Provide a Safe Place. Allow your loved one to share their feelings and emotions with you. Try to avoid providing unsolicited advice and just lend a listening ear. They may be going through a whirlwind of emotions and need someone on their side rooting for them to overcome this issue.
As a part of my interview series with public figures who struggled with and coped with an eating disorder, I had the pleasure to interview Jacquelyn Son. She is a podcast co-host, wellness advocate and serial entrepreneur with a contagious laugh and infectious spirit. Jacquelyn empowers other entrepreneurs to reach big goals without sacrificing their health or happiness. You can find her on Glow Radio, a podcast for the sassiest of b*tches who are looking to dump their 9–5 for that #entrepreneur life. You can expect weekly conversations with unapologetic creatives, business owners and influencers. They discuss tips on how to reach your goals, manage your time and keep your sanity while being a major boss babe.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and what you do professionally?
Mypleasure! I’m a podcast co-host of Glow Radio and co-founder of a lash extension beauty company, Iridescence Beauty. I’ve always been someone with an entrepreneurial spirit and it just never felt right working at a 9–5. I studied marketing and business in university and hopped around in a variety of roles before starting the podcast and beauty company with my partners. Aside from business and entrepreneurship, another one of my passions is health & wellness — I previously worked as a personal trainer for almost 5 years. I had struggled with my eating disorder before I became a trainer and because I overcame so many personal health and body image issues, I was inspired to help others overcome their own challenges.
Thank you for your bravery and strength in being so open with us. I personally understand how hard this is. Are you able to tell our readers the story of how you struggled with an eating disorder?
I started my health and fitness journey about 7 years ago. Growing up, I was always the weak skinny girl and never cared too much about my health. I ate whatever I wanted and hardly exercised. I was usually one of the last girls to be picked for a sports team in gym class and lifting 3-pound dumbbells was challenging for me. As I grew older and entered university, I noticed that my metabolism started to slow down. School was stressful and walking around the freezing campus (I’m in Canada) just wasn’t fun. I dragged my butt to classes and spent the first half of the winter term eating banana bread and drinking hot chocolate literally every single day. It shouldn’t have been a surprise when I saw that I gained a few pounds. It wasn’t a big deal, but up until this point my weight rarely ever fluctuated. It was at that moment that something inside of me shifted and I decided that I couldn’t go on with my unhealthy habits.
At that point, I didn’t know anything about health or fitness. I thought that being ‘healthy’ meant just working out so I started following workout videos at home and noticed some positive changes in my body. However, I didn’t know much about healthy eating. I joined a fitness challenge with a community group and started learning more about nutrition. After I learned more about having the importance of healthy eating, I began to be very hard on myself when I ‘failed’ my diet. I went through cycles of being extremely restrictive and then binging like there was no tomorrow. I didn’t have a good body image, wasn’t happy and knew that my lifestyle definitely wasn’t healthy. I went from binge eating to orthorexia and kept searching for this ‘perfect’ diet, which I now know — doesn’t exist. I would avoid social gatherings because I didn’t want to be around ‘unhealthy’ foods and treats. The worst thing was that I felt like I didn’t have control over myself during my binging episodes. I constantly felt miserable and guilty.
What was the final straw that made you decide that you were going to do all you can to get better?
I had gone through multiple bad binges in a row. My friends around me didn’t really know what I was going through, nor did I know how to explain it to them. I would constantly go through binges and then try to work it off in the gym. It was a very unhealthy cycle. I remember I had just come back from a birthday party where I binged on SO much junk food including pizza, pasta, ice cream and more. I felt so sick and ashamed of myself. After that, I went on a camping trip with some friends where I continued to binge on whatever was available. When I came back from that trip, something in my mind just switched.
I was fed up with feeling sorry for myself and had a realization that I couldn’t keep letting my binging take over my life. When I had this awareness, my mind willed my body to stop binging and I gradually worked on renewing my mindset and self-image. I recognized that I needed to discover the deeper issues that were leading to my behaviours such as my insecurities. I worked on improving my mentality first and then my actions followed. During this time, I prayed often and held onto my faith to help me conquer my disordered eating habits.
And how are things going for you today?
I’m at a point now where I’ve found balance. It’s not always perfect, but I’m okay with that. I don’t eat the healthiest all the time or follow a strict workout schedule, but my mental health is the most important for me. I’ve realized that health encompasses so many things in addition to eating and exercising. It’s about your thoughts and relationships as well. I’ve learned to not be so hard on myself and stopped forcing myself to be perfect. I have days where I drink green smoothies and enjoy an intense sweaty workout, but I also have days where I don’t exercise and enjoy wine and pizza with friends instead. I no longer feel guilty about indulging and I feel in control of my actions.
Based on your own experience are you able to share 5 things with our readers about how to support a loved one who is struggling with an eating disorder? If you can, can you share an example from your own experience?
1) Empower Them
When someone is going through an eating disorder they are most likely feeling super insecure and unhappy with themselves. Remind them of their worth and let them know that they are a powerful person. Compliment them and help them remember the positives in their life.
2) Provide a Safe Place
Allow your loved one to share their feelings and emotions with you. Try to avoid providing unsolicited advice and just lend a listening ear. They may be going through a whirlwind of emotions and need someone on their side rooting for them to overcome this issue.
3) Let Them Know It’s OK To Make Mistakes
When I was going through binge eating, I wish someone had just gently told me that it’s completely ok to not be perfect all the time. I had put a lot of pressure on myself to stick to the perfect ‘diet’ and the perfect ‘routine’ and if someone had let me know that it’s perfectly fine to be a human who makes mistakes, it may have helped me overcome my issues earlier.
4) Find Testimonials To Share
When I was struggling with my eating disorder, it was very helpful and inspiring to read stories of other people who overcame similar issues. It gave me hope that I could recover and wasn’t alone.
5) Encourage Them to Seek Professional Help (if necessary)
If a loved one is going through some very serious issues, it may be necessary to encourage them to seek professional help from a therapist, counselor, etc. Let them know that you care about them and want the best for them. If they are open to it, you can help them research for some quality therapists in your area.
Is there a message you would like to tell someone who may be reading this, who is currently struggling with an eating disorder?
If I can overcome my eating disorder, you can too. You deserve to live your best life. Your mind is more powerful than you think. Fill your mind with positive life-giving ‘food’ and you will see changes in your life. This could mean listening to empowering podcasts/audiobooks/music, following positive social media accounts and reading motivational books or articles.
You are worthy and you are loved. The world wants what you have to offer and your personal challenges are what make you unique. You must truly believe that you can overcome your struggles and persevere until you do. I know sometimes it feels like the darkest times of your life, but know that there can be an end to this. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, you just need to look for it and not give up.
According to this study cited by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, at least 30 million people in the U.S. of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder. Can you suggest 3–5 reasons why this has become such a critical issue recently?
1) Societal Pressures & Social Media Comparison
Our society places so much pressure on people to look a certain way and have a perfect body shape. We can see this on TV shows, movies and ads all around us. Social media and the internet has become more widely accessible in recent years, which means that people of all ages are seeing these unrealistic body ‘standards’ promoted to them. It’s important to realize that people often post their highlight reel on social media and you don’t always see the negative parts of someone’s life. We often compare ourselves to the perfect images we see online and this can damage our self-esteem, leading to disordered eating habits.
2) Wanting Control
I find that the obsession with control is what led to my own disordered eating habits. People can feel like they don’t have any control in other parts of their lives like their work, relationships, etc. and the only way to exert control is by controlling their eating habits, which can turn into an eating disorder. This is all a lie that people can make themselves believe (myself included in the past), as the truth is, we do have control over all of our actions and not just what we eat. When people feel powerless they form unhealthy habits.
3) The Infection of ‘Busy’ & Overstressing Ourselves
Our society is so go, go, go these days that people don’t generally make time to reflect on their habits. I often see people priding themselves on being ‘busy’ and not intentionally making time for reflection and relaxation. (Sometimes I catch myself doing this as well.) It’s almost as if people aren’t busy, they feel like they aren’t ‘good enough’. With social media being so easily accessible to us, we don’t purposely make a lot of time to sit down with our thoughts. Whenever there is a free moment, we are usually on our phones. Most people I know are either workaholics or fill up their free time with the internet. Not a lot of people allocate time for self-care nowadays. Walking around with your cup empty all the time can further increase your stress and perpetuate unhealthy habits and a poor mindset. Being stressed and overwhelmed doesn’t allow us to act as our best selves. Many things could increase stress including negative workplaces, the pressure that we put on ourselves to perform perfectly, toxic relationships and more. It’s not usually on the top of our minds to learn how to deal with stress in a healthy manner.
Based on your insight, what can concrete steps can a) individuals, b) corporations, c) communities and d) leaders do address the core issues that are leading to this problem?
In my experience, the core issues that can lead to eating disorders include overwhelming insecurities, low self-esteem, poor body image, stress and being too hard on yourself. Below are some ways that, I believe, can address these root causes.
a) Individuals — simply be a kind human being. Care about the people around you. Know that your words can affect them. Do unto others as you want others to do unto you. Be there for your friends and listen when they need you. Be the type of person you’d like to attract.
b) Corporations — foster a positive and supportive environment. Be thorough in your hiring process and make sure to find employees that have a healthy & happy mindset. Have consistent meetings with your employees where they can openly share their thoughts and emotions without judgment.
c) Communities — Stop body shaming and celebrate bodies of all kinds. Encourage healthy mindsets and do not merely focus on appearance.
d) Leaders — Have a constant desire to be better. Learn from other successful leaders on how to develop a strong and healthy mindset. Know that your energy can greatly impact the people you are serving.
As you know, one of the challenges of an eating disorder is the harmful, and dismissive sentiment of “why can’t you just control yourself”. What do you think needs to be done to make it apparent that an eating disorder is an illness just like heart disease or schizophrenia?
Eating disorders are a very real issue and I think that sharing personal stories such as mine can bring more awareness to this. It’s not a surface problem and runs deep into the mind. Thus, if you are someone who has gone through an eating disorder and overcame it — please share your story! An eating disorder is an illness, but know that there is hope for recovery. ANYONE can overcome it and I am living proof of that.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that have helped you with your struggle? Can you explain why you like them?
I love listening or reading articles/stories about people who are successful and where I want to be. It doesn’t necessarily need to be health and fitness related, but I believe we can learn from people in any industry. One of my favourite podcasts to listen to while I was going through my struggle was The School Of Greatness by Lewis Howes. Some other public figures that I seek inspiration from including Tony Robbins, Shaun T, Amber Dodzweit Riposta, Chinae Alexander and Sarah’s Day.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
The quote “Nothing worth having comes easy” by Theodore Roosevelt speaks to me a lot and pushes me to keep going whenever I’m experiencing tough moments. It reminds me that challenges in life can help me grow and become a better person. I can choose to let situations either make me bitter or better.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am currently focusing a lot of energy on my podcast (Glow Radio) with my business partner, Clara. We speak a lot about developing a mindset for success, which can be applied to many areas in life such as business, health, and relationships. By sharing our personal stories of challenges that we’ve gone through, we hope to inspire others and let them know that they can overcome any problem that comes their way.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the largest amount of people, what would that be?
I hope to inspire as many people as I can to use social media and the internet to spread positivity and realness. We all have awesome stories to share and can help so many people by just sharing what we have overcome in our lives. No achievement is ever too small to celebrate. You don’t know who you could impact through your story. I am currently working on an online course with my business partner, Clara, teaching others how to launch their own successful podcast. I want to inspire a movement of people creating life-giving podcast channels and positively impacting the lives of millions of listeners.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Yes! You can find me on Instagram @_JacquelynSon, Youtube user Jacquelyn Son and my podcast on Instagram @GlowRadioCo and on iTunes, Spotify & Youtube user Glow Radio.
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!