ON: Eating Disorders

A collaboration with The Exposure Project

My name is Eirinie, I am a 31 year old mother of one (if you don’t count the dog) and wife to one. One man. His name is Adam, but that’s neither here nor there. I am a writer all of the time but a model some of the time, and that is how I actually make money. It is also tied closely to my personal struggle with mental illness, my little eating disorder that was once not so little. 

I’ve been trying to write about anorexia for years but I never quite felt I was hitting the mark, or being fully honest, or being kind to myself, so when The Exposure Project asked me to contribute, I saw it as a goal renewed.

 I have struggled with Anorexia Nervosa for maybe 15 years, sure I dabbled in bulimia but anorexia was my jam, occasionally still is my jam. Weirdly, I’ve also been modelling for a little over 15 years, but I cannot see a correlation. Nope, nothing linking those two things at all. 

 Nah not really, if I were an amateur detective creating a DIY crime map in my living room fueled by coffee and adderall and a deep desire to know the truth, there would be but one red thread leading from one issue to another. Because in fact my eating disorder can be traced directly back to age 17 when I went on the pill and gained weight and my booker at the time (the person at my modelling agency in charge of getting me jobs) told me I needed to drop 15lbs. I had put on, at MAX, 10. When I say I had never considered my body in this way, as needing to be fixed or altered like a garment, I am not exaggerating. Sure, I had coveted other girls’ bodies on set, had even convinced myself I wanted to be blonde, but nothing concrete, no changes that I had to actively work on and monitor. I have always stayed on the slender side, and before 17 not one thing I ate affected my external body. 

It was such a formative age, and perhaps I would have eventually come to hate my thighs or stomach or legs or face on my own, and I’m sure my upbringing and the way we talked about food contributed, but I truly consider that booker (Sasha, her name was Sasha) to be the crux, and wonder if she knew the path she set my brain on that day.

Anorexia for me is deeply linked to my anxiety, my body dysmorphia and my feelings of loss of control. I began to wonder what people thought of my body and of me, and as I could not control these things I stopped eating and exercised in the solitude of my dorm. I logged on to chat rooms (remember those?) to share tips and tricks for both stimulating and hiding your weight loss. I did one particular famous “cleanse” for 14 days with a model friend, I ate no solid food and abused laxatives. I was so thin and ill, I felt like nothing, like no one. And the worst thing was my career flourished. My bookers suddenly loved how I looked. No more grabbing my thigh to indicate where I needed to work on, no more hints about the gym partnership the agency had just fostered. But in my head, instead of gaining control, I spun out, I felt as if I was floating from the nothingness of it all. 

 I tried a therapist a friend made me see, but I hated him. I didn’t realise then what I know now- finding the right fit of therapist is as much a journey as finding a babysitter you trust, or a masseuse you love; it takes patience and tenacity. I was in no place for that back then so I just gave up on the idea completely. 

Help finally came from an unexpected place, from a boyfriend who I had been friends with in university who was kind and nurturing and good to me in a way I had not experienced before. He respected my weird food rules (don’t watch me when I eat, don’t ask me when I last ate), and treated me like a skittish deer. Later, when my eating habits had evened out, I recall being bold enough to say to him, “back in uni I had anorexia”. This was big for me, I had never said it out loud to anyone, I stayed away from that word as using it would be to admit something about myself I was not ready to confront. He quietly said, “Yes. I remember.” It really shook me; I had always assumed that my stealth exercising and disgust of eating and food in general had gone completely unnoticed. He had seen. He had known. And other people had too. I wasn’t nothing, I was here with everyone else. Shoutout to you, Jake.

I have achieved a lot, despite what my brain may tell me in the still of the night. I have sustained a modest modelling career for nearly 20 years (!!!! Don’t start a career when you’re 14, you guys), I have worked with some wonders and some disasters. I have walked for Jean Paul Gaultier and Tsubi. I even modelled in a Rimmel commercial with Kate Moss, in fact they had to bring in an apple box for her because I am so tall. I have a roster of wonderful companies (shoutout Grove, shoutout Baggu) that I work with regularly. Modelling took me to LA, where I met my angel of a husband. Modelling funded every dumb idea I have ever had. But what could I have done without that physical manifestation of anxiety in my life? What could I have done, unhindered, untethered by the male gaze? We’ll never know, but perhaps there is hope for my kid.

I now see a therapist. I now talk about my issues frequently with my husband, I try to be frank about my idiosyncrasies despite the fact that they make me sound mad as a box of frogs. I still get angry if I have had a particular meal in mind, Mexican say, and don’t get to eat it and so then do not eat anything as if in protest to the Universe. 

Do I consider myself recovered? Not really, but then how can I be in a world that harbours the deep lying subtext that women are their external beauty only? With the modelling industry I myself am a cog in being as fucked as it is? Every woman I know struggles with weight concerns and body dysmorphia, is my story any more or less valuable than theirs?
These are questions I grapple with constantly and now, as a mother to a beautiful two year old who may (but I pray to the fucking ether she does not) hate her body one day, I also wonder how these acts of self hatred can be perserved by her evergrowing brain.

I want her to know she is worthy not for her innate and profound beauty, but for her mind and her deeds and her words. That a casual observation of our bodies is necessary for our health but that there is a limit to how much we need to police ourselves or change ourselves or try to force ourselves to fit into this world. And that is my ultimate judge and jury: not the mirror and not my fucking agency, but my kid.

Hair care.

Every morning I wake up and wash my hair.

Correction. Not wash- I condition it every, single, goddamn, day. I shampoo once every week, or sometimes two, depending on my sweat levels. I comb it through in the shower with an Olivia Garden brush (is this a joke? Is this her real name? I think about this every day). I know I shouldn’t comb it in the shower coz it stretches the follicles like taffy or something but it’s the only way it doesn’t hurt like hell or take 45 mins to do.

I don’t have a specific brand I’m loyal to, but anything that says “for dry damaged hair” is usually my jam, but i do try to keep away from the sulfates and parabens and all that.

I condition my hair to comb, then I rinse, then I condition and leave that in whilst I do everything else I do in the shower: scrub my bod with a shower mitt, massage my muscles, shave my legs (LOL no, sorry Adam).

I rinse the conditioner out at the very end of my shower when it’s been in my hair for about 5 mins (LOL no, sorry California). I comb it through again, with my fingers this time, and hop out the shower, dripping water everywhere much to the chagrin of my husband. Even now he is teaching our daughter to dry off INSIDE THE SHOWER god who has the time or patience? Why not just quietly drip all over the house?

THEN. I use Shea Moisture curl cream (the pink tub). I’ve used many many curl creams but this one is my fave, it’s cost efficient and you can find it in CVS and wholefoods, even though it says for thick hair and mine is thin. I have thin hairs but a fuck ton of them, they can’t handle too much heavy product. I run it through with my fingers, gently scrunch all over, and I never ever do the finger twist with my curls because I am very lazy and don’t have the time.

Right after that I use Ouai rose hair oil on it even though I’m pretty sure it would work better on dry hair. I never blow dry my hair coz I’m very lazy and I don’t have the time, plus my sis in law hair stylist (Amy Carson @ Luxe. salon in Burlingame, go see her and tip her big) tells me curly hair breaks easier and whatever I can do to save it from too much heat I should do. Which is fine by me because, again, I AM VERY LAZY AND I DON’T HAVE THE TIME.

If you don’t want to go to work with wet hair you CAN blow dry at this point, but may I suggest doing it upwards so as not to pull down the curl (like I used to do when I wanted 80s hair metal hair, god what a time), OR tilt your whole head upside down and do it like that, spine permitting.

On shoots they sometimes tong the top part of my hair which can become a frizzy halo, and I like that look but honestly a little mess and frizz feels more like me.

Ok that’s it the whole shebang you’ve seen behind the curtain now NEVER ASK ABOUT MY HAIR AGAIN.

Some thoughts, some words

I’ve been meaning to share my writing in public for a long time. I am often struck, like all creative people, by the thought that my work is not good enough, not interesting enough. Perhaps that is the case but perhaps I should let someone else in to form their own opinion, instead of filling in the blanks for myself.

This blog will be a gathering of my work, focusing on things that affect me (and probably you) everyday- dealing with loss, finding my feet as a new parent, struggling as an ex anorexic.

I hope that by sharing my thoughts on some of the things that matter most to me I can be frank, honest and open and encourage you to do the same.

“Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.”
― Mary Oliver