The first thing you’ll notice when you meet Danika Brysha are her sparkling, crystal clear blue eyes. She will give you an all-encompassing smile, and a full hug. Her confidence warms you like afternoon sun and has a contagious impact. Like all success stories, there was a before. Before she was the founder and CEO of Model Meals, a Whole30/Paleo meal delivery business, an IMG Curve Model, and a self-care coach, she struggled with her diet, self-image, confidence, and a couple of sticky vices too.
As an expert in the fields of self-care and body image, Danika is leading this generation into a place that takes the trending topic of body positivity and turns it upside down, helping us to realize that it’s not actually about our bodies. I had the opportunity to interview Danika about how to truly love your body, and yourself, from the inside out.
“Body positivity” is becoming a buzz word, but it can mean a lot of different things. How do you define it?
Body positivity to me is the absence of awareness around your body having any sort of value. It’s that we don’t have to talk about it. The people who have the most body positivity are the ones that are free from even putting value on their bodies. For me personally, I literally don’t acknowledge that my body is bigger than most people’s. The reality is that I’m so focused on the internal work, the soul work as a person, that I don’t think about my body or how I feel about it.
Wow, that is amazing. I never even thought of it that way – a lack of even having this conversation! I love that. How do you feel we can be examples to the upcoming generation when it comes to loving your body? Can you share some tactical tips?
It always comes back to ourselves. People will do what we do, not do what we say. It’s about living as an example. Especially as a parent, your kids become you. They’re such a sponge when they’re little. The way you eat, take care of yourself, etcetera, is something they see. So, it’s an inside job, and we have to do the work on ourselves so that we can embody these values.
The tactical secret is to stop negative thoughts in their tracks. We have power over how we think and feel. You have to break the thought pattern, starting with paying attention to the thoughts. The foundation of the work that I do is in reminding everyone that thoughts that are tangible, and turn into something in your life. Choose positive thoughts and you will have positive results.
Another tip is to pay attention to what you consume. Media, social media, and all of that.
When I became a plus-sized model, I started filling my news feed with other plus-sized models, so I began adopting that as my normal and believing that those women and bodies are beautiful.
I recreated my normal, and now it’s my reality, and the example that I set.
Body dysmorphia has become a rampant issue, causing women of all shapes and sizes to look in the mirror and see different things. How do we combat this?
This reminds me of a story from before I had discovered Whole30, and made a lot of positive changes in my life. I was living in New York City and lost 40 pounds, so was down to about a size 6, and went to Miami with supermodel friends who are naturally super thin. The whole trip I kept thinking I was “the big girl”, and thought there was no way the guys were interested in me, or that I was of value next to these other women. It ruined the trip for me. I was looking at photos on the airplane ride home from the trip of all of us in the ocean together and had a slap in the face moment where I realized that I didn’t look that different than them! I had wasted the trip feeling insecure about nothing. It took me stepping outside of my head to realize this.
Your mind and soul don’t always catch up with what your physical body is like, which is a reminder that it’s always about self-love.
Investing in self-care, mindfulness, meditation, and believing in ourselves all support this. The more we take care of ourselves in a gentle, loving, feminine way, the more we can take care of others too.
After all of the dieting you did, you discovered a way to make a life change around food, and that led you to the body positive life you lead. However, there are so many opinions on the concept of “dieting” vs. understanding the nourishment your individual body needs. How do you recommend people go about bettering their eating habits?
I recommend they go about making any food changes in an intuitive way.
We grew up in a diet culture, and were taught to trust everything outside of our own bodies to tell us what to eat and what we needed. It completely disconnected us from trusting our bodies and their cues.
I’m an emotional eater, and had no idea. I would just shove emotions down with food, and used a lot of therapy to figure that out. I realized that diets for me were about hating my body and wanting to change it. It came from a space of hate. When I did Whole30 for the first time in 2013, it was about doing something that would make me feel good. It came from a place of love, and it’s no wonder it changed my whole life.
Start going inward and working on these things. Even if you aren’t attached to your body image, you can tune into your body and see what happens. Indulge in yoga, massage, meditation, or journaling. Get into something gentle. It’s all about accepting yourself totally where you are, and making choices because you respect yourself so much.
Your body will find its natural place and settle there, once you’re healthy. It took me a long time to accept that my healthy body is at a size 12-14. Could it be smaller? Yes, but it’s not about that. It’s about where you thrive and defining beauty from the inside out.
To hear more from Danika, check out the tons of resources on her website. I highly recommend looking into her self-care checklist, which I have personally implemented successfully in my busy, new-mom life. You can also find her currently touring the country on The Brunch Series Tour, where women can gather and learn all about living a healthy, positive life, and pursuing their dreams.
Photos by Annie Vovan Photography, courtesy of Danika Brysha