I woke up defeated. And for that, I’m grateful.

I woke up defeated. I woke up to a slip under my apartment door saying that if I didn’t pay my almost 3 months overdue rent within 5 days that legal action will be taken. I’m wanting so badly to go numb. Distract with food and technology. With the food, I feel so lost. Feeling like I do so much better when there are no restrictions but then feeling like I’ll eat the world if there aren’t. I just want to be present.

I trekked to the 12:15 food support meeting today only to find out it was cancelled. I think God just needed me to get out in the world today.  To take a walk.  To escape my apartment and my comfort zone.  I needed that meeting today but maybe this is what I needed more.  I’m feeling so vulnerable.  So hopeless and beat down.  I need a miracle.

I guess the miracle is this never ending hope that I have.  This unshakable certainty that one day, it will all be worth it. The knowledge the greatest days of my life are ahead of me. That at any second, things could shift. I assume that when people take their own lives it’s because they’ve lost hope.  They’ve lost that certainty that no matter how dark the night is, the sun will always rise in the morning.  I hope to God that I never lose that hope.  And my light is so fucking bright too.  Hope, expectation… whatever it is, I know it’s there and I know I’m headed in the right direction.  I know without a shadow of a doubt how massively successful I already am and will someday be.  Maybe that’s the miracle.

I’m frustrated with external factors right now.  Like the guy next to me at Starbucks face-timing loudly in public.  At least his language is poetic.  It’s something European.  But I know better now.  I know that my irritation is a reflection of me, not him.  Nothing external can shake me if I’m feeling whole myself, but I’m not lately and that’s the fear.  Because it brings with it the feeling of losing control over myself.

His beautiful language makes me want to go somewhere. Travel to Europe and start fresh.  Turn off the media, the attention-seeking, the highlight reels- and just write.  Find myself even further.  But I know that’s just bolting.  And I know better that no place or person or job or acknowledgment can make me feel whole.  I have to get there myself.  No matter where I am. I can however adjust my surroundings to better support myself, but it’s up to me.  Man this is annoying.  Put headphones on dude.

This idea of presence is coming across so intensely lately.  It’s the core of our existence I think.  Not escaping life. Not passing life off to addictions- giving our power away to anyone or anything.  When I binge eat, I’m taking my problems and my life and I’m saying “here food, you take it. It’s too heavy for me, I don’t want to feel it.” I used to do the same with alcohol and I’m beginning to think I do it with technology.  It lets us escape the present. When I eat enough, I stop feeling. Which is the goal in the moment, but eventually I begin to hate not being able to access my feelings, even the uncomfortable ones. I can’t write. I can’t communicate. I have to wait around for the fog to clear, and sometimes it takes days. Being more present is absolutely my goal for 2015, and ultimately life. It’s pretty all-encompassing. It’s the same way we dwell on the past or try to control the future.  All of this.  We’re escaping the only thing we truly have.  The present. The right now.  Today. And it makes sense because today is scary.

I used to think that people that said life was painful and hard were just pessimists, but I realize now that they were right and I was numb. I was choosing not to feel.  It was too uncomfortable but when you decide to bolt from the discomfort, it’s not exclusive. You bolt from all of it.

I want- rather I need- to start sharing my writing more. I know it would benefit others to hear it. I know its what I’m meant to do.  But life is one day at a time and I can be ok with that.

This is a dark time for me. Life is heavy but the light is there and for that I’m eternally grateful.  Maybe the answer to all of this is relinquishing control.  Stop trying to understand and manage everything.  Stop thinking so much about the food and the people and the “why”. Just be.

And so on days like these, I know my greatest tool is to express gratitude. Because I have so much to be thankful for.

I’m thankful for my own never-ending desire for complete awareness and authenticity.  I’m grateful that I get to wake up every day and do what I love. I’m grateful for the endless support I have in this life from family, and friends, and strangers.  I’m grateful to those that take the time to reach out and spread love.  I’m grateful to the authors and creators who share their expertise with us so we don’t always have to learn the hard way.  I’m grateful to Kingsley (my dog) for his very obvious acts of showing how completely in tune he is with my soul and spirit.  I’m grateful for my absolute certainty that this life is about goodness and joy and connection and love. I’m grateful to know that every single life matters as much as the next, that everyone has a dream inside of them whether they’ve tapped into it or not, and that every single person has their own unique genius that they are here to share with the world. I’m grateful for my moments of defeat and the moments of total clarity that always follow.  I’m grateful that I have such a deep desire to share, to connect, and a complete willingness to get publicly lost. I’m grateful for the knowledge that life has ups and downs but it can never break me unless I let it.  To know that vulnerability doesn’t equate to weakness. My willingness to finally start speaking from my heart and my willingness to feel everything (or at least try). I’m grateful to know that I already possess everything I could possibly need within me.  I’m grateful for every moment of darkness, for without it, I couldn’t possibly have this much gratitude for the light.

How to Survive Thanksgiving as a Clean Eater

How to Come Out About Food Addiction

There’s More to Clean Dating than Condoms

My 6000-Calorie Binge and My “A-Ha” Moment

How to Navigate Cocktail Hour When You’re On a Libation Vacation

What The Hell Does Clean Eating Mean?

Feeling Everything: Compulsive Overeating and Being Present Through Discomfort

I’m feeling everything lately.  And after over a decade of feeling nothing at all, it is a challenge to say the least.  All the ups and downs of being a human being. I’m trying to remind myself that this is normal.

I’ve been doing a lot of personal work over the last several months.  I decided in late December last year that 2014 would be the year that I look at what’s holding me back… and then change it.  I stopped drinking, cut out any drugs- prescription and illegal (even advil), and I cleaned up my diet. I started taking into account how I was spending my time (and who with) and tuned in to what was truly making me happy, rather than what society was telling me would make me happy.  I started meditating and doing a ton of journaling.  But at the core of me I always knew that what was truly holding me back was my relationship with food.

I’ve come to understand that for me, food is comfort.  It is the way I relax and the way I numb myself to anything I don’t want to feel.  Anything that’s unfamiliar or uncomfortable.  And so even though I hadn’t touched grains, dairy, refined sugar, alcohol, or any additive/hormone/chemical in several months, I still found myself using food as a drug. After 15 years of dieting and restricting- putting all my energy into finding a plan of eating that “worked” and that would allow me to lose the excess weight for good, I had to face the harsh realization that I was more or less the same size I’d always been.  None of it had “worked”. That’s when it hit me.  Controlling my food wasn’t the answer. It was something much deeper. It was in what I was using food FOR.  I’d put so much pressure on myself to the point that I was exhausted. Obsessed with productivity until I finally needed a release, and I found that in food.

Multiple times a week I would find myself alone at night eating up to 8,000 calories of “clean” foods.   3 Apples, 5 servings of almond butter, 3 Lara Bars, a bag of dried unsweetened mangoes, smoothies, eggs and bacon, whatever was in my fridge.  Adhering to my “guidelines” but desperate to escape myself for just a little while. Compulsive eating is seen as a really shameful thing and I promise that if you don’t do it yourself, you know someone who does.  It’s very easy to hide and it’s almost always done alone. From what I’ve seen, most sufferers are not overweight at all.  It occurred to me that I was essentially a functioning drug addict. That may seem dramatic but anybody who has lived it knows it’s true.  In my opinion, food addiction is one of the hardest things to manage because you can’t just stop eating entirely.

It has been two weeks now since I’ve had any sort of binge and I’ve been putting in a lot of work so that I can say that.  I will elaborate on this more at a later date but what this specific blog post is about is this idea of finally FEELING.  When you take away your comfort- be it food, alcohol, drugs, sex, exercise, another person, technology, whatever- and you give yourself nowhere to bolt to, your only option is to deal with all of the feelings.  The good and the bad.  And if I’ve learned anything, it’s that you absolutely MUST feel your emotions to expel them from yourself. Otherwise they just internalize and you carry them around with you.  So if you can, challenge yourself to stay present. Keep a journal and make a list of “I feel…” statements. Tune in! And most importantly, be incredibly compassionate with yourself through this process. It’s not easy.  But it’s certainly worth it.

 

More in my video blog…

8 Tips for Eating Clean and Healthy while Traveling

I’ve been spending a decent amount of time in NYC lately but last week I had a quick glimpse of my old jet-setting lifestyle and I have to admit that I’ve missed it a little bit.  Between Saturday afternoon and Tuesday evening, I hit Chicago for a friend’s gorgeous wedding, and then spent a couple days in Boston shooting for Talbots.

IMG_2114It was great to be back at work after losing almost all of my clients due to my weight loss over the course of this year.  I’m trying to remind myself that when it comes to modeling, this is just a transition period as I shift towards working with new clients that use models more my size.  I just know without a doubt that my time in the modeling world so far is only but a small glimpse, and I hope that I can use the platform it gives me to spread a very important message of nutrition and self-love.  Ok, I’m going off on a tangent. But seriously.

Normally when I travel, I pre-make and pack almost all of my food, but between prepping and arranging all of the food for my NYC meal delivery clients, I didn’t leave the time to prep enough for myself, and I barely had 5 minutes to throw everything in a suitcase and hop on the plane.  Bad girl.

Traveling without my reinforcements reminded me of how challenging it can be if you don’t prepare ahead or do some research.  And so I wanted to make a little video to help you (and myself) be more prepared for your next trip to the Maldives or St. Tropez or wherever you rich assholes seem to go every weekend on my Instagram feed. Feed. Why do they call it that? As if I needed another opportunity to think about my next meal.

What are some tips you like to use while traveling?

 

xoxo

Danika

 

A Reflection on Bikini Beach Photos with Supermodels

I recently got back from a trip to Miami with two friends.  Did I say friends?  I meant supermodels.  I know you perverts like visuals so here you go…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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