Rachel

 

Kyira: “So the first question that I always ask everybody, and then we can kinda go in the direction we want is, what made you decide you wanted to sign up for or be a part of the project?”

Rachel: “I like you! (Laughing) I’m gonna be honest. You know, we were talking and, you know I mean I think I was doing my (previous) interview with you and then having you explain to me more about the premise of #ReclaimBeauty, and just kinda your vision for it. And I know that’s probably ever-shifting. But that day when you explained to me and just based on my background, I left our meeting, that first one, just thinking, ‘I feel like I should be involved in this. Or I should try to find a way to contribute to this in some way.’ So I guess I would say, you know, I felt like it was also sort of providential because you were like, ‘Oh, and I just posted that we’re doing a new shoot.’ So I was just kinda like, well, maybe this is happening right now for a reason.”

Kyira: “Right, yeah. For sure. That moment where, I agree, like when we were talking there was this, like, connection vibe of, almost ‘our journey is not done’. And it felt really cool to have you sort of latch on to that piece, especially since we have these shared identities, of things it sounded like we both went through.”

Rachel: “Oh, yeah.”

Kyira: “So you talked a lot about the journey you’d gone on through, like the last few decades, of finding what beauty means to you. Where do you think your family culture, just culture growing up…how do you think that impacted your early beliefs around beauty or what you needed to be?”

Rachel: “God, I don’t even know. When I thought about beauty, I don’t know if I ever really had a sense of what beautiful was. But I guess what I probably remember the most now is just always feeling like I wasn’t…I wasn’t that, if that makes sense?”

Kyira: “Yeah.”      

Rachel: “Like, I can’t say that it was like, oh, this was beautiful, or this is like the ideal or the perfection. I just remember really feeling for the first chunk of my life really just that I wasn’t beautiful. That’s what I remember most. Not that there was a specific set ideal. And maybe I would think that this person was beautiful or that person or this person. And I always had the sense that I wasn’t good enough in some way, you know, that I could never be pretty enough, smart enough, thin enough – you know what I mean? I would never be ‘enough’.”

Kyira: “Yes.”

Rachel: “I mean, that was probably one of the earliest revelations that came out of therapy for me was that, just the sense of always feeling that there was a lacking within myself, or me, I was always lacking in some way, and that I always would be. Like I think there was never really…(pause)…I think you even asked me one of the times we were talking at some point, as we first met, about what was the end goal, or what was I – you know what I mean? There was never an end, like I never was, it was never like – and even now I can say there is any. I mean, I guess I probably still have that mentality to a certain extent, it’s just more and more in a positive light. And that’s one of the things I really love about yoga is that the journey is never over. You know what I mean? Just when you think, ‘Yes! I got into those pose!’ Someone goes, like, ‘Great! Now see if you can do that!’ (Laughing.) You know. Um, and so it doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but if it’s self-deprecating, then it’s horrible. Because then essentially, you know, there’s only so many ways you can go down until you’re non-existent.”

Kyira: “Yeah. And so, I mean, just like the way that you’re describing that, that feeling of, like, not being enough potentially across the board, that feels very isolating and heavy.”

Rachel: “Oh, yeah.”

Kyira: “Yeah, so you talked a lot, or we talked a lot really, just about how, the path that you went down with your eating disorder and where that went. Do you think that there was a part of that that was like a search for, ‘How can I be enough?’ Or what did it mean to you?”

Rachel: “Um, I think my eating disorder for me was just, I mean, part of a lot of it was control, you know? It was like, I mean, I always, you know, I – there’s not a whole lot of things that aren’t more personal than what you’re putting in your body, in one way or another. Whether it be food, alcohol, drugs, whatever. That’s something that you essentially almost always, once you get old enough, have 100 percent ownership of. And it’s really hard for someone else to take that away from you – you know what I mean? – in some way shape or form. So I think a lot of it was the control aspect. Um, you know, I think there is something, I mean I do, there is something of like that isolation in the sense of being, like, ‘I got this. I’m in control of this.’ I can determine what the outcome’s going to be.”

Kyira: “Right, right.”

Rachel: “Um, and there’s a lot of falseness in that, too, because there’s still a lot of things externally outside of your control. But I think it definitely … probably for everybody, an eating disorder leaves you very internally focused and turned in. So there’s a lot of selfishness in that, in other words, there’s a lot of hiding in that. Yeah, I mean, it’s not a good place. When you’re in the throes of it, it’s suddenly all about me.”

Kyira: “For sure. My partner and I were just talking about that. I was like, ‘You know, I’m really sorry.’ During some of those years that I was struggling, I was an asshole. Like, straight up. I didn’t really give a shit about what anybody else wanted or thought. And it wasn’t because I didn’t have the ability to show empathy, it was that that wasn’t even within my scope of priorities.”

Rachel: “Nope.”

Kyira: “It was, ‘I’m gonna do this. And this is me.’ So, yeah. And you talked basically about, you know, that sort of being an avenue you could go down and now you’ve moved into this more positive shift and how you push yourself and how you seek those never-ending sort of steps in who you’re becoming. How did you make the shift from the eating-disorder world to this world?”

Rachel: “Well, let me be very clear. And I’m sure there are people who would contradict this, I don’t think that part will ever truly be over. Do you know what I mean?”

Kyira: “Yeah.”

Rachel: “You know, I think – and I don’t mean this in any disrespectful kind of way – but I feel like an eating disorder is just like any other addiction. Like you have, it’s always kind of in the background, you know? And so you can kinda think of it like going in a remission almost – you know what I mean? – with like a different illness, with something like cancer, where this may not be active right now, but at any time, given the trigger or enough stress this could, you know, flare back up. And so you have to always be vigilant over that. And I think that was probably a big part of that for me, was recognizing that. Because I think for many, many years I really had this mindset – and I don’t know if it was just me thinking, or because I actually was being told this by various doctors or social workers that were treating me – that eventually you’re gonna get over this and this is gonna be over. And I think part of that was me realizing, getting to the point that, this is never gonna be, I mean, it’s never essentially gonna be over. I’m always gonna be anorexic, you know what I mean? I mean, is it active? No. It’s not something I’m dealing with right now, I’m not struggling at this moment. But to say that I’m not anorexic would be lying. To say that I don’t care about ‘this’, that I don’t still think about ‘this’, that I’m not still probably more body-centric than somebody else would be completely false. I think accepting that has given me a lot of freedom, and it kinda has freed me a lot from a lot of that feeling, ‘Yep, you know what. So if I’m gonna be body-centric, how can I be healthy?’ And realizing, especially now, I mean in a few years, I’m gonna be 40. I know – and especially after having had my daughter (Phoebe) who’s now 6 – I’m never gonna have the body of a 21 year old again. Or a 25 year old. Or even a 40-year-old version of me in a few years that never had a kid. Like, I mean there’s certain things where it’s just like, OK. And again, there’s the important piece about acceptance. But what can I do to still feel like I’m healthy, and that I’m gonna be healthy. I want to set a good example for my daughter, too. And so it’s a lot about staying focused in the present and not reflecting on the past, where I’ve been, whether it be in the eating disorder, or out of the eating disorder. It’s staying as focused as I can in the present and not worrying about the future, you know what I mean?

Kyira: “Yeah.”

Rachel: “Because knowing in a few years I’m gonna be 40, I start looking at older people differently now, thinking, ‘I don’t know if I’m gonna live that long, but that doesn’t sound too awesome. That doesn’t look that great.’ It’s like, I don’t know how much longer I’m gonna be able to do this or do that. It’s best not to let the mind go there. (Laughing.) Just stay focused on the present.

Kyira: “Yeah. So then, being in the fitness and performance world, how do you think that kinda helps you stay in that lane of more of the positive side and how are you gearing that mentality to something that benefits a lot of other people?”

Rachel: “I think for me, it’s just realizing that there’s a spectrum of health, and that that can’t always be judged on appearance. I mean, there are people that you can look at – I see this in my races all the time, running a race, and I’ve seen this for years watching Ironman – you see somebody run by and you think, ‘Oh, my gosh.’ If you saw them walking down the street, you would never think that person was a marathon runner, or they are a triathlete. But they are. And just because someone might look like a triathlete, or they have more of a look like a swimmer, or whatever it is, doesn’t mean that person is healthy either. And I think, yeah, just like for my daughter, I take it very seriously, my job in the fitness industry. It’s like I need to be a representative of health. And part of being out there, and I can be thin and svelte and all those things, which I am, but I don’t need, I mean, I should not be in there, I should not be teaching, I should not be training if I am not eating, you know what I mean? If I am not really healthy, then I should not, that is not a role I should be in. Because I should not be representing that to anybody, that that’s OK. And so, there’s an ownership, there’s an accountability in that that keeps me in check.”

Kyira: “That’s really awesome, like, having managed gyms before and been in the fitness industry, I know that there are a lot of people that don’t filter themselves that way. And they really are representing an unhealthy way of living.”

Rachel: “Oh, yeah. It’s like, yeah, because people think … oh, in order to look this way, in order to do this thing – whether it be run a 10K or, ‘I want to be able to do this.’ So the only way I’m gonna be able to do this is, I’ve gotta drop a lot of weight. Or I need to take steroids. Or I need to be getting this injection, or I need to be having this protein supplement. And it’s not to say that all those things are necessarily a bad thing, but it shouldn’t be – that’s not the thing that is going to get you to ‘there.’ Do you know what I mean? It has to, it should be a lifestyle. It’s about, you know, finding the right foods for your body and taking them in their appropriate amount. And that also shouldn’t be the center of your world. There should be a lot of things going on outside the walls of this gym or the track or the pool, or whatever it is. This shouldn’t be the end-all, be-all of your existence either. And so I take that really seriously to be representative of that.”

Kyira: “Yeah, so how do think the label of ‘Mother’ for you has impacted the way that you think about beauty? I mean, you’ve mentioned wanting to represent positive things to your daughter. How do you think you see yourself doing that? Or what does that mean for you?”

Rachel: “For me, a big thing is to have her see strength and independence and self-care, because I feel like a lot of women in today’s society – and, again, I’ll probably get a lot of negative flack for saying this (laughing) – you know, are lacking if not one or all three of those. They’re still, even though people kinda go around touting, like people think that women’s liberation changed all this stuff, and the reality is it’s the biggest crock ever. More women and children live in poverty today than ever before. Since all these things, people feel like women got liberated or like feminism is big, yay. And that’s great, be positive. I’m pro-women, I work for a women’s magazine. So I’m all for that. But the reality is that, like, women still bear the brunt of the responsibility in their homes, whether they are in two-parent households, if there’s kids involved, or they’re single parents, or however it looks like, women shoulder more of that burden today than ever before, ever in our society. … Yet they still feel like they have to be, and I would say especially in like a couple situation someone still – if it’s a male-female, and I heard this just recently, and even in female-female relationships – that still one of them is carrying the majority of the responsibility within their household. Someone is kinda taking on this more ‘feminine’ role. And, I mean, I can’t speak to that directly, but I just know that that’s not OK. Like, how can I take care of you if I’m not taking care of me, you know what I mean?

Kyira: “For sure.”

Rachel: “And so like part of me, so like, Phoebe sees me prioritizing and so, like, we’re a family, you know. And that means sometimes the priority is doing the stuff that’s for you, that’s the priority. And sometimes the stuff that Mommy has to get done, or Mommy needs for her, that’s the priority. And that’s what being a family really means is shouldering that responsibility. Like, we have an equal responsibility to each other. I’m not, now obviously now she’s a child and I’m an adult, so there’s just certain things, like I’m the one who can work right now and that kinda stuff. But within our home, you know, you’re not old enough to clean the bathroom yet, so I’m doing that. But because you’re 6, I’m not in your room cleaning your room, because you’re 6 and Mommy’s not your maid! Do you know what I mean? (Laughing.) Because that’s part of being a family is that each one of us kinda doing our due diligence and doing our share, for ourselves and for each other. And I feel like it’s important to represent that, and then again, also that strength. … Again, this is something where, like, I do get a little pushback. It’s like, well I’ve been single, for the most part, since I got divorced – me and my ex-husband got divorced when Phoebe was like 1 – people have this sense of, like, you know, ‘Is there going to be someone, or are your dating?’ And it’s like, and I’m not opposed to that, but that’s not my priority, that’s not my focus, that’s not my primary thing. It’s like, ‘I got this.’ I’m taking care of our house, our home. I’m taking care of Phoebe. And I’m not saying it wouldn’t be good and nice for her to have two parents, of course it would. But, you know, again, there’s a lot to be said for showing strength, and I do think it’s important for her to not see me with different men in and out of our house, her life, my life. Again, because they make it seem like you need that, like there’s something lacking. Like I need that to be whole. And it’s like, no, you need to be whole first before you can be with somebody else. You know, I’ve had a few friends who are married and they are in relationships or partnerships or whatever, and they’ll say to me, ‘Oh, my god, I don’t know how you do it. Oh, my god, if something happened to so-and-so, I just don’t know what would happen.’ And I think to myself, that is crazy that that is coming out of your mouth. Like, I hear what you’re saying, but like, you’re a mother. And shit happens to people like spouses and partners all the time. They could get hit by a bus tomorrow, and you don’t think you’re gonna be able to take care of your kids? No. I got this. (Laughing.) Do you know what I mean? And that might be arrogant, or that might be whatever. But it’s like, I mean, having that person there I’m sure is great, and it’s easier or whatever, but that shouldn’t be like the minute … And I would say the same should be true for fathers. It’s shouldn’t be – these kids didn’t ask to be put here, you should have that no matter who else is in your life. And so to me, like I said, those three things are just really important to me to show: that strength, that independence, that self-care.’

Kyira: “Yeah, yeah. And I think the beauty, then, in that stability piece, and like for her to feel grounded in herself, like you said, before she reaches out to someone else. She’s not, like, looking for someone else to be able to feel fulfilled and she’s got it all together. She could feel that on her own.”

Rachel: “You know, and I think, yeah, because not even does it necessarily have to be a person. Because what happens is you create this sense that there’s something missing, or there’s a hole, people are looking to fill that wherever they can. Maybe it’s a person, maybe it’s drugs, maybe it’s an eating disorder, maybe it’s alcohol. It creates that hole and it’s like, ‘Nope.’ And again, the grass is always greener, things could always be better. Oh, there’s no end, I would think, in our society. Just with capitalism alone, there’s no end to the things that you can want! (Laughing.) I could be rolling in millions of dollars, and there’s something I could still want.”

Kyira: “Oh, yeah.”

Rachel: “I’d be like, ‘You know what? Today I want an island.’ It’s like it’s human nature. (Laughing.) There’s no end to what you think is better or what you could want. But to realize, you know what, it’s OK to want things, but to know that you’re OK, you know?”

Kyira: “Yeah. So in thinking about all that, you mentioned self-care as a big thing that you’ve really brought into your home. And sort of the way that I like to wrap things up is thinking about either how you currently are celebrating and nurturing your beauty, or the ways that you want to push yourself to do that even more or further in the future.”

Rachel: “Yeah, um, I would say … I feel I am probably the most confident in my life now than I’ve ever been before. I mean, I have no problem saying that I’m awesome. I encourage other people to say that they’re awesome, because I am. I am awesome.”

Kyira: (Laughing.)

Rachel: “I am awesome. And when you talk to me for more than five minutes, hopefully you know that I am awesome, too! (Laughing.)”

Kyira: “Exactly!”

Rachel: “You know, and I think that’s a big part of it. Because again, am I perfect? By no means. There are definitely things that I still need to work on and grow in, and that I could change. But I, I am pretty great as I am, too. And it is a lot to me, and I find it amazing to be able to say that, really truly, and own that for the first time in my life. And I feel like that everybody had something they should be able to say they’re awesome about. Um, and so I guess for me that’s the way that I most celebrate that, you know what I mean? Uh, yeah, it’s like, I feel like I’m pretty amazing and if you don’t, that’s OK. We don’t need to, we don’t need to be in the same space. (Laughing.)”

Kyira: “Well, I think it’s almost a flip, tying it back to the beginning. It’s like, and you talked about in early childhood, in your early years, not feeling like you were enough in any aspect. And now it’s like, to be able to say, ‘I’m awesome,’ it’s saying, essentially, ‘I’m enough right where I stand.’”

Rachel: “Yeah, and what I would say, you using that – I didn’t think about that I had started with that, you’re right. And I would say for me, I don’t even let myself think about whether or not I’m enough anymore, I just, I am. This is who I am, this is where I am and that’s just it. I try not to do the evaluation or the assessment anymore. Because that’s, I don’t know, if I sat around and thought about it, ‘Am I enough?’ I don’t know. Like I don’t even let myself have that internal dialogue anymore.”

Kyira: “Right, no. For sure, no.”

Rachel: “I just, I am. And this is where I am, you know? I just am.”

Kyira: “That’s amazing. That’s so amazing. Well, so are there things that I didn’t ask you or things that you feel are really important to be able to represent in your interview?”

Rachel: “No, I would just encourage people, I mean, I think we covered most of it. I would just say like part of it is really about reclaiming beauty, just looking at those things and taking ownership of those things that are already beautiful within you, you know? We all have them. And whatever that is for you, you know, you don’t have to be beautiful to anybody – be beautiful just because you are. If you want that lingerie, go get it. Not because you’re gonna go surprise some man or some woman with it, get it for yourself. Because, I mean, if that’s your thing, then do that. If you like perfume, do that. If you like makeup, whatever. Go run a race. Do those things that validate you because you wanna do them.”

Kyira: “Yeah.”

Rachel: “Don’t feel like you need to do them because – it’s like a lie and it becomes about showing that for other people and wanting to be that for someone else. Just be that for yourself, you know, and then go from there. And then let other people just, just – you just happen to be the happy recipient of my awesomeness. Like I didn’t do this for you, you just get to partake of my glow!”

 

After our interview, Rachel contacted me and added the following to her interview:

"I realized after our interview that one thing I want to be sure is clear is that though I don't think anyone should ever feel as if they need to be perfect (especially in regard to appearance since 'beauty' is very subjective), I do think it is important to attempt to evolve into the best version of yourself...as one discovers more of whom they actually are. One thing I don't particularly agree with that I see being touted more and more in certain realms of contemporary society is the notion that it's ok to just settle for being mediocre, second-class, less than others in some way etc. I feel as if this line of reasoning is most harmful over time to kids and has the potential to negatively impact marginalized groups most long-term (women, people of color, etc). Don't know if you are familiar with the phrase 'The world is filled with extraordinary people living ordinary lives.' But humans have the capacity to do AMAZING things and when we, as individuals, maximize and/or realize our greatest potential, immense change, hope and growth occurs. Why would anyone want to stifle and/or hinder that sort of domino effect?"