By Louise Jensen
When I was 17 my then boyfriend told me I was fat. That throwaway comment stayed with me spiralling years of tears, tape measures and weighing myself so regularly the scale sighed when I approached. My self-esteem was on the floor and already a naturally shy person my confidence became non-existent.
What I needed, at that tender, vulnerable age, was someone to show me how to love myself regardless of how I looked. To make the inside more important than the outside. To make me see that I was perfect regardless of how little or much I weighed.
Brie Mathers, founder of “Love the skin you’re in” does exactly that. Her journey through anorexia (read her story on the about you page) has led her to reach out through seminars, online programmes, retreats and mentor-ship helping thousands of people change their body image and go on to lead awesomely authentic lives.
Brie and her team which includes a dietician, clinical herbalist and yoga instructor strive to the gnawing hunger inside many, not with food, but with love.
I was delighted to interview this kick-ass inspirational lady.
Brie thanks for agreeing to talk to us today on what can be a sensitive subject. It’s great you are using your experiences to help others recover. I know my poor self-image started with a mindless comment. Was there a trigger for your eating disorder?
At the time of my eating disorder a negative voice had turned on and turned up on the inside. My body was taking on more feminine curves and I was challenged by food reactions, challenging social dynamics including bullying and performance pressure.
Adolescence can be a rough ride. So what changed after many years of suffering and trying to hide your problem? Was there a pivotal turning point for you where you wanted to stop hiding and start living?
I was afraid to brave the beach during a family vacation in Florida. I sat cuddled up on the couch watching an episode of Oprah when a guest came on and said that his turning point was asking himself the question “Can you imagine spending every day for the rest of your life like this?” That was all I needed to hear. I was going to summon to courage within me or die. I chose the path of courage.
I love when clients of mine decide to take that path. Empowerment shines out of them. I know that your Zen practice was essential to your recovery and you now have over 10 years both practice and study with residential training in a monastery which sounds incredible. Is it ok to use the word recovery? Tell me do you class yourself as recovered or recovering?
Recovered. 100%! Recovery isn't about never having a negative thought about our bodies. It's about the bandwidth we give our suffering. I don't entertain those thoughts on the days they show up. I am wholeheartedly engaged in spiritual practice, radical self-care, moderate movement, and nourishing food and social choices. My life is filled with magic, intention, purpose and awakening. I live for playing my part in the easing of human suffering.
It is clear you are achieving that. Your strap-line is "inspiring young women to lead authentic lives. Could you please tell us a bit about the mediums you carry this out through?
“Bodymind Talk” is a previous incarnation of what is now called “Love the Skin You're In”.
My talks have an inspirational quality. They light the way forth from any behaviours that are harmful - be they depression, substance addictions, disordered eating, or cutting by appealing to the authentic, intuitive voice that lives within every young woman. My facebook online community Love the Skin You're In Source It From Within provides another platform for dialogue. I love my follow-up yoga and mindfulness workshop Body Image Meets Embodiment.
Participants embrace the potent medicine of mindfulness. An exploration of the joy to be found in direct sensory experience, this is a stress management for self-care workshop that presents techniques for healthy living and positive relating. After opening and calming their minds and bodies through basic yoga and pranayama breathing exercises, participants are encouraged to dis-empower their negative ‘inner critic’ dialogue by attending to moment-to-moment sensations of the body. Composed and self-possessed, participants are now poised to learn skills for relating sustainably with self and others through emotional clearing techniques that honour feelings and affirm needs. Through a blend of insight, loving kindness and hip tunes. I am planning a Stellar Sister Training retreat in the Santa Cruz mountains this summer.
This sounds like something everyone should experience, regardless of their health circumstances.
I am hearing lots more about eating disorders through the media etc. than I did say 20 years ago. In your opinion Brie, are eating disorders on the increase or is it just becoming more acceptable to talk about them?
I think Eating Disorders have become a rite of passage into young womanhood for most. Stars like Alanis Morrissette, Katie Couric, Lady Gaga, Demi Lovato and more have helped open the gates to a more public discussion. Yes it's becoming more acceptable to talk about them.
What is the most vulnerable age for a young girl/woman?
I think that depends on her circumstances but in general studies show that girls have powerful self-esteem at age 9 and this plummets by age 13.
I know even at my age, with the lessons I have learnt so far, I can still sometimes look at a celebrity magazine image and think “I want a body like that”, even though I am aware how unrealistic and airbrushed many of them are. How big an influence do you think the media has on young women's self-esteem and body image?
I think the media is the single leading negative influence on young women's self-esteem and body image.
It is scary how exposed our children can sometimes be. There are many pro ana sites. Should parents be more vigilant monitoring their child's website usage?
Absolutely. Young people are averaging 9 hours daily digitalized. It's helpful to limit this time altogether and place priority on outdoor time, family time, and meal time.
Wow, that’s a huge amount of time. I agree family time is so important. I like to eat my meals around the table with my children to give us all a chance to talk.
Brie thanks so much for taking time out of your insane schedule to talk to The Happy Starfish. I really believe in what you are doing and hope, some day in the future, programmes like yours are offered as standard in schools around the world.
It’s been a pleasure Louise.