If you’re ever on YouTube (and let’s face it, we’re all on YouTube), you probably know Hailey Sani, the beautiful 19-year old blogger who is known for inviting viewers into every aspect of her life with honesty and comedy. Her latest live video, TMI Sessions: My Journey to Self-Love and Body Confidence, is no exception with Hailey opening up about her struggles with an eating disorder and her journey back to loving herself.
Self-love, body image, and our diets are topics and issues that we as teen girls are confronted with on a daily basis. This isn’t made any easier by social media, where we are confronted with the “highlight reel” of others’ lives, throwing us into perpetual competition with other girls that we may or may not know. We’re not the first or the last to say you are not alone. We are all facing the same concerns, insecurities, and journeys to body positivity. This includes Hailey Sani, and just as she shared her story with us, we hoped to share it with you to shed light on a very important topic, remind you that we’re all in this together, and hopefully help all of us focus on positive self-talk, body image, and self-love.
Editor’s Note: The following is the depiction of a personal story, not advice from a licensed doctor or therapist. It is not meant to be taken as certified recommendations or advice, instead as a story that we can probably all relate to. (But we’ll have advice from licensed doctors coming soon!)
In a manner in which she has rarely opened up before, Hailey brought us back to when she was 14 years old, and first began suffering from an eating disorder. “I think it’s a very common age in which people start realizing the body they live in and it’s also the age you become more involved with social media… [It’s when] I started caring about what other people were saying about me.
Hailey went on to explain the negative effects that Instagram had on her body image. “When you’re following so many people on Instagram and online and everyone looks so perfect, it ultimately becomes a comparison game.” In fact, Dr. Jennifer Lewallen of the University of Missouri has conducted extensive research on the impact of comparison in social media, finding that “social comparison can make us feel unhappy or angry, can lead us to have a distorted view of the ideal female body, and can lead us to engage in actions that will lea to extreme weight loss.” The experience that Hailey had is very common, especially for girls between the ages of 12-24.
As she became more involved in the world of social media and YouTube, Hailey became more conscious of her own body. “I was like why does everyone on Instagram look like this and I don’t?”. As her thoughts shifted into negative self-talk and she began to negatively perceive her body, Hailey explained “I would wake up every morning, get my water bottle, go to the gym and I would force myself to run on the treadmill for 45 minutes every single day. I say force myself because I did not want to be spending my days as a 14-year old at the gym.” While there is no doubt that exercise and moving your body is good for your general wellbeing, Hailey confirms our motto of “everything in moderation”.
Speaking honestly and from the heart, Hailey explains how it was the misconception that everyone else in the world looked a certain way (“with abs and a peach butt”) that led her to feel that somehow she was lacking. In a moment that felt extremely relatable, Hailey talks about following an Instagram model that she aspired to be and who shaped her image of an ‘ideal body’, only for that Instagram model to come out years later and reveal that they, too, had struggled with an eating disorder. “I was looking up to an eating disorder”.
At the time, “I just hated myself. I would look in the mirror and say “you’re fat”. Struggling with body dysmorphia, Hailey couldn’t see her true self in the mirror. She would harshly restrict her calories during the day, only to be hit with severe sugar cravings at night, leading her to “go into the kitchen at 11pm, eat cake, make myself pasta at 12am. I would binge and eat everything.”
The most difficult part, according to Hailey, was asking for help. This is true of most young women, with research finding that less than a third of teens with eating disorders have talked to a professional about their eating or weight problems, according to the Newport Academy.
Finally, it was a small piece of advice that helped her begin forging her way back to self-love and body acceptance. “I remember someone telling me ‘your body is your house, and you only get one, so you need to take care of it. I remember looking in the mirror and saying ‘I’m so sorry’ and I was apologizing to myself, ‘I’m sorry that I was hurting you when I should have been nurturing and nourishing you.’”
From that point on, she began to work on her mindset, first by changing the words that she was using to address herself. Instead of using the word toned, “I started saying I want to get stronger”. Instead of thinking about food as “calories”, she began to think of her meals as essential nourishment to keep her body moving. Hailey acknowledges the power of attraction, and the way in which words can shape what is brought to you in your life, and how you treat and feel about yourself.
In a beautiful conclusion to her self-exploration of body image, Hailey provided some tips that we believe are very useful in beginning to work on acceptance and love of your body and yourself. First and foremost, unfollow anyone on Instagram that makes you feel bad about yourself. It may not be intentional on their part, but if you come away from their page feeling negatively about your body or your own life, immediately unfollow them. “You have the responsibility of filtering out what’s going to work for you and what’s not.”
Her other piece of advice is to focus on your own projects, and work on something you feel passionately about. “Something that helped me is focusing on something I can do and be proud of”. The feeling you get upon accomplishing something you’ve put significant work into is always rewarding, no matter what that project may be for you.
It was this transformation of mindset and actions that finally helped Hailey achieve “this framework of a healthy lifestyle that I like to live by. But at the end of the day, if I want to eat that ice cream sandwich, I will and I will not feel guilty about it.” Speaking of, we’re going to grab an ice cream sandwich right now.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, NEDA’s toll-free, confidential helpline (800-931-2237) is here to help: Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET, and Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. NEDA’s helpline volunteers offer support and basic information, locate treatment options in your area, and can help you find answers to any questions you may have.
Main Image Credit: @haileysani