3 Recovery Lessons From an Ex-Fitspo Influencer

Kelly Uchima (@kellyu) was obsessed with exercise and food. As the fitness community validated Kelly’s body insecurities, she became more and more strict with counting calories and getting more reps in at the gym. Initially, she started an Instagram account to document her fitness progress. And as she fell deeper into an eating disorder, she transformed her account and started a YouTube channel to share her recovery wins and turn her obsession with fitspo into self-lovespo.

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Podcast Addict, Castbox, or on your favorite podcast platform. You can watch the interview on YouTube here.

Lesson #1: Food and exercise are not transactional

Diet culture teaches us that when we consume food that it must be “burned off” or that we need to, “earn” our food with exercise. While we do need food and energy to move. We don’t need to move to have food. It’s not a transaction. In this episode of Recover Strong, Kelly shared she had to do a lot of unlearning to do around this. She struggled with fears around her body changing in size if she didn’t burn off what she ate. It was a constant fear in her mind. Having been programmed by the diet industry and fitness culture, it can take time to change this mindset.

Kelly realized that it’s okay to desire recovery and still have negative feelings about her body at the same time. She exclaimed,“your body is just a vessel for everything else inside of you. It’s okay if it changes. And in fact, that means you’re alive and moving. Life is fluid. It’s really hard to believe that and be okay with that until you practice it. And it’s still hard for me. Everyone struggles with body image even if you’re the most self loving human in the entire world.”

Everyone struggles with body image even if you’re the most self loving human in the entire world.

Body image is fluid and cannot be fixed. Fixating on calories in and calories out is not the way to go if you want to find peace with food and body. Food is not something you earn. Exercise is not something that you spend. Food and exercise are not transactional.

Lesson #2: Recovery is experiential

The core intention of the Recover Strong podcast is to help you take theoretical knowledge, put it into practice, and develop wise mastery. To go from theory, to practice to mastery requires you to experientially step outside of your comfort zone into new ways of being and doing.

According to Kelly Uchima, “To truly pursue recovery. You do have to make changes, there’s no way that you can keep interacting with life the way that you are right now with food and your body. You do need to let go. I did have to stop working out for a while I did have to practice going out to eat more and eating things I wasn’t comfortable with. I had to make changes. Without physically in my real life doing different things, my mind cannot sync up to also making shifts. There was no way. And I really thought I could. I really thought I could still do all of the disordered types of behaviors. And still find healing. No.”

I did have to stop working out for a while. I did have to practice going out to eat more and eating things I wasn’t comfortable with.

Breaking patterns is when real change happens. And this requires you to do things differently. We learn through experience. That is why healing is not a passive act. It takes effort and direct participation.

Lesson #3: Don’t just focus on food and therapy, explore family dynamics, and unhealed childhood wounds

Eating disorder behaviors are just the tip of the iceberg. Underneath in the vast unconscious mind, there are unmet needs and feelings that need to be faced. However, when you focus all your brain’s energy on the eating disorder and its behaviors, it distracts you from seeing what’s deeper. Kelly shared how her eating disorder served as a distraction that helped her avoid feelings that really terrified her. However, when she started facing these feelings she was avoiding, particularly when it came to issues in her family relationships, this helped her move forward in her healing.

At first Kelly didn’t want to talk about her family in therapy and didn’t understand the actual relevance and what it had to do with her issues with food. But after time in addressing the traumas and wounds with her family, Kelly and all of them moved forward together into deeper love and connection. This not only helped her with her eating disorder recovery, but also her family healing.

During this episode, Kelly admitted, “the scariest thing about realizing why you have these struggles or why you have these disorders and anxiety, stems from your childhood. A lot of it stems from when you were younger. And honestly, a lot of trauma from my childhood, like my relationship with my mom, my relationship with my dad, my relationship with food and my sister. All these things that you find to be so unimportant and so irrelevant. You’ll sit in your first therapy session and go, I don’t want to talk about my dad, I want to talk about the food. The one thing you really don’t want to talk about might just be the key to it all.”

The one thing you really don’t want to talk about might just be the key to it all.

Sometimes one of the biggest keys to healing is behind the door you’re most afraid to open. That is why it’s important to not just focus on food and therapy, but explore family dynamics and unhealed childhood wounds.

Jessica Flint 0:02
Welcome to recover strong a podcast I will transform your recovery from an eating disorder by helping you go from theory to practice to mastery. This is your special time to learn new skills, tools and get the inspiration you need to recover strong. Let’s get started. Good. Time to start today. Keep your head up. Don’t understand your way. Hello, my warrior friends. How are you all doing? Welcome to this podcast. My name is Jessica Flint. I’m the founder and CEO of recovery warriors, a multimedia resource hub for all things related to eating disorder recovery. I personally recovered from an eating disorder and I’m here to inspire you to do the same. I believe recovery is not only possible, but it’s worth it. That is why recover strong exists to help you see and connect to the potential that lies within you to find freedom from an eating disorder. Today we have an honest conversation on social anxiety, loneliness and the deeper roots of food and body obsessions with the remarkable Kelly who Chima Kelly speaks vulnerably and passionately about recovery, therapy, IBS and sobriety. She pioneered the Self Love Spell movement on Instagram as a way to rebel against the Fitz Bo world that fueled her eating disorder and exercise addiction. She also has a YouTube channel and podcast called therapy Thursday where she shares recovery stories, trials and triumphs. I loved everywhere this conversation with Kelly when and I hope you will too.

Kelly Uchima 1:48
I’m so excited to be here. Jessica. First of all, you are so eloquent in the way you speak. And I want you to just be with me every second of every day to introduce me like oh my gosh. I feel like I just met myself. And I’m like, Wait, are you such a pleasure, you are wonderful.

Jessica Flint 2:07
Oh, you are too and your Instagram account is so inspirational. And I really want to get the full journey to get to where you initially had this call to adventure to embark on this whole idea of recovery and self love. So and it started with your background and fit spouse I kind of be curious to start when you first started your Instagram account and what was the motives and incentives that you were basing it on? And to that transformation that has taken you to this whole new area of self growth?

Kelly Uchima 2:34
Wow, yeah, it’s actually pretty amazing that you’ve been bringing all that up because it’s so hard for me to remember almost you know, as we transform just like you, you’ve obviously evolved every second of every day, you’re almost like a different person. And it’s pretty incredible to think about how we got to the point where and how everything we’ve been through is the only way that I’ve ended up here, I think my drive to finally find a better life really had to find a root in understanding I deserved a better life, the fact that a lifetime of struggle could be turned into like a story of strength. I really my whole life has been really not liking the person that I am outside, but then realizing is it the outer part of the inner parts and really realizing all these motional struggles, these mental struggles and growing up in an Asian family and just stay normal family in general. Many people do not understand anxiety, depression, body image disorders, eating disorders, it’s not a topic of conversation. And even if you really do know about it isn’t really that fun to talk about. And I think that when I realized there were inner things going on with me. I was like, Is this supposed to be this way? Like not to stigmatize the struggle, but is this how I’m supposed to live is everyday my life’s supposed to be this awful? Probably not. And the interesting thing is the reason why I started social media was to try to become fit and healthy and attractive. So now that I’ve turned my whole social media presence into talking about body image recovery, my beginning stages was like, I don’t feel attractive, I don’t feel healthy. Let me go be in fitness, and have a very restrictive type of beating. And that was huge back then. And unfortunately, it’s still a huge market now. But I got sucked into it. And I loved it. And I created a Fizbo account and was obsessed with bodybuilding obsessed with measuring everything I ate and dieting. And it is like a little cult that feels like you belong feels like you’re achieving something. But I didn’t realize how much I’ve been struggling with eating disorders and body image my whole life. And it got to a point where was so bad. I hit rock bottom in college. And in the big issue that I realized now is that the fitness community really validated my insecurities. It made me think, yep, you should transform. Yep, you should die it and it made me feel like oh, this is the answer. Like if this is correct, but I was giving into the inner demons rather than confronting them and realizing, oh, maybe those thoughts and those cognitions that I’m having the negative thoughts isn’t true isn’t what I should follow. Maybe I need to look at them. invalidate them, but move forward and find healing and a different type of way of viewing myself. But I didn’t realize that I think without the tools, and until I finally started going to therapy, because my binge eating disorder, my struggles with food, my negative body image and my horrifying Depression during college, I almost turned into a horror phobia. Like I never wanted to meet my permit. I had terrible social anxiety, really never went anywhere, did anything and I started to see therapists, and I was like, Oh, my goodness, there’s names and ideas to what I’m dealing with, Oh, my goodness, what is going on? I feel like I finally get it. And I understand why people don’t want to go to therapy and seek treatment. Because it’s, it can be very scary to see yourself. But I think what I tried to preach to the people who are on this journey with me, like my followers on Instagram, my subscribers on YouTube is like, don’t be afraid of yourself. This is there already. All these struggles and thoughts and feelings is genuinely a part of you. And they need to come out.

Jessica Flint 5:52
There’s this book by Jon Kabat Zinn that’s called wherever you go, there you are. That is so part of this journey is that you’re trying to hide from that those inner demons. You talk about that when you started therapy, do you remember any fears you had or like any hold backs that were really like preventing you from opening up?

Kelly Uchima 6:10
The biggest thing I think in eventually pursuing yourself is don’t be afraid of your behaviors, your tendencies, your genuine thoughts, it’s okay to struggle. And I would try to come off to my therapist, like I wasn’t struggling, I would lie, I was doing great. And that doesn’t get me anywhere. And it’s getting past the shame. The idea that you should be ashamed of having these ideas and struggles and behaviors, it’s, you have to when you’re struggling with food, in the moments you are, I remember my whole life, I would run away from my own self, therefore keep doing the behavior. But when I sit with myself and go, Oh, you’re doing it again, without that judgment, like there was another Telly here and being like, you suck, she doesn’t need to really be there. It’s just me. And that’s something I really had to learn is be with yourself in those moments. You can’t be your own enemy.

Jessica Flint 6:59
And what did you do in those moments? Because a lot of people can find that the distress kind of the tolerance is really high. So was there any coping mechanisms are skills that you develop that help?

Kelly Uchima 7:08
I do have to give a forewarning is it can be emotional. And as a society as humans, we’re terrified of emotion. I mean, even me now, as many years I’ve gotten therapy and talking about this stuff. I still have a hard time letting myself cry, and the most moving beautiful moments I’ve ever had when I genuinely talk to myself. And that seems like the corniest thing and we all think it’s silly. But it’s awesome. So awesome. When you’re like Kelly, I’m so sorry. And this is a conversation that I have with myself when one time I was struggling so badly with food and wanted to run away myself from myself and totally dissociate. I just sat with myself outside on a curb. And I said, I’m really sorry that you feel so alone. I’m really sorry that you’re judging your own self. And I’m sorry, you feel so empty, but it’s okay. I understand where you’re doing this. And like, if you’re going to do it, I’ll sit there with you. Because if I’m going to hate on you for doing this, and I’m falling, I’m falling crying. And I was like, I started laughing and giggling and smiling. And I said, that is what I wish I’d always say.

Jessica Flint 8:07
That’s so beautiful. That’s like a perfect example of turning to yourself with love and compassion, honoring the suffering the emptiness. Yeah, trying to push it away, not trying to fill it.

Kelly Uchima 8:17
Right with those foods, that food stuff. It really does coat you it’s like a little like little Pepto Bismol. But like, really, you got acid reflux, you need to go the doctor. Like, it’s a cute bandaid. But really, it’s a full pit. It’s like just putting a bunch of stuff. And it’s really amazing when you finally connect with yourself. And I totally understand why it’s so hard to do. Because it’s not like once you connect, it’s done. It’s every friggin day. And you got to remember, Oh, am I connected? Probably not. Maybe we need to.

Jessica Flint 8:48
Yeah, and everyday you have to fight the rules that you’ve had in place for so many years. What was that process like for you to slowly unravel all these ideas you had around really what healthy is and fitness and exercise and eating?

Kelly Uchima 9:02
I think the worst part is that it’s not even just unraveling all the past. It’s everywhere you look everywhere you turn on your phone, people in your workplace, you know your random conversations. Anytime you go somewhere to eat. You’re just reminded and new information comes in. And people always say How do you fight this off? You know what I do live streams or get comments? Have you fight this? How do you stop doing this? I always go. It’s interesting how you’re asking the question. You’re always thinking about how to push something away. What about if you just look inside yourself and ask yourself what you can do for you? Instead of trying to push everything other outside of you away? What do you really think? What do you really feel? Do you really feel like you’d need two hours of cardio? Or do you kind of already realize that maybe you don’t need to do yes. Oh reactive versus just what do I really want? And that’s a really hard question to ask. And a lot of times we don’t have the answers, but it’s okay to not have the answers. That’s why you got to keep asking. I think a lot of times what we want If what we think other people might want us to do, or what we’ve seen, or the examples, what we’ve been taught, I don’t think that most of us, including myself, even right now often do understand what we need, because it’s coated with what we want, which is not really what we know. It’s really unraveling that. And how do you discover yourself? How do you really know what you like? Like? Do you really like going to the gym? Or would you rather just meditate? Do you really want to go out to this place? Would you rather do this? It’s so hard to make decisions for yourself? Because you’re afraid of being different? Also, it is scary to be different?

Jessica Flint 10:35
It is it is. That’s really the most authentic way of being is to really embrace who you are. Have you found that you’ve learned a lot about the ego and the process of doing therapy work?

Kelly Uchima 10:45
Yeah, and the ego is such an interesting word. Because I think when it comes up, a lot of people have such a deeply adverse reaction to it, like, oh, I don’t have an ego. It’s interesting how we think of that word, the ego is just really how everyone cares about what other people think, like what other people think about us. And that’s okay to care. But you can’t let that control you. And your ego also is there to protect you. Like our egos often get in the way of us being authentic, because it’s really protecting us from being embarrassed or ashamed. But there’s nothing wrong with feeling embarrassed or ashamed. And I’ve learned that just being more open and honest in all of my content has really helped other people just not be free to do that in their own realm. It’s not so much about them listening to me, and what I’m going through what I think I just want to open my channel to my own self and show people that and that I hope to push them to be with themselves, not like my photo or comment on my photo, I kind of want them to read and go up my turn. By sharing your story, you give someone the opportunity, opportunity to know that it’s not abnormal. And then people like Brene Brown talking about shame and vulnerability has really helped because I’ve never read any literature like that, especially as an academic researcher, knowing that it’s not just someone preaching and writing but there’s also founded information that was really great. And honestly a lot of people on social media like Kenzie Brenna, my friend Halle, body posi Panda, all women that I honestly looked up to like goddesses when I first found them. And I can’t believe that I’m able to speak to them like friends now, but I’ve never seen people not sucking in and photos. I’ve never seen people talking about bloating. I’ve never seen people being proud of stretch marks and talking about the struggles with anxiety and depression and suicidal thoughts. I was like, This is amazing. It was just, it’s brave. Really, I didn’t understand how important it was to feel less alone until I finally found someone who showed me that I was less alone. And I think that loneliness stemmed from childhood. I mean, I love my parents, I love my sister. But I think none of us are really taught to have that deep, loving interconnectedness. And we say, you know, I love you, and you do love your family. But are you really deeply connected? Are you really seeing each other? Are you really communicating? Are you able to draw a result? Are you able to cry? Are you able to genuinely share joy? Are you in a specific role, I think and families were also sick roles. And I was that younger sister, who was you know, doing really well doing all these things. But I was anorexic at the age of 10. And my parents really, obviously saw that I was going in both but didn’t know what to do. And we kind of just got over it. I mean, I had to get over it. And my emptiness stemmed from that I really had no friends. When I was a kid, I maybe it was my insecurity that made me socially unattractive. But I was very lonely. And food was my only friend. And my grandparents fed me a lot because they didn’t really know how to show affection. So all that loneliness grew into my older age. And even now I struggle with loneliness. And I think that’s why a lot of us were on social media. And I really wish people who admire people on social media didn’t put us on a pedestal because we’re just kind of lonely. But we have a voice and we want to help people. But we’re not better, are just different. And we’re sharing it.

Jessica Flint 13:55
I really think that there’s a lot of people out there who are really lonely, and just scrolling and scrolling and scrolling and tapping and liking and it’s just we really want to connect social media as a channel. But what’s that that other channel, the one that you’re really getting the nurturing from emotions and physical standpoint?

Kelly Uchima 14:11
Yeah, and I very much struggle with that. There’s so much pressure to show that you have a great life or show that you’re doing well. But it’s honestly pressure to put cute pictures up and make sure people like them. It’s very unhealthy. The way that media has become I love it. It’s my whole world. It makes me so happy. But I feel like it’s transformed into a necessity that has so much attachment to yourself value. At this point. It’s like dude, money exists without social media. It’s terrifying to me, and I’m kind of nervous about it. Tell you the truth. I don’t really know what’s going on with it. Let’s just not only engage with it, but talk about the fact that we’re on our phones. I honestly I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced this but I’ve been getting like nausea from how much I am watching or looking at content. And then I sit there absorbed down and go man, I feel so lonely and I need to go outside and talk to Somebody, and I feel like what has happened to me and I tell people that I tell my friends normally go, I need to like make a change, I need to start going bowling, I want to go see a movie tonight or I want to go for a walk, like please like, let’s just throw our phones in the garbage for two days, please.

Jessica Flint 15:14
Now a lot of people struggle with social anxiety. You know, me included? Like I think that it’s very common. How do you work with social anxiety?

Kelly Uchima 15:21
So much? And I my whole life, I didn’t know that I had social anxiety, which obviously makes it worse because you feel like something’s wrong with you feel like nobody likes you. And it’s like, why can’t I leave my apartment? Like, why? Why is it so hard for me to step outside even throw away my garbage? Like, what does this mean? And I think for me, it got so much worse, obviously, when I had the eating disorder, because going out to eat was obviously not an option. But the eating disorder also gave an excuse to let the social anxiety be validated. So all these things are coming into play. And really once I freed myself more with the food when I started realizing that my loneliness, this crippling feeling of feeling so alone, I’m perpetuating it by staying at home. So it’s really allowing yourself to have the feelings but also what is really happening. Are you the one doing it, you are in control? It’s not your fault. But what can you do to make a change? Because you’re not happy right now? And that’s

Jessica Flint 16:12
such a simple question. But yeah, it can be really hard to get to the answer. Because it’s intimidating

Kelly Uchima 16:17
to also take accountability for what’s going on, you already feel so tortured, you feel like you’re the victim. So then to kind of I guess feel like you’re blaming self doesn’t feel like a great option. And I think that cycle repeats itself until you’re feeling confident enough in yourself to be brave and face yourself,

Jessica Flint 16:35
which is so important. Because once you get entrenched in eating disorder long enough, this isolation, like you’re saying becomes this negative feedback loop because then all of a sudden, it’s like, oh, I can’t go out now because my body’s not good. Like, once my body’s here, it’s always about this never point. That’s not where you’re at right now. Kelly Uchima 16:50
I love that you’ve said that. Because really in the brain of someone with anxiety, the brain of someone that you knew sort of like, oh, I can go to the gym after I do this, or I can go do this. I can start doing this when I feel better when I feel more this when I get more than if I’ve eaten that if I haven’t eaten. There’s so many rules you don’t even realize and it’s suffocating. It never ends and I still do struggle with those. And when I see these rules building up I go even happened to me today, I wasn’t ready to quite leave my apartment for work. And I was like, Oh, maybe I should eat them. Maybe I should eat now. Maybe I should. I was like, oh, so we’re doing it again. I decided Let’s eat something and keep moving.

Jessica Flint 17:27
Yeah, let’s just nourish get some food in my system. So I can think clearly. Yeah, and

Kelly Uchima 17:32
you really do have to intersect what you’re comfortable with. And that’s the biggest struggle is I’m comfortable with dysfunction. We’re all comfortable with the rules. We’re comfortable with the box that we’ve created. And doing the best thing for yourself often destroys that box and lights it on fire and you’re going I need my box. You don’t need the box. Kind of want the box. Yeah, your

Jessica Flint 17:51
brain has little neurotransmitters and that kind of fire when you get the box but it’s just about rewiring it until it’s something it’s going to fire on something more positive.

Kelly Uchima 18:00
Yeah. Wow, that blows my mind every time blows my mind.

Jessica Flint 18:04
Exactly right that we have the power to shape our mind literally

Kelly Uchima 18:08
so much going on in there even now you talking about it needs to go man, I really need to pay attention more because this is like really teaching me stuff. It’s like, as much as you and I are self aware are trying to be like, Oh man, I have not been paying attention. You bring

Jessica Flint 18:21
up such a good point. Because do you I mean, do you find self awareness is this place that you just get to and you’re like, I’m Ultra self aware? Like do you feel like it’s always a practice, always something that you’re gaining more insight around.

Kelly Uchima 18:31
I believe that self awareness is not possible without practice. And I feel only most software when I speak out loud, I’m obviously other people are different, they may be able to think they may be able to write they may be able to paint or just deep breathe for me. It’s I have to speak it into reality. Without speaking out loud to myself or to other people. I don’t quite really take a breath and soak it all in. It’s difficult because you think when you’re thinking things that you’re thinking, but they just go in and out in a world away. I think

Jessica Flint 19:02
it’s a really good point that can be so fast. When you when you actually speak it you’re slowing down to say what exact soundbite do I want to like really get out of this.

Kelly Uchima 19:10
And slowing down is terrifying when you’re type a perfectionist person who also has a history of all these thoughts and things you have a million things going on. Slowing down feels almost like a failure. Sometimes when really the only time I’ve ever regained anything, the scariest thing about realizing like why you have these struggles or why you have these disorders, anxiety. A lot of it stems from your childhood, a lot of it stems from when you were younger, and honestly, a lot of trauma from my childhood, like my relationship with my mom, my relationship with my dad, my relationship with food with my sister, all these things that you find to be so unimportant and so relevant. You’ll sit in your first therapy session and go, I don’t want to talk about my dad, I want to talk about the food. And if that was the big tunnel, I was like that is irrelevant. I don’t want to talk about that. The one thing you really don’t want to talk about might just be the key to

Jessica Flint 19:56
I’m so happy you answered it that way. I mean, I really think I I personally feel the same. And so the work then around getting deep into the early childhood years and forgiveness is a word that comes to mind. What has forgiveness been like for you? And how have you brought the insights that you gained through therapy to your relationship with your family,

Kelly Uchima 20:13
once again, not a fairy tale, my parents and I have never been closer. But since I started therapy, we had the biggest globs of all time in our family like spring matches, not talking for weeks and months at a time thinking that the relationships overthinking that you hate each other, you have to blow up, it’s like a volcano, it needs to erupt and actually completely blow the frick up to then settle down and find closeness and flow again, like, they’re, they’re all bubbling underneath all this stuff, all these things, and including Dumbo, like your parents are just humans. They also have their own struggles, they have their own feelings about you, you got to open up that conversation and heal those things. And it was awful. It was terrible. And I was terrified to finally let out my rage or let out my thoughts about them. But they needed to tell me things too. They needed to hear it. And you have to put effort in and that’s what’s scary, too, is people don’t want to deal with like Ottawa. Oh, that puts him in a bad mood. You cannot move forward and relationship without being able to weather all that storm. And it’s like, the best thing that’s ever happened. But I mean, it’s been three years in the process to get to this amazing closeness. And the best part is if anyone ever really wants like, Oh, was it worth it? I’ll let you know it’s worthwhile.

Jessica Flint 21:32
That’s really powerful work to do that and to dig in deeper. Like you’re saying there needs to be a both parties really need to be into and I think a lot of people then can have trouble with their families not willing to go that distance. They’re not going to therapy. Yeah. Yeah. Because for them, it’s like exposing things that hey, let’s keep that under wraps.

Kelly Uchima 21:49
Oh, especially in Asian family. My dad is Japanese and the whole stoic No, nothing, you know, it’s very upheld in our family to never have issues. And now when he talks and he’s just filling up feelings, I’m

Jessica Flint 22:02
like, Oh, my God.

Kelly Uchima 22:04
It’s incredible. I mean, it just takes one person to help show that it’s okay to be vulnerable. And he actually said that the other day, I can’t believe he did. I was like, because I already said it’s okay to be vulnerable. Vulnerability really saved us. Chima

Jessica Flint 22:21
was shock. That’s awesome. But it’s so beautiful. Like, like, this could be a movie. I’m just seeing like the trailer now, you know, like coming in. And then like being able to reach and revelation. And just read this this message and how it can really impact a family getting closer to the emotional wounds, the core, like all of that stuff being said, allows so much more freedom to come in the relationships and growth.

Kelly Uchima 22:45
Well, it sounds like you’ve experienced some similar thing. I mean, I feel like whether it’s just your internal healing with your relationship with

Jessica Flint 22:51
them, forgiveness has been has been really huge. My story’s a bit different. But it’s been beautiful to forgive, and to continue that path and look at them as someone who’s suffering as well. Someone who feels that they let you down, and that you’ve let them down. You know, we’re all we’re humans, we’re all trying to do the best we can give them where we’re

Kelly Uchima 23:08
at. I’m so happy for you. That’s

Jessica Flint 23:12
forgiveness families. Okay. So this is the treasure, like I agree that this is a major treasure that you can get from it. And then just having a deeper level of love for the people in your life.

Kelly Uchima 23:22
The surprising part of my journey is that that this is not what I was seeking at all. I really wanted to be healed of an eating disorder. I wanted to stop struggling. And there’s so many things that I’ve gained from my journey with my therapist, in that room is learning there’s so much more than you are thinking and ready for. And there’s so much more healing to be had. And it’s not about the food. It’s not about your body. It’s so much deep in your psyche in your heart. And it’s the corniest thing ever to hear if you don’t get it, I remember sitting in my first five session feeling like this girl does not know what she’s saying. You know, I remember that because I’ve never dove deep my whole life.

Jessica Flint 24:00
Yeah, well, if you’re always thinking it’s just the body and the food. Yeah, so surficial, right, like the iceberg. That’s just the tip of it. What would you say are some key things that you’ve gotten from therapy? I know there’s probably so many. But what are some things that you were to tell Kelly, when you first entered into her office?

Kelly Uchima 24:18
You’re going to learn how to stop judging yourself and that judgment that you don’t understand that you judge yourself, and you’re going to fight her and say no, I don’t I love myself. You’re not going to realize how much you don’t know who you are. And I want you to let yourself really get to know yourself. And it’s okay to let go and and crying and being angry and being honest with yourself is the only way you’re gonna get anywhere. And yeah, you’re gonna have to talk about that. You want to know that you know the exact problem, and there’s no specific thing to focus on. There’s not one thing you’re going In a fix, there’s 3 billion things that you deserve to look at. That’s overwhelming.

Jessica Flint 25:05
I always think about when you’re running the system of an eating disorder, and you’re really focused on that, like a computer, it’s running all your CPUs, you know, it’s taking up all your precious memory space and all these processing units. Now, when you can take that program, remove it out, and just how you know a relationship to food where you’re eating three times a day, or how many times you feel to be satiated, what has come into your space now, that would have never been able to be there. Had you been running eating disorder program,

Kelly Uchima 25:32
everything. I did nothing when I had an eating disorder, because an eating disorder is the easiest, not easiest, but for me, the easiest distraction from living your life. You could live every single day with an eating disorder and get nothing else done and you feel exhausted. Because you’re creating these obstacle course in your brain. Every day you have something to do, you have you got to wake up, you often weigh yourself or you check your body, oh, activity done avoiding a meal activity done, giving into meal activity done feeling crappy about yourself or having meal activity done. And then the same thing throughout the day until it’s time to sleep. Of course, you’re exhausted. Of course you’re upset. Of course you have no time to go out or hang out with friends or do anything interesting or fun because you’re busy.

Jessica Flint 26:18
Yeah, no, no, really. And then just that goes, I just find deeper and deeper and deeper, the more you isolating make that your routine,

Kelly Uchima 26:25
you’re getting something done, though, you’re filling your pool of loneliness with more loneliness.

Jessica Flint 26:30
And you’re allowing the harder to feel emotions and pains and wounds to be numb.

Kelly Uchima 26:36
Oh, they have no space, you have no space for love, you have no space for happy feelings. There’s no option. And that’s why depression coincides so perfectly with eating disorders. Because there’s no space to feel anything. And you don’t think that it’s possible to be happy, because when’s the last time you had a happy emotion? When’s the last time you’ve been stimulated by something that doesn’t make sense. And that numbness becomes very normal. And it’s scary to feel an emotion. And when you trigger that emotion, you’re terrified by it, whether it’s crying or happy feelings. Yeah, you’d rather just be numb, because you get it, you have a handle on it and you’re in control. Sitting and failure sitting and disappointment in myself, was the best way for me to feel like it was okay to engage with food the way I did. validated. It’s like, I need this, I need this. I’m gonna do it. And it never allowed me to feel that relationship with food for about 12 years because my feelings of self pity and self hatred was an enabler to use food the way that I did. And I felt like I deserved it. I remember it was very hard to let go of my mechanism for food because I told my therapist I need to I don’t know what else to do. I nothing gives me that feeling. So I went home and I do the thing. Food feels like your only friend and food had been my best friend for my whole life. And I needed to validate that relationship though I couldn’t just shun her I couldn’t shun this person who needed that food so badly. It’s a part of you. But how do you move forward?

Jessica Flint 28:05
Now what did you do with exercise? So we talked about food exercises sounds like you were really into like Fitzroy community and all your exercise routines. What what did that look like for you to then kind of get to a more neutral place with exercise.

Kelly Uchima 28:18
I remember I read something that someone posted on social media. So that is really, really good thing about social media, it was not making food and exercise transactional. Blew my mind. And I actually read that about like, maybe a year ago when I was already kind of into recovery, but the way it was put it towards, oh my god, that is true. I think an obsession with fitness often is a transaction. So the way like you consume food, you are taught a lot of the time that it means it must go out. And that is the basis of food though, which is a beautiful thing is you do need energy to move. But you don’t have to move to hear the energy. And that’s the hard part is we always think that input must mean you always have to keep pushing back pushing back. And I was so obsessed with working out to burn things away because I was so terrified in this fat phobic society, of my body changing as a result for just consuming something to give me energy. It really the world and diet culture have made me so petrified of what will happen to me what’s going to happen to my body. I remember living in that constant narrative of fear. I really was like, I don’t want that to happen to me. And I don’t want people to ever fear of something, even if it did happen to you. What does that mean? Your body is just a vessel for everything else inside of you. Like it’s okay if it changes. And in fact, that means you’re alive and moving and like, life is fluid. So what but it’s really hard to believe that and be okay with that until you like practice it. And it’s still hard for me everyone’s struggled with body image, even if you’re the most self loving human in the entire world. I assume that there’s a percentage that’s always going to be concerned.

Jessica Flint 29:55
I think so I think that’s reality. And I think I mean, that doesn’t really get talked too much about in the book. any positive community because it’s really trying to up like the idea around body positivity, and then

Kelly Uchima 30:04
it goes to the extreme, or it isolates the fact that you still have feelings and insecurities. You’re not going to wake up every day be like, Alright guys, I’m ready. And I feel great. Yeah, you know that you wake up feeling uncomfortable in your skin and comfortable with your body, if you’re constipated, if you ate something you’re allergic to, if you had a fun day with your friends and ate a lot of something, it does make you feel a certain type of way. And it’s okay to feel those things. But how do you let yourself not fall into the pit? How do you still go outside and feel okay with moving around walking around going to your work talking to people? How do you let yourself live? Also, while feeling genuinely like shitty about your body, it’s possible. And just letting yourself have the feelings, helps you move through. It’s not giving those feelings so much power that they take over you. But it’s like, Oh, I see you. Okay, you can come with me today. But I’m still going to be myself.

Jessica Flint 30:56
Yeah, I’m still gonna go out, I’m still gonna do me.

Kelly Uchima 30:59
The reason why people really want to keep those negative feelings so high and regarded strong that because maybe it’s scary to abandon those feelings, maybe you’re scared that it’s not going to force you to exercise a ton. Maybe you’re afraid of letting go and still feeling good about yourself, because it might not motivate you to do all the things that you think you’re supposed to do to fix yourself. You always think you’re supposed to fix the bad feelings, but there’s nothing to fix. You’re good. You’ve always been good.

Jessica Flint 31:22
There’s 1000s of articles now in the self compassion research world that really validate this idea around being more kind and compassionate to yourself, allow you to make bigger and bolder changes in your life. So that with that acceptance really comes the change you’re looking for.

Kelly Uchima 31:36
Yes. And I think that’s also just so tied to like being someone who’s really a perfectionist or wanting to be so successful is we attach it to everything else we do. But the food was the body. We’re like, we can’t just relax. We can’t just calm down. We got to keep going. You’re good

Jessica Flint 31:53
to get your pill. Oh, it’s been such a pleasure having you here and just getting deeper into your story. It’s so amazing to see how you’ve really come out through this journey and to really embrace self love. And you provide the inspiration. So thank you, Kelly. How can all the recovery warriors stay in touch with you?

Kelly Uchima 32:10
I love that even if you want to stay in touch with me. You can follow me on Instagram just go pelvic Kelly you on YouTube. You can just look up Kelly you. Yeah, you can find me I’m just the little Asian girl who stepped out her shoes.

Jessica Flint 32:29
Thank you, Kelly. Ooh, Chima.

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  2. says: BOHH

    In a society that often promotes a transactional mindset when it comes to exercise and food, Uchima reminds us of the intrinsic value of both. She emphasizes that exercise should not be solely driven by the desire to “burn off” calories or earn the right to eat certain foods. Instead, she encourages a more holistic approach that focuses on how exercise makes us feel and the positive impact it has on our mental and physical health.

    Similarly, Uchima challenges the notion of food as a reward or punishment based on exercise. She advocates for cultivating a healthy relationship with food that is rooted in self-care, nourishment, and enjoyment. By shifting the focus away from strict rules and restrictions, Uchima promotes a more balanced and sustainable approach to eating.

    I appreciate Uchima’s emphasis on listening to our bodies and honoring their needs. It’s crucial to recognize that exercise and food are not just means to an end but integral parts of our overall well-being. This perspective encourages a healthier mindset and fosters a more positive and compassionate relationship with ourselves.

    Overall, Uchima’s insights serve as a valuable reminder to approach exercise and food with kindness, self-compassion, and a focus on holistic well-being. Her message is empowering and encourages us to prioritize our physical and mental health above societal expectations.

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