We absolutely adore Sydney Ness, LA Model, so we just had to sit down with her to dig a little deeper into her thoughts on body positivity and her journey with it.
What does body positivity mean to you?Body positivity means not only accepting the body you were so blessed to have, but also people around you. Not judging others for being "too small" or "too big". Just recognizing beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.
Have there been times in your life when you've struggled with your body image? If so, how did you overcome this?
Absolutely! I think it's very normal to feel insecure about your body at times. It took me a very long time to be grateful for the body that I have.
A few years ago I struggled with my eating in a very negative way. At first I honestly didn't realize I wasn't eating. I was going through an extremely stressful time in my life and always felt sick to my stomach and didn't feel like eating. I started to lose some weight and people started to take notice. Boys I used to have crushes on in high school were telling me how great I looked now that I was losing weight.
There was so much going on in my life that I had absolutely no control of and I realized I could control that I didn't eat so I could continue to get the positive response from people around me. I went down a very dark path for almost a year with my eating. I couldn't work out anymore because I was too weak from not eating and I lost all of my muscle mass. I had no idea the amount of damage I was doing to myself- physically and emotionally. I lost a lot of my hair and muscle definition and my metabolism would take a few years to get back to normal.
Because I wasn't eating, I was much more irritable with the people I loved and I slowly started pushing everyone out of my life that cared about me and were concerned about my eating. I've struggled with depression and anxiety my entire life. But because I wasn't eating both of those things heightened. I was at the lowest point I've ever been at in my life. I lost 55 pounds in under 4 months. I went from a size 10-12 to a 4. But even at a size 4, I wasn't small enough to be a regular model and I almost lost my modelling career because of my disordered eating.
I had lots of people trying to help me but I didn't see that when I was going through this. At my smallest I still saw myself as huge. I honestly can't pinpoint one moment where things changed in myself. After losing my hair and damaging the relationship I had with my modelling agent and my loved ones I eventually realized I had a problem and started to see a therapist who helped me get back on track.
There's always going to be something that I wish I could change about my body. But that is very normal for most things in life- there's always something we want to change. And once we change it, there's something else we want to change. I think it's always important to focus on the positive. I'm so grateful that my body can take me on incredible hikes and I'm so grateful for my health. I focus on those things rather than things I dislike.
What do you do to help yourself feel more positive about your body?
I exercise! I do it for my mental and physical health. But I always feel better after a good workout!
There's been times where I've had to stand in front of my mirror and list out loud the things I'm grateful for about my body to change my perspective.
Has anything changed since becoming more positive about your body?
All changes take time. I still have moments where I don't feel confident with my body.
I try and focus on how grateful I am for the body I have instead of all of my "flaws". We all create these imaginary flaws in our heads about ourselves that nobody would ever see in us. It's much easier said than done, but allowing what thoughts come into your mind about your body makes a big difference. If you allow negative thoughts into your mind and feed those negative thoughts it's much more difficult to see yourself as the beautiful person that you are.
As a model you put yourself out there frequently, how do you remain body positive in the digital & social media age?
This day and age is incredibly difficult to remain positive about my body some days. Each app you open or billboard or commercial you see is filled with beautiful people who have most likely been photoshopped. Media manipulation is a very real thing. So many ads are focused on our fundamental problem of always wanting to change ourselves. That could be something as simple as a new hair color or as dramatic as a "new you".
How often do you walk by a rack of magazines to see articles on magazine covers guaranteeing you to "lose 10 pounds in two weeks"? Why don't we see more ads and articles teaching us to love the bodies we have in two weeks? Katie Willcox, founder of Healthy is The New Skinny, really opened my eyes to how manipulative the media really is. Once you're able to realize this, it's so much easier to scroll through social media or a magazine without constantly comparing yourself!
If you could tell your younger self one thing from your loving yourself journey, what would you say?
Stop buying size 5 jeans when you're a size 7! When I was younger, I used to try and squeeze into the smallest pair of jeans that I could. I was much more concerned about the number of the size on the jeans instead of how I felt wearing them. Now I buy and wear clothes based on how they fit instead of the number.
Never in a million years would I think I would be answering body positive questions and giving advice. Loving yourself is a process, it doesn't happen overnight. Surround yourself with real friends and give energy to the people who support you and believe in you.
What tips would you give to someone about embracing the body they have?
- You can choose to focus on the good, or the bad. You can focus on what you don't have, or what you do.
- everything you see on social media and in the media isn't always reality. You can't compare your body to someone else's when their body doesn't even look like that!
- live a balanced life. It's okay to not work out everyday and eat a cupcake every once in a while.
- don't feed negative thoughts that enter your mind about your body. Dismiss them and realize you've been blessed with an incredible body and you have a lot to be grateful for.
See more from Sydney on her Instagram
For more #EteLove stories read our Q&A with Ete Swimwear Founder Jess
To help support the Positive Body Image movement, we are donating 100% of Profits from the sale of our Be Your Own Kind Of Beautiful T-Shirts to the Butterfly Foundation and ProjectHEAL - Shop the T-Shirts here (as worn by Sydney)