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Talking Body Image, Healthy Eating and Lifestyle with Guest Author Sylwina

If you’re in tune with the foodie-scene here in Switzerland, then you definitely know of my guest, Sylwina. Having a strong social media presence has made her a source of inspiration to many whether it is in the fashion, food or gastronomy world so here’s us talking body image, lifestyle and healthy eating with Zurich’s sweetheart!

*How did your journey start to being a healthy eating advocate?
Journey is the right word to define my path to healthy eating. It starts with awareness. I remember not really thinking much about what I ate. I was never a huge eater of meat nor fried foods but I definitely had a sweet tooth! I did not think about portions when I was younger so one sweet choice wasn’t enough or nor did looking into a healthier alternative. I was called “chubby“ then by a boy in my class, which led me to compare myself to other girls, women and models. Unhappiness with the way I looked followed and that drove me to find ways to lose the weight. I ended up coming across a low carb diet which meant giving up on a lot of foods I loved.

I made the classic mistakes: still eating too much fruit, eating salads with really fatty & high sugar sauces, instead of eating for example, bread & an apple (which I now know is actually a super healthy snack that I always loved). I ate apple with cheese because I thought this would help me loose weight and look like the ‘girls in the pictures.’ Unfortunately, I had no sense for portions, didn’t replace foods correctly and felt constantly hungry because I denied myself what I really wanted.  I did not loose nor gain any weight. For two years I was very unhappy with what I ate and constantly felt like I had to follow “food rules“ . It felt like constant punishment, denying myself little things I loved for no sensible reason, plus feeling bad when I looked in the mirror about what my body looked like. 

Fast forward a few years later, I discovered the concept of intuitive eating. This experience gave me the basic direction in which I first started to listen to my own body and appetite, learned basic things such as when to stop eating when I was no longer hungry but not overly full. To this day, intuitive eating builds the base of my philosophy. It is based on freedom, change and possibility rather than rules and eating plans. How should I suggest a meal plan for someone to follow if I do not even know what I want to have for lunch tomorrow?

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 11.22.44*What does “healthy” mean to you?
Healthy means feeling fit, energetic, having a positive, optimistic mood and attitude. Being ‘healthy’ is also defined by me ensuring to visit my physicians regularly, getting regular tests done to be sure that I am ‘healthy’ from a medical perspective. Health deserves to be approached holistically and should be cared for the best way we can. With regards to “healthy eating”, my definition involves consuming wholesome, unprocessed foods, which is local and seasonal when possible. Healthy eating also involves moderation and balance without the extremes. A brownie or a glass of wine will not ruin your health. Any home-cooked recipe is O.K. What I stay clear of is “mass-industry” processed food.

*How do you deal with pressures of being a certain image/body type?
I am happy with the way I look now and I have embraced that. Of course, the pressure still exists. I will hear anything from ‘…don’t eat that you will get fat, you’re not 18 anymore’ to ‘…you should eat.’ The fact that I am happy with the way my body is today helps. It turns this pressure from being hurtful into simply being annoying. Sometimes I catch myself getting angry over the ignorance of such people. I also get really defensive when I see others subjected to it.

I have had many from my community open up to me about suffering from an  eating disorder or feeling the pressures of fulfilling a certain ‘ideal’. While I am grateful that they feel comfortable to confide in me, I am very saddened by it. This has been the biggest burden throughout my role as a healthy eating advocate. We are influenced by what we see, read and hear. What is important is having the right people around you, doctors, nutritionists and fitness experts. These are the people whose opinion I trust. I can only advise people feeling insecure about the way they look that they consult a professional rather than their friends, peers or even family members. Finally, I believe the best way for us to ‘deal’ with that negativity is by speaking up & encouraging others to do so as well. 

*Have you experienced any body shaming?Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 11.23.29
Of course! People can be so judgmental. Because I am tall and slim, people feel it is okay to make a comment about it. I had an incident at an IPL appointment recently, which involves you getting naked in front of a stranger, and the lady looks at me and says ‘you look like a pile of bones’ – Well, thank you… that just made me feel much more comfortable now. I have also experienced public body shaming, which goes beyond being insensitive to being straight rude and vicious. Perhaps these individuals seek to attract attention by labeling me as unhealthy or are just looking at starting a discussion of some sort. Regardless, it is not right to seek attention at the cost of someone else. I used to ignore such incidents but I now find myself standing up to them. Both reactions are Ok whether you choose to ignore or address it. If I am hurt or angered by something, I think one should express it in a respectful way. 

*What do you want readers to know about you and your philosophy? 
The core of my philosophy that I really want my readers to know is that mindfulness and eating wholesomely will lead them to the body that is perfect for them. To achieve that, they need to first disconnect themselves from a certain body ideal that they think they are supposed to be. In my case, I do not diet yet I listened to what my body needs. I challenge myself in every aspect of life with a mix of motivation and moderation. I am active because I love the outdoors and move to release the energy built up within.

Health comes in different shapes and sizes so does being attractive.  Happiness, confidence and strength are the attributes that make a person attractive and not their weight, body type or facial symmetry. Another important aspect that I want my readers to know is that healthy living is about aspiration and not perfection. To this day,  I do engage in some habits that are not ‘perfect’. For me, the focus is more about having a goal and working  towards it and sometimes, we do not achieve that goal. That doesn’t necessarily label us as failures. Peer pressure can be destructive but so does pressuring yourself to pursue something that may not be attainable. What is comes down to is this: freedom, acceptance and self-love. At the end, that’s what nurtures growth! 

Screen Shot 2016-06-04 at 16.00.34About Sylwina
Sylwina is a Swiss-based food blogger, model, healthy eating advocate and curator on the art of living. She is also the founder of Sharesquare given her strong and influential presence in the social media community. Head to her blog www.sylwina.com for all things food, gastronomy, fashion and healthy living!

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