It’s hard to imagine self-described fitness freak Antonia Erikkson as a ghost of a girl, lying in a hospital bed with a tube up her nose, by scroll far back enough in Antonia’s eatmoveimprove Instagram and that’s exactly what you’ll see. Though Antonia currently has the body of a real life Wonder Woman, once upon a time she was hospitilized for anorexia. She documented her journey to health through social media, inspiring other girls who were struggling to get healthy. In our interview, Antonia tells us about her journey to health, shares words of advice and her daily fitness mantra.
Tell us a bit about your journey?
My eating disorder started in the beginning of 2012 but it wasn’t until that summer that it started to get really serious. By September I was diagnosed with Anorexia and eventually admitted to hospital – to the psychiatric emergency. I was basically told that if I hadn’t come in that day I probably wouldn’t have survived another night, and that’s where I decided to start fighting for my life. I was at the emergency room for 6 weeks before finally being released and continued my journey at home. By February I had reached my goal weight and was allowed to start exercising again, but it wasn’t until September 2013 that I actually felt recovered mentally. It was also during this time that I found weight training and started exercising to be strong. It was almost like I felt so strong mentally that I wanted it to show on the outside too, so from here onward it was all about getting stronger and exercising because I LOVE my body, not because I hate it. Eating to fuel my body for exercise, not exercising to burn off calories I had eaten. Today, I only do workouts I enjoy. I never exercise with anxiety and I live by an 80-20 rule where 80% of what I eat is nourishing, healthy food and the other 20% is what I call “soul-food”.
Why did you decide to document it through Instagram?
I started my Instagram the day I was admitted to hospital, and documented my entire journey. From the beginning my account was called ”fightinganorexia” and it wasn’t until later that I changed my name to “eatmoveimprove”. I started the account because I had seen that there was a network of support on Instagram where people with eating disorders or other mental illnesses reached out to each other and supported each other. It was like an ”Instagram-family” which I could turn to for support and advice when things got tough, or just to vent my thoughts. It became really important to me to be an inspiration for my followers, who believed in me and were rooting for me, and I wanted to show them that it was possible to recover. It really helped me in my recovery and it motivated me to get healthy.
Whats the difference between being skinny and healthy?
Skinny is being thin, often underweight and also with an ”addiction”, or constant goal to be skinny. Healthy doesn’t have a weight or a certain look. It is equal parts physical and mental health, where the body and mind work together and where you accept yourself as you are. Healthy is doing things you love and taking care of your body and mind: it is making choices that enrich your life and also respecting your needs.
What are your words of advice for girls who are struggling to get healthy?
Realize that it isn’t about weight or numbers or your body. It is about mental illness. It is about you for some reason not being able to accept yourself as you are and taking it out on your body instead of dealing with the underlying problem. The most important thing in recovery is dealing with your demons, and that usually takes professional help and therapy. So firstly, admit that you are ill. Secondly, ask for help. And thirdly, GIVE IT A TRY. When you are sick you can’t think or be logical since your brain doesn’t have enough nourishment. To be able to understand complex problems like anorexia you need to be able to use your brain and really analyze yourself. So my advice is to give recovery a try! Gain your weight back, get healthy, try it out for a while… If you really hate it, if it’s really that bad – you know exactly what to do to go back to where you were. But I promise you, life, health and happiness is so much better and when you reach that point you will never want to let go of it.
Why do you think girls fall into eating disorders and what are some tips for asking for help?
I think girls fall into eating disorders because it gives a sense of control, and when things are chaotic around us or we have feelings that are difficult to handle that make us feel out of control – we usually look for a way to push these feelings away, instead of dealing with them. Why eating disorders are such a common ”go-to” for girls is because of the way girls constantly are judged by appearance. There are commercials everywhere drowning us with ideals and ”perfect” bodies. The way women are portrayed in media gives us the idea that looks are everything. If someone already is insecure or questioning themselves, or just a teenager trying to find themself, these messages become very confusing. Being battered with messages telling them they aren’t good enough leads to their self-confidence crumbling. Eating disorders become a desperate cry for help, a hope to fit in and be accepted and a way to control their insecurities. It’s sad and a huge problem.
When it comes to asking for help, I think the most important thing is to admit you have a problem and ask for help. Understand that eating disorders only lead to misery. Asking for help isn’t something to be ashamed of – it shows strength and courage! You deserve recovery and if I can do it so can you!
What is your fitness motto/ mantra?
My Insta name “eatmoveimprove” summarizes my philosophy! EAT healthy nutritious food most of the time. MOVE everyday in some way and stay active, challenging your body. And try to IMPROVE every aspect of your life, every single day.
How often do you work out? What’s your favorite way to do so?
It really depends. Exercising is a part of my life, not my entire life, so when things get in the way I don’t always have time. But usually around five times a week! I mix weight training with more pulse focused workouts, like biking or running!
What are your top fitness tips?
I think to find what works for you. Not everybody is a runner, not everybody is a bodybuilder, not everybody wants to be vegan or has time to make juices everyday. You don’t need follow trends or feel like you have to exercise or eat in a certain way, just find what works in your life and do that! The best exercise is the one you enjoy and being healthy is just as much about mental health as it is physical health! When you find balance you see results, but stressing about things is just about the worst thing you can do for your body. BREATHE, listen to your body and don’t forget to smile.
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