With summer months comes warmer weather. For many, it’s a time to bask in the glorious sunshine, kick back, relax, and soak up the Vitamin D. For others, it can be yet another trigger for those who struggle with body image and self confidence. I chatted with inspirational Olivia Baxter @livsliving1 on her battle with anorexia, her determined recovery, and how she is ‘forever fighting to change fears into friends’.
Liv, thank you so much for your time, your extraordinary bravery, and for sharing your story with us.
Firstly, how would you describe anorexia?
Picture a loud, dark, constant headache, mentally trying to dictate your life and knock you down - ‘you’re not good enough, not worthy enough.’ This headache has the ultimate fear of gaining weight, not being in control, and believes that in order to be happy, you must be stick thin. (Stick thin isn’t ever thin enough.) This for me is anorexia summed up. A painful voice inside my head which causes anxiety over almost everything, especially relating to food/timings/being out of control.
Can you recollect whether it has always been in your life, was it triggered by something particular?
I have always felt uncomfortable in my own skin, I would go on fad diets, but never anything too serious. It was around the age of 16 however, coming up to summer, when I felt I had to be even more strict, I was so unhappy with the way I looked. I started a slimming group, and it went slowly downhill from then really.
When did you realise you wanted to help yourself?
I have been forced into hospital, dragged myself to therapy, dieticians, doctors etc.. It was only when agreeing to hypnotherapy sessions that my mindset began to change. It wasn’t a straight forward ‘I want to recover’, but rather a shift in my way of thinking - trying and wanting to be happy for ALL of me. It opened my eyes to everything I already have, to all of life’s possibilities, and how weight, my body and food is so irrelevant to my future!
That’s a really interesting and insightful way to look at it..
Yes, listening to the hypnosis man - support through inspirational messages and quotes, really helped me get through my days/weeks in a new frame of mind. I realised that although my mind was in a much better and stronger state, my weight still needed attention. This is when I decided to take my new mental learnings, and start with a new dietician and therapist to help me in my next step of recovery.
What’s your most proud moment of recovery so far?
Probably making my YouTube channel and building up my Instagram account @livsliving! This really pushes me to try different challenges, achieve different things and really aim to help myself and others whilst doing it!
I’ve noticed you’ve started writing poetry on @livsliving. I particularly like “If I was President” - is this a form of therapy for you?
I've never actually been an English lover, and often find it hard to get my words out and speak my thoughts. When I published my very first video/post, I decided to do it in a poem as I felt that would be the easiest way to express what I wanted to say. Ever since, I have found it to be an amazing way to put my thoughts into words and write down what I want to share to the world.
I guess it's a sort of therapy. I often find it comes the easiest when I’m at my lowest points emotionally. I find by writing a poem, to go along with a post, I am acknowledging my emotions and sitting with them instead of banishing them away.
It also helps to normalise my feelings and help others know that what we feel is normal. I get very nervous a lot of the time sharing them (as I said I’m not good with words) so I often feel quite embarrassed, however I have to remind myself that I am me, and if people are judging, if people don’t like my content or don’t want to read my posts, let them be them. All I can do is try my best!
CAN I GET AN A-MEN TO THAT!!! So what actually made you decide to open up?
I decided to open up quite recently, at the end of April. I did so because of other people opening up on Youtube, and Instagram. They have helped me so much, I was so inspired by them, so wanted to do the same!
I also know by putting it out there, not hiding from the world anymore, was going to help me and push me during my recovery. All the support I have received is AMAZING and it keeps me going everyday (even on the hardest of days).
You recently talked on BBC Three Countries Radio about your journey! Tell me a bit more about that?
It’s important to be open because no one should feel alone - we are all in this together! Obviously everyones journeys are going to be different, however we only have one of these lives, and I am so desperate for everyone to live a good one!! Life is too short to worry, or feel anxious, over things that, in the bigger picture, really do not deserve to matter.
What kind of things help you stay ‘healthy’?
Over time I have really tried to separate the healthy me, with the unhealthy anorexia. When I do this, it helps to pick apart and understand more what I know to be true, and what I know my eating disorder has made me think.
A lot of the actions Anorexia has made me do have almost become a second nature, so it is almost like creating a new way of life. I now understand that just because I had these strict, rigid ways of thinking for so long, they can definitely be changed.
Because of this, I focus a lot on mental health, so I read lots of books, listen to good podcasts and most importantly associate myself with positive people!
I’m a huge fan of books and podcasts too! (So much so I plan to create my own hoorah!) Can you recommend any of your faves in particular?
Oooo this is a hard one, I'm a fan of so many! For books, I'm currently reading ‘the subtle art of not giving a f*ck’ which just is completely amazing, definitely a MUST read for anyone. It puts life into real perspective.
Yep, I would recommend that too! Ha, that was always a challenge opening on the tube, knowing you're getting questionable looks - obvs had to not give a f*ck!
Another great book I've read to help my eating disorder is ‘just eat it’. It helped me to realise that there is a way out of this illness, and although it’s so painful, it’s so worth it in the long run!
Podcasts are my absolute life too. I listen to such a variety, eating disorder related, body image related and also just general mental health!
My favourites would probably be, Tabitha Farrar, Simple Healthy Eats, Own it Babe and the Mental Illness Happy Hour. Then I also like to listen to Girl Boss, Grazia Life Advice and the Business of Fashion podcast. These help to remind me of my goals and that my life isn’t all about my eating disorder, because without it I am so much more!
YES YOU ARE!!! What advice do you have for other young women and men who are facing eating disorders?
Ask the question, ‘who bloody cares?’. This is the way I have to think about it… Who cares if you eat that banana, if you eat that cake, if you eat 3893048 biscuits!!! We are human, we are all individual and as long as we are healthy, we can be happy.
Everything is reversible, and there is so much more than feeling you have to be in control, that feeling skinny = happy (because we all know that’s not true). YOUR WEIGHT IS NOT YOUR WORTH.
FInally Liv, any general advice for humanity?
ITS NEVER TOO LATE TO FALL IN LOVE WITH YOUR LIFE. SO WHY NOT TRY IT. LOVE YOUR LIFE, LOVE YOUR FRIENDS, LOVE YOUR FOOD AND MOST IMPORTANTLY LOVE YOURSELF! WE GET ONE OF THESE LIVES, WE ARE HERE FOR SUCH A SMALL AMOUNT OF TIME, SO CHERISH IT!
Be kind to yourself, you have as much right to feel the sun on your skin as anyone does.