GWAS Notes: The blogger laid bare (in Cosmo!)

While Kyle Sandilands appears to have got his career comeuppance, I'm coming out of the closet via Cosmopolitan with a wee cautionary tale about a girl, a blog and an aversion to cake...

A few months ago Cosmo contacted me and asked if I'd care to pen some words about my body issues for a compilation feature called 'The Secret History of My Body'. Editor Bronwyn McCahon had picked up on some sentiments I'd expressed via the blog and her features director, Caelia (a good friend of mine) set about sensitively broaching the subject. The story is in the September issue, on sale today.

I was extremely impressed with the care taken in commissioning and editing the piece, as it represents a sort of "coming out" for me via more mainstream media (on that note, I really feel for celebrities like Home and Away actress Jodi Gordon who might not have an opportunity to explain themselves – or fashion a first-person piece about their struggles – before the tabloids get wind of a controversial story).

Of course, it's hard to articulate a very complicated matter in 500 words. There's no opportunity for contextual background information – family history, medical history, life experience – so what you get is a digested part of the whole story: my annus horribilus, if you will (and one GIANT photograph – gee, thanks, Cosmo!).

I was and am VERY wary of the potential impact of the piece. Having criticised "eating disorder stories" in the past for their potential "enabling" content, I didn't want it to be "thinspiration" for girls teetering on the edge. Thankfully, the story is more geared towards the impact the disorder had on my life and my recovery (a W.I.P) than my whacko behaviour, though I still question my introductory reference to the size of my skinny jeans.

The story might go some way to explaining my hyper-sensitivity about diet, health and food stories – as well as the countless images of "thinspiring" models, celebrities and fashionistas – in magazines. It's also why I applaud editors like British Vogue's Alexandra Shulman, former Cosmo editor Mia Freedman and any magazine brave enough to eschew the diet story standard in favor of more wholesome, nourishing editorial (Cosmo included, as well as Dolly and GirlfriendDolly, I do think you're doing great; you've come a long way since I started reading in the '80s!).

While I represent the extreme end of the disorderly eating scale, I'm fully aware that many women exist in a world where restriction, guilt, compensation, treadmill devotion and calorie counting are a daily reality – particularly in industries, like media and entertainment, where there's pressure to look like a picture of control and perfection while you're climbing the ladder. Anyone, or any glossy, who does something positive to counteract this mentality and suffering is a winner in my books.

Like Sarah Wilson, whose body story also appears in this issue, I've had to learn to be kind to my body, or, as Gwyneth would say, "nourish the inner aspect". I'm actually really grateful to have experienced the disorder, though it wrecked havoc on my life for a year (strained relationships, a stifled career, not a lot of smiling or laughing or new experiences), not to mention my body and, superficially, my looks.

It's taught me that I need to feel at peace, rather than in control; that I don't have to exercise like mad to maintain a healthy weight; that variety in food and routine is the spice of life; that focusing your energies on others is the key to liberation; that solace cannot be found in the pantry; that good friends will stick by you no matter what; that a good Husband won't run the second the going gets tough (and sex dries up); that family is everything; that sometimes you have to ask for help; that your brain cannot function without adequate nutrition; that self-inflicted punishment is not redeeming for a troubled soul; that suffering leads to perseverance; that God is gracious and forgiving even when you suck; that if you mess up and 'fess up, a new day awaits; and that it's more than fine to indulge in a little cake.

And, on that note, what a treat it is to be a finalist in the blogger category, alongside Mia, Sam and Helen, in the Cosmo Fun Fearless Female Awards! I'm like the Jodi Gordon/Jackie O of the bloggy bunch! While I admire Sam and Helen (you go, girls!), I'd really like to praise Mia for her amazing support of GWAS, especially during my annus horribilus (when I was anything but a fun, fearless female), and truly excellent blog (which has an active and passionate commenting community to rival Jezebel) and would be super-happy to see her win. Go vote!

"If people are bound in chains, suffering for what they have done, God shows them their sins and their pride. He makes them listen to their warning to turn away from evil. If they obey God and serve him, they live out their lives in peace and prosperity. But if not, they will die in ignorance and cross the stream into the world of the dead." Job 36: 8-12

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

29 comments:

Death Wears Diamond Jewellery said...

congrats Erica! As a recovered anorexic, I applaud the way you handle eating disorder stories and the danger of them turning into "thinspiration" with sizes and weights. Looking foward to reading it!

Natalie said...

"It's taught me that I need to feel at peace, rather than in control; that I don't have to exercise like mad to maintain a healthy weight; that variety in food and routine is the spice of life; that focusing your energies on others is the key to liberation; that solace cannot be found in the pantry; that good friends will stick by you no matter what; that a good Husband won't run the second the going gets tough (and sex dries up); that family is everything; that sometimes you have to ask for help; that your brain cannot function without adequate nutrition; that self-inflicted punishment is not redeeming for a troubled soul; that suffering leads to perseverance; that God is gracious and forgiving even when you suck; that if you mess up and 'fess up, a new day awaits; and that it's more than fine to indulge in a little cake." will be my inspirational quote this week when I am in need of some perspective!

Beautifully said, Erica.

Glossy Girl said...

Aside from the fact that I ran out to buy Cosmo even when I said I wouldn't be buying it for a while - just to read your words, I'm truly impressed.

Congratulations on overcoming your eating disorder and finding inner peace. It must have been tough writing about it, and then blogging about it - but it would have been cathartic at the same time. It just goes to show you that if you surround yourself with positivity, and build up confidence in yourself you can overcome anything.

You haven't made your story a piece of thinspiration - if anything it's inspiration for anyone going through any kind of struggle.

Lauren said...

As a recovered disordered eater, I am totally blown away by your bravery, Erica. Well done on a beautifully written piece (in Cosmo and here) and for your amazing courage in "coming out."

Ursula Jefferson said...

What a brave and wonderful place to be right now Erica! Go you. You're truly an inspiration. xx

Anonymous said...

You are a true inspiration.

Jaye said...

Noting the fact that I haven't read Cosmo in years, and am actually embarrassed to admit that I ever read it in the first place, I've bought it now, just for this. An inspiring, beautifully written piece.

Rochelle said...

Brilliant piece, Erica.

I don't have any experience of what's it like to live with an eating disorder and I must admit that while I completely understand and respect that it is a serious illness, I struggle to really 'get it' ("how can you not want to eat a piece of chocolate cake?!").

You've given us a very honest insight here and I feel a little bit closer to understanding. Thank you for sharing. xx

smileybella said...

How utterly fabulous! Good luck!

Rachel Hills said...

Well, there's all the excuse I needed to run out and buy this month's Cosmo! (Okay, I probably would have done it anyway. ;))

Congrats also on being a finalist in the Fun, Fearless Female awards - I voted for you!

jess said...

Great piece, Erica. Beautifully and sensitively written, and inspiring to read, even for someone like me who can't even give up food for the 40 Hour Famine! Like Rochelle, for me it's one of those things that I can't understand because I love food too much. But there are lots of things I don't understand, and pieces like yours help me see things in a differently. Congratulations on your recovery, and all the best! :)

*this daisy said...

Erica, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your piece (thanks for that huge scan!) and also all your posts in your blog. You are and always have been my role model and inspiration since I discovered your blog way back when you were still planning your wedding! Thank you for being so brave - you are amazingly strong and we all applaud you for that! May God continue to be your strength and joy always.

p/s: I usually never ever buy Cosmo, but I am definitely going to get this issue!

Anonymous said...

I love the fact that the commnents on this page are al so positive. When you read most blogs there are snipey nasty little asides from bitter people on there. you obvioulsy have some very lovely readers

Julie Parker said...

Haven't bought Cosmo in years. Congratulations Erica. Rushing out to buy and be further inspired.

sparsely kate said...

Good on you, Erica for being brave to have a painful memory out in print. I hope you help a lot of teenage girls really think about what they might be sacrificing in their desire to be thinner than their natural body shape.

As seen in said...

You truly are such a beautiful girl Erica! Good on you for being so strong and telling your story to the world. xxx

Josephine Tale Peddler said...

I haven't bought Cosmo since I was actually the target age for the magazine but I'll make an exception for this one. Congratulations and you look lovely in the big photo. xx

Five Foot Nothing said...

I'm definitely buying this month's Cosmo, Erica!

I love the way you handle eating disorder stories, it's done with sensitivity and compassion.

Melinda Hutchings said...

Hi Erica, you are an inspiration to those struggling with eating issues. Congratulations on being a Finalist too! I hope you don't mind but I wrote about your Cosmopolitan article in my blog. See you at the Cosmo Awards! Best wishes x

Lizzie said...

Erica:

You are inspiring!!! I hope you continue to thrive on your journey and am so glad that you found the courage (and had the support) to turn everything upside down in favour of a beautiful life. For someone who has gone through something like that you look so healthy and glowing - amazing!!

sofiarose said...

Hi Erica,

I just read your Cosmo article congratulations...so inspiring!! I had bto visit your site straight away, can't wait to discover your blog! xo

ali said...

Congratulations on overcoming your disease Erica - I wish my friend who is currently being held in hospital involuntarily (her weight is less than her age) will do likewise.

I am curious to know, however, how your passion for magazines (particularly destructive aspirational womens ones) appears to continue even though you've identified them as somewhat of a trigger?

Anonymous said...

I loved the article Erica! It was a refreshing change from the elaborate details of a disorder - to hear the effects it had on your life (and every aspect!) made it so relatable, and also not something to aspire to. I shed a tear at the comment your husband made - the toll that our self-punishment takes on our sex life (or lack of) is so real, and raw, and i am so greatful that you spoke up.

AVD said...

Welcome back Babe! Love you so much.x

Anonymous said...

I was close to tears by the time I finished reading you piece. I have been fortunate never to have a destructive relationship with food but I have watched my beautiful sister struggle with Bulimia for many years. Thank you for such a beautifully, thoughtfully written piece. I think it is a lesson to us all to love ourselves a little bit more!

Anonymous said...

Great piece Erica and I hope your recovery continues. Love reading your blog, it's one of my absolute favourites.

Really well said. Much love xx

Mic said...

What a beautiful, sensitive article.


However, it still frustrates me knowing most in the magazine industry would see being thin as so important, regardless of health, with this belief being passed down through their magazine pages.

Joselle said...

Erica, thank you for sharing your experience, strength, and hope (a slogan I borrow from the 12-step tradition). Your thoughtfulness and candor remind me of how far I've come in wrestling my own food and relationship demons. More importantly, you helpfully point out that it's the small daily acts of kindness to ourselves and others that are the true meaning of peace. Thank you. xo

Olivia said...

I rushed out and bought Cosmo straight away and was really moved by this article, Erica.
It is so fantastic to see that God is using your talents and giftedness, and your life experiences to reach other people.
You are truly a blessing and are being used in a mighty way, I can't wait to see the other ways God is going to use you!
Well done for maintaining your faith and integrity in such a public forum,
Love, Livs x