to do in a specific area of your life, work at improving that area so you can be a more productive and successful coach later on. Great advice if you ask me.
By now, you’ve probably caught on to the idea that Emily doesn’t just help other people battling an eating disorder and hoping to rise above, but she too, put up a long fight with an eating disorder starting when she was young. Emily expressed it was an absence of certain people in her life which contributed to her belief that to be loved, she had to first be skinny, and to be skinny meant she had to diet. That’s what the commercials on tv, magazines, superstars, and Disney channel actresses told her. She explained:
It started very innocently. Counting calories sometimes, not ordering bread for dinner, going to the gym each morning. But within six months I found myself refusing to eat almost everything, not sleeping, drinking solely black coffee to get me through my day, and eventually ending up in the hospital. My eating disorder began from trying to be clean, perfect, organized, and disciplined with food…and then with my body.
This brings up and important topic I like discussing and that is: many people to go through an eating disorder have traits that fall under a type A or perfectionistic behavior. Not everyone, but many. Think about it. Type A people are usually organized, detail oriented, focused, and goal driven. So, it would make sense that someone attempting to manipulate their body through restriction, binging, or purging, would also possess at least one of these characteristics.
In that same vein, it makes sense why an eating disorder victim who is more type A would take “healthy behaviors” too far and easily get addicted to those disordered behaviors. That feeling of accomplishment is what fuels us recovering perfectionists.
During my disorder, there were many moments I felt on top of the world for decreasing in size and weight, pushing myself harder during workouts than I did the week before, and eating only foods deemed “good.” It was when I started recovery that I began realizing how interwoven this satisfaction and pride was with my personality type.
Knowing this, I asked Emily, “How did you go about healing your relationship with food and your body, and what do you do now when you are having a particularly hard day?”
She started off by acknowledging the progress that is made when you finally admit you’re not okay. Remembering back to when others would tell her she needed to gain weight and just eat more, Emily noted how these comments only shut her down. She didn’t feel she could escape the disorder because it seemed no one was truly there for her.
Had someone said to me, “Hey, I know that you’re hurting and right now, you don’t have to change anything…it’s okay,” I think it would have allowed me to open up and share about the torment that was going on inside of my head instead of immediately feeling pressure to change my life.
“It’s okay.” Two powerful words I too, wish someone would have told me. If you are trying to help someone battling an eating disorder (or other mental illness), remember judgement and demands to change will only keep that person stuck. Those affected by mental illnesses already feel misunderstood and to call them out for their “problem” only validates the belief that their disordered way of living is keeping them safe because it’s there for them more than the people in their life.
Emily explained how at their core, eating disorders are coping mechanisms. Her healing started when she began sharing how she was feeling without facing pressure to change overnight. From there, she was able to see her disorder more clearly and realize these truths:
“My eating disorder promised me confidence…but I never felt confident. It promised me popularity….but I canceled every single plan I made because I was scared to eat out. It promised me happiness…but I never felt happy in my disorder.”
She continued with a simple practice that’s helped her which is asking herself, “What is real and what is a fairytale?”
For instance, if you are feeling the urge to diet, you might ask yourself, “What do I believe a diet would help me attain?”
If you respond with “happiness,” you can then question further. “Did dieting ever truly bring me happiness? No it did not because ______.”
This practice continues to help Emily when she finds herself struggling.
To end the interview, I wanted Emily to speak up on some of the myths surrounding eating disorders. In responding, she laid out three main ones.
Myth #1: They are doing it for attention
Emily reflected on how frustrating it is when other people think someone is choosing their disorder; choosing to starve themselves, binge, and count every gram of salt that goes into their food. She said:
I prayed and cried and begged every single day to have my eating disorder taken away from me. We don’t want to live life like this. I remember being told to, “cut it out,” or to “stop lying,” as if I was doing all of this for attention…as if I was just choosing to skip dinner or hide snacks in my room. We aren’t choosing this path for attention and never treat someone with any mental illness like they are.
Myth #2: They only want to be thin
Uncovering this myth, Emily used her own experience and acknowledged that she never wanted to be thin just to be thin. Instead, she thought being thin said something about her worth. In her mind, to be happy meant being skinny. I felt this in my disorder too, yet it’s crucial to remember eating disorders are very rarely about vanity. Often times there’s an underlying cause driving our behaviors and contributing to the multidimensional puzzle.
Myth #3: They can easily stop their disordered behaviors
I loved Emily’s thoughts on this one:
Getting better means giving up our safety blanket. It’s absolutely terrifying. I wanted to get better every day, but I also didn’t know how to stop. I couldn’t imagine my life without my coping mechanism…without my anxiety relief and distraction. Eating disorders are very similar to addictions, which makes them unique when someone needs care or treatment. The bottom line I would say is this: people who struggle with eating disorders wish to not struggle more than anything in the world. However, to not struggle means losing the very thing they are holding on to for safety, security, assurance, familiarity, distraction, and desire… that is really hard to let go of and therefore deserves love, care, and understanding from others so they don’t have to do it alone.
If you are battling an eating disorder now, Emily recommends the following resources:
- Mary’s Cup of Tea Podcast
- The book Intuitive Eating by Elyse Reach and Evelyn Tribole
- The F*ck it Diet (Blog, Podcast, Live Course, Book)
- NEDA (National Eating Disorder Association)
- The Emily Program
Lately, Emily has been pushing herself outside of her comfort zone by wearing clothes she’s previously labeled as “off limits.” Tighter tops, different styles of makeup, and jewelry have all helped her honor her style and self expression more. When talking about the similarities between fear and excitement she said, “I work to channel the excitement of trying new things instead of the fear of other’s opinions, and the more you work at something, the easier it gets.”
To close, can we just agree how bright of a light Emily is? I think the underlying message from everything she had to say is, it’s okay. If you are a victim to an eating disorder right now, have compassion on yourself because that posture of grace will only help you in your healing. And if you are attempting to help an eating disorder victim, be loving toward them in their journey. Be patient.
If you enjoyed this blog post, Emily said she would LOVE to hear from you. She’s active on various platforms which I will link below. Thank you guys for reading and have a blessed rest of your week.
And remember: YOU. ARE. STRONG.