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Filtering by Tag: body image

A Reflection on Bikini Beach Photos with Supermodels

Danika Brysha

7270.9481541

I recently got back from a trip to Miami with two friends.  Did I say friends?  I meant supermodels...

I spent so many years of my life trying to lose weight.  I wanted to be a model.  I wanted to be those pictures of my friends above.  I wanted to be recognized as the beautiful one- the one that society takes and puts a big skinny stamp on saying "you're special".  I wanted to be anything but the chubby, class clown with tons of friends and no boyfriends.  And so I spent 15 years dieting, bingeing, throwing up my meals, taking appetite suppressing drugs, and starving- and then beating myself up over the fact that my willpower wasn't strong enough to get me to where I needed to be.  The place where I thought happiness lived. Somewhere in the gap between my thighs.

It took me a long time but I finally got burnt out and decided I was ok with the hand I'd been dealt.  I started focusing on my strengths rather than shortcomings.  I was tall and felt beautiful most days, and years of having to work to get people to like me landed me one kick-ass personality and some impressive bantering skills. And then one day while at Bank of America, I was scouted and signed with a modeling agency.  At a size 14.  I would be what the industry calls a "plus size" model.  I'd been called a lot of names in my life from "whale" to "fat girl" to a "liability"- but this certainly had a more positive ring to it.  I got to live my dream without trying to be someone I wasn't. And three years later I'm living in New York City as a full-time, plus-size model with my face plastered up on Wilhelmina New York's website. A dream come true- and one that came to fruition when I finally stopped trying to be somebody I wasn't.

But with finding extreme love for yourself comes a new desire to really take care of yourself.  I finally realized my value and decided I wanted to be the best possible version of me.  Through nutrition, exercise, meditation, and a lot of self-reflection- I managed to reinvent myself in the last 9 months that I've been a Manhattan resident. I've lost 30lbs and various jobs but I've chosen my health as a priority. My mind is functioning at a level I couldn't even imagine and I feel more joy, energy, and clarity than ever before.  I am beginning to live my passion and purpose and it has come along with a new found sense of confidence.

Which is important when you take a vacation to Miami with supermodels.  Because honestly, three years ago, you could have paid me $10,000 and given me a free trip to the Greek Islands and I still wouldn't have dreamed about putting on a bikini and posing for a picture in the Aegean Sea. But when my friend Holly suggested a primarily free weekend trip to Miami, the new Danika said HELL YES!

And it ended up being the perfect weekend getaway.  We relaxed on the beach, cooked healthy dinners at home, spent time meditating and journaling, and managed to soberly out-twerk everybody at club LIV.  But throughout the entire weekend, I still found myself feeling different.  Identifying myself as the "big friend". Feeling like the third wheel to two bombshells and having to make up for my shortcomings with my exuberant personality and ability to ask strangers questions for an hour straight without being bothered that they haven't even asked how to pronounce my weird Croatian hybrid of a name.  Dan-uh-kuh. Thanks for asking.

And so on the last day, when our tans were the darkest they'd be getting, Holly and Alexis suggested a group bikini photo by the ocean.  I quickly responded "I'm good, I'm just really comfortable" which really meant "I'm not good and I'm really uncomfortable posing next to you freak shows".  But because I am quite possibly the biggest pushover in all of the land, I finally obliged and struck my pose for the 75-year old Italian men that were one Instagram filter away from a heart attack- and for the one picture ever that I hoped for a finger over the lens, they managed to snap with pure precision.

We returned to our chairs and I requested full approval before posting rights.  And then it happened. I really looked at the photo.  Rather than seeing some version of negative thoughts and assumptions of my differences, I had no option but to admit that I looked GOD DAMN AMAZING! And I also looked just like my friends. Did I say friends? I meant supermodels.

The supermodels who had spent the weekend equally concerned with their own bodies. All of us too busy tearing ourselves down inside to notice that we were all in this together.  Feeling "bloated" or "saggy" or "too pale" or "not toned".  The ones who asked if they looked good in their outfits and the ones that borrowed MY makeup and wanted to know how I ate and what I was cooking and what kind of workout I did at the gym.

And something really struck me.  Even the girls that the media prints in the pages of your magazines- in store windows and taped to teenager's (and murderer's) walls have the same insecurities that we all do.  They wake up having days when they feel amazing but they also wake up feeling less than their best quite often.  They're looking for the latest beauty tips, the best workouts, and the healthiest dinners. They're feeling insecure in their skin because not even THEY feel like the photoshopped version of themselves that's glued to your fridge in an effort to empower you to stop eating.  Empowerment comes from love by the way, not hate or fear.

And so here I am, sharing my Supermodel Bikini Beach photo with the world.  Because someone out there is looking up to me and wanting what I have. And to be honest I don't blame them.  Cause I look good.

And so do the supermodels.  I mean, my friends.

VIDEO: Meditation, Tuning In, and My Weave

Danika Brysha

I've gone and done it friends.  I've started meditating.  And I can't really stop. It's a massive game changer and I had no idea what those crazy meditating people were talking about until my girl Oprah offered me a free 21-day meditation challenge. And if there are two things in this world that I can't say no to, it is Oprah and anything that's free.

Just by sitting still and quieting my conscious thoughts for 20 minutes a day, I have uncovered so many things that I had previously buried with ideas of how things should be, expectations and anxiety, and stories of how I wasn't quite good enough. It has been less than two weeks and I've already discovered a few key points AND seen them playing out immediately in my daily life. Let's just say I've been using the phrases "Wow!" and "Holy Sh!t" in my journal a lot lately.

Here is what I now know for sure through my mediation practice:

1. Everything we need, every single thing, is within us

2. When we find it in ourselves to stop worrying and to trust that we'll be taken care of and everything will be ok, the universe will have the space to get to work.  And that damn "universe" (or God or Energy or whatever you prefer to call it) knows what's best for us. Like always.

3. Letting go of our conscious thoughts allows us access to our core, deeper ones- the ones that know us best and that aren't affected by the stories and lies we tell ourselves- the subconscious self has all the answers but we have to be in a position to listen.

And so maybe this makes me a hippy but I'm certainly ok with that identification if it means I can keep this up on the reg. Do you meditate?  I'd love to hear about your experience if so... mainly to prove that I'm not crazy.  And because I love you. I realized that while meditating. You're welcome.

Check out my experience via video blog, a cameo from Kingsley, and find out why I put my weave in for your viewing pleasure...

Practicing Vulnerability: Journals Unedited

Danika Brysha

In the last couple months, I have been journaling every day.  I absolutely love to write and when I do, time stands still. It has been the first time that I've been able to really make sense of my thoughts and to truly access that deeper level that has been buried or numbed for so long. Most of my blog posts take fragments from my journal and are edited to suit an audience but every now and then I want to share with you the dialogue that comes straight from my heart.  My journal entries, completely unedited.  Here is what came up this morning...

photo 1

Date: Friday, April 11th, 2014

Time: 12:30-1:30pm

Location: NYC- Meatpacking District: random table and chair outside Gaslight

I decided to stop and sit in the action of the city to do this morning's journaling.  With the exception of the cigarette smoke that's reaching my health bubble, everything is pretty perfect.  I just had a casting at Milk Studios so I'm looking pretty top notch as well. I like being alone in a big city occasionally.  All sorts of energy passing by as I peacefully sit here and write.

I want to feel like New York is as magical as if I was sitting in the middle of Paris or Barcelona.  And it is!  It can just be hard to recognize when you feel like it isn't going anywhere.  When you live here it is really easy to take for granted the fact that I'm living in the most beautiful part of the most amazing city in the world.  How lucky am I?!

I really don't need much to make me happy.  Getting good sleep, getting up and ready for the day, and getting out into the world is so fulfilling.  What I'm doing right now is what I hope to be doing forever.  And its so great to know just how little I really need to be happy. A journal, a pen, a roof over my head, food to eat, and love and support around me.  I could really make that a reality anywhere.

photo 2

It's truly a great day in NY.  The first since I've moved here that was really suited to sitting outside and writing.  I have a feeling that Spring will be when I fall madly in love with this place.  As I've been spending more time out and about, meeting people and being present, I'm reminded of how many wonderful people are out in this world.  It's a true shame that we don't get to meet all of them but I trust that the universe brings together the right ones. 

I've been really wanting to be my true, authentic self more lately.  I notice that I still wear a lot of masks and that I want nothing more than to totally strip myself of them in all arenas. The thing is, I know I'm a beautiful, passionate person worth of love and I truly believe that I'd find even more support and much deeper connections if I could just find a way to cut out all the bullshit.  All of the caring what people think, trying to please everyone, and anything I do that suggests I'm trying to be something that I'm not.  I know I'll get there.  I've already come so far and I know it's just a matter of time.  I'm just going to try to be more aware of when I think I may be faking or trying too much and to make some positive shift.

(My friend) Julia is staying with me and she's just so real. So able to be vulnerable and not concern herself with what I think when she tells a story.  She seems to just be really in tune with herself which I admire.  For so long I numbed myself to all my emotions so I can't expect to start feeling and being completely in tune with them right away.  It all takes time.  It's a journey much like mine with food.

photo 3

I'm beginning to get a lot more comfortable with being hungry.  I've found that now that I've told myself that being hungry is ok, I'm a lot less frantic about the concept.  I can relax and live more, knowing that I don't have to plan every move around my next meal.  Knowing that food will always be there and that I won't starve.  It feels really freeing.  And I think that's gonna be the key to being able to tune out the thinking about food all day thing.  Because when I know its ok to be hungry, I can forget to worry about it and in turn focus on living fully during the remainder of my days.  When its not a constant concern, I'll be able to forget about it- which for me is the ultimate goal. 

To only think of food and eating when my physical body tells me it needs fueling.  That would be a true cure for me.  The goal of all of this.  To take all the power away from food and to view it strictly as fuel. 

Be someone who "forgets to eat" or who finally views eating as another normal daily task like going to the bathroom or sleeping.

Something we think about when our body alerts us to its necessity and that we don't think about when it doesn't. That's how I define being cured from food addiction.  That's the END!

I think I've always had a hard time determining what the goal was.  What to strive for at the very end of all of this.  What I can tell people to expect when they can finally conquer all of this.  Being the kind of person that can have a box of Cheez-Its go stale in the cupboard or find a bag of peanut M&M's that have expired in your pantry.  

And fortunately through all of this I've managed to become super passionate about health and nutrition as well.  Thinking for so long that they were two completely related concepts but really they're quite different.  I'm glad my comfort eating led me to thinking nutrition was the answer because though I'm realizing that it isn't, I managed to gain an extreme love and passion for quality, real, whole foods in this process of self-discovery.  And that is truly invaluable!

Danika

Vulnerability and the ProFreshNess of being REAL

Danika Brysha

Working in the fashion and beauty industry gives me a firsthand view of just how much fake-ness goes into most of the media we are exposed to.  My Facebook status just yesterday asked where I could find a great spray tan place for an upcoming swimwear shoot.  I'd be lying if I said I wasn't excited about my friend's comment that they threw in a few bonus airbrushed abs.  And as I pack my hair extensions, get my acrylic toenails glued on, and sit for hours being made up for camera, I am often reminded of how refreshing it is to sit around in a completely unsexy sweatsuit and take in the moments where I get to be 100% myself.  Like right now for example.

I've recently started to recognize just how important it is to find the courage to be vulnerable. It allows us to connect to others on a much deeper level, and to know that we are not alone in whatever it is that we struggle with.  So when my girl Christina recently moved to L.A. from the big apple, I knew I had to pick her brain (on video duh) and find out how she does such a great job of promoting realness, vulnerability, and overall epicness on her world famous blog proFRESHstyle.

Check out my interview with Christina above as she talks about why she feels it is important to share so much of herself, how opening up about her sexual assault brought her even closer to her readers, and how she finds balance between comedy and sensitivity.

And then check out our collaboration over on Christina's page where she teaches me how to properly use Bay Area slang.  Cashin' out all over the place...

Health Challenge: Cutting Out Processed Foods… without obsessing

Danika Brysha

I had the privilege of interviewing health and wellness expert, Chelsea Hise-Strate, of Life Balance by Chelsea.  She is like my own personal Dr. Oz.  Except not really anything like that.  I recently decided that I want to do whatever it takes to live my best life ever and that it was time to start questioning almost every behavior that I have.  I told Chelsea this and she decided to give me a personal challenge.  The challenge was to not eat any processed foods for one week and to keep a food journal documenting what I ate, when I ate it, and how I was feeling.  Chelsea sent me over a cheat sheet and some info for my first day of the challenge which you can see here.  Check out the video to see how the challenge went.  Spoiler alert:  I’m addicted to clean eating!

And if you missed the original interview, you can see it here

There you have it.  I’ve been sucked in to the healthy living lifestyle and I don’t see myself leaving it any time soon.  I love that feeling when something just clicks and you know you are on to something.  I knew I could do the challenge but I had no idea just how much it would change my body and ultimately my life.  If I feel this great after a week of eating like this then I can’t imagine how I’ll be feeling in a few months or even years.  I’ve always had some acne and it has been clearing up like crazy.  My energy and positivity is through the roof and I have had multiple friends comment on the physical change they see in me, specifically in the brightness of my eyes!  I sound like a total hippy granola lover right now (raw, organic granola that is).  And I’m ok with that.

If you’re interested in seeing what I ate over the course of the week and how I was feeling, click here.

Food has always been an issue for me.  As some of you know, I had a pretty severe eating disorder for about a decade of my life.  I spent all my energy being consumed with weight loss and food.  I have to admit that when I was given this challenge, I was a bit fearful.  Afraid that consuming my mind with food would plunge me back into the disordered mindset I had finally fought off.  Scared that putting so much energy into recording my every bite would flash me back to the years I spent counting every single calorie.  But after honest consideration, I decided that I am at a healthy enough place in my life that I could take on this challenge.  And I am more than grateful that I did.

women-food-and-god

So much of my eating issues have been based around control.  I’m not sure if eating disorders ever fully go away but I can promise that they lose almost all of their power with each and every day that you commit to overcoming them.  Not only was I altering my diet and recording my every bite, I was continuing the ongoing process of learning to eat out of physical hunger rather than emotionally. I have to fight every day to not reach for comfort food any time I feel stressed, tired, overwhelmed, sad or bored.   Geneen Roth is an author who has changed my life and I highly recommend her books to anybody suffering from emotional eating or who feels like they are constantly in a battle with food and their body.

But with this challenge I found that I felt more in control than ever before.  I didn’t obsess over what I was eating- I chose to eat things because I started listening to my body and paying attention to what made it feel good.  I was able to recognize that I didn’t need to be perfect with this.  All that mattered was that I did my best.  I was more in tune with my body than every before.  Where I used to look for food as an escape from how I was feeling, I was finally able to get fully in touch with myself.  I felt like I could finally shift my thought process from seeing food as an evil, to recognizing how wonderful fresh nutrient-rich food could make me feel.

It is early to say this, but I’m fairly certain that this is the start of a lifetime of health, wellness, and self-appreciation.  I have no plans to be perfect but I have every intention of giving it my best shot.  This challenge has woken me up to how connected everything truly is.  Because I am feeling so great physically, my mind is clearer and I am happier.  I am infinitely more productive, driven, and present, and I have been spending my new excess of energy on trying to bring joy to all those that I come into contact with.

Have any of you experienced similar results from a change in your diet and lifestyle? I would love to hear your story of transformation and share it with other readers so we can continue to inspire people to live their best lives possible.

I will keep you guys posted on how this all progresses but as of now it has been two weeks since I started and I have no intention whatsoever to stop.  Thanks for supporting me in this journey and if you have any questions, comments, or feedback, I would absolutely love to hear it!

Check out Chelsea's website here: Life Balance by Chelsea