mental health

BEFORE & AFTER – Gaining Happiness

Times have changed and I know a lot of people are now wanting to gain muscles instead of just getting skinnier or losing weight, which is how I feel like it used to be. If you, as a girl, were working out you just wanted to get a little bit toned and would much more rather loose weight than gain it. I remember I wouldn’t lift any heavier than like a 5kg weight because I didn’t wanna get muscles that were “too big” . Because I was a girl and it wasn’t pretty. Stupid, right? This was before I developed a serious problem with food, weight and my measurements, but I still had that mindset.

That’s loooong gone now and I love lifting heavy weights. I mostly do legs, that’s no lie, and I guess partly how that started was also a result of the world changing around us and what became more “popular”. Now I feel differently. I do love having more curves, but I most importantly have a genuine passion for working out with weights and getting stronger – it gives me a lot more than what just running on a treadmill does. It’s a little break from all the stress around me, just going to the gym and focusing on me and what I’m doing in that exact moment and only that. Working out has always been some sort of therapy for me, no doubt.

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It’s clear to see the difference on the outside, but the changes on the inside are what matters the most. On the left you see a young girl who had actually GAINED weight after being in Athens and then I had arrived in Milan, still extremely skinny and also sick. My body was craving so much because I had been neglecting it from everything for such a long time that I started buying crazy amounts of junk food, going back to the model apartment, eating it all, then not eating anything the next day except for drinking juice because I felt bad. I remember feeling so ashamed, just thinking how in the world I became “that girl”. Truth is: anyone can. As this was going on I was even helping other models struggling, giving them advice and talking to them about their problems with food and their bodies. It’s crazy how much in denial I was.

I remember that later, after Milan, when I started gaining weight because I actually got a inflammation in my stomach as a result of everything I had done (will have to live with that forever) and had to start a medicine that gave me a lot of water weight, my model agent sent me pictures from my Milan trip saying how perfect I was back then. I mean, how does it not mess you up?

Then on the right – you can see me now. Healthier and happier. Strong and in love with both pizza and green tea.

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I will always have a slim figure, it’s just in my genes and I am not trying to show you guys what anyone should look like, or what a transformation should be. This is just mine. That is not what I am trying to shed light on – no body types, no big or small, no thigh gap this or big butt that. It’s the happiness you give yourself when you decide to just let you be you. The healthy version of you. Wether it’s going to the gym just a little bit more, or going a little bit less. Wether it’s to stop letting yourself not eat what you want because of “carbs”, or if it’s adding more vegetables to your dinner instead of eating noodles every day. It’s all about balance. Too much of anything is never good.

I found change in the people around me as well, I started realising what was important – knowing I could not live my life like this. I met Dan and all I started doing was living in the moment. Food was something to enjoy and love was something you couldn’t define by a body or an image. I realised love is real and it doesn’t judge. So I stopped doing that as well. I decided to give love to the real me and everything that comes with doing so.

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personal · Photographs

Less Or More, More Or Less

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I still remember when I went to try and get my Visa accepted, for the second time, to go to America. The first time I didn’t get accepted because they didn’t believe I just wanted to go to Los Angeles all alone, to experience and fulfil a dream I had as a little girl. The second time I remember the guy almost got angry at me when I told him about my story and how I want to continue to travel to experience and see the world. “Are you never going to settle down?” “What are you supposed to do for the rest of your life?”. I remember thinking “who are you to make me feel bad about actually doing the one thing I want to do in my life”.

We all have created the expectation of a life over time, “settling down”, and the word “unrealistic”. These rules and ways of life that only exists inside our heads.

I want to live my life exactly how I want to live it. Such simple words and a given really, right? But that’s what my plan is – for as long as I live. That’s what we should do, isn’t it? It’s yours to live.

I want to be free. I want to be with the ones I love so much and so strongly that my heart even hurts a little bit. I want to see and experience everything of this planet that I have time to see. I want to speak up. I want to make the difference I can.

I might not have it all figured out. I might not spend all my young adult life studying to become a lawyer or a doctor. I might be here one day and in another country the next day. I might be a model one day, a waiter one day, and a business owner some day.

I am still educated. I am still hard working. I am still growing each and every day. More than others, less than others. I am just doing my own thing – less or more, more or less – it shouldn’t be compared, we shouldn’t be compared. 

We are constantly told how we are all unique and no one is like one another, so let us live a unique life. No matter what that means to you. It’s yours.

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Photo: @susiphotographer

Food · personal

Let’s Talk About Food

When you’re young it’s easy to not consider the importance of taking care of your body and the consequences it might bring you later if you don’t. Choosing good, healthy, and sustainable food has multiple benefits. It benefits you. It benefits the animals. It benefits the environment. Our planet.

As a 17 year old, I got the opportunity to travel as a model. Before traveled, I got “trained” in the modeling industry. My mother agency (your base model agency) that I was with at the time, was telling me what I had to do to be “good enough”. I always knew in the back of my mind that what I was doing to my body was not healthy or good in any way, and my body also tried to let me know – but my ambition and dreams were bigger, and I eventually got very good at convincing myself and everyone around me into thinking that I only did what was necessary, in a “healthy” way. 

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Photo: Susanne Pettersen

The reason why I’m using a lot of quotation marks, is because it later became obvious to me that the food I ate and didn’t eat, left huge marks on me. The way you choose to nurture your body – what food you put on your plate – is the most important choice you make for yourself, and you take that choice every single day.

Now I know that it does not matter if someone is –  older, younger,  more successful or powerful – than you, it does not mean that they know what’s the better choice for you and your health. Listen to your body. Food is the drive for all your thoughts, strength, ambitions – your life and everything it involves. 

Be aware. Be aware of how much or how little you’re giving to your body, be aware of what happens to your body when you choose to give it hot dogs and Coca Cola, and most of all what exactly it is you are allowing your body to use as fuel – what it consists of. 

As a 15 year old I could not get myself to understand the importance of the right nutrition. Looking back I see now that I felt invincible and did not think that any of the choices I made regarding food back then could ever have the power to stay with me forever.

I tried to convince myself and everyone around me. I became good at that. Until it all became too visible. Until my body said stop. 

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Photo: Susanne Pettersen

It will always, eventually, come to a point where the body forces you to stop or you’ll break down – completely. Either it’s too much food, too little, or too toxic… It comes to a point where it’s too late and you can’t just go back and “fix” what you have done to your body. The body that always tries to protect you, fix you and tell you when something is not right. You only get so many chances to listen. 

So what did all of this give me? What happens when a young, healthy and strong body suddenly stops eating after seven in the evening? What did it do to a happy girl full of ambitions, life and dreams when food became her worst enemy? When she chooses to exclude natural carbohydrates like rice and potatoes from her diet because then “I’ll be thin enough”?

It gave me pain. It gave me a lifelong illness, ulcerative colitis. A stomach constantly fighting against something that’s not there in the first place – leaving me with unnecessary pain that will never leave. Making it more important than ever to give my body the right nutrition, and giving me no opportunity to neglect my body any more, because only the best will help me. It gave my mom tears and fear. It gave my friends a distant friend that slowly disappeared. It gave me sadness and emptiness, tears and loneliness. 

It also gave me something else. It gave me a lesson, a tough and lifelong one, but a lesson. It gave me an understanding.

We all have a responsibility. I have a responsibility. 

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Photo: Susanne Pettersen

Bad food and food habits pose a bigger threat to health globally than tobacco, alcohol,  drugs and unsafe sex combined, but while there’s an age limit for alcohol and warnings about death on cigarettes packets – what is there for food? Toxic, unhealthy food? Nothing. There are commercials for it. It’s on kids menus.

There are so many people out there today that have a complex relationship with food – and I used to be one of them. It is difficult, tough and all-consuming. 

I wish I would have been kind to my body. I know for a fact I would have appreciated everything so much more. Everything that gave me real and true happiness. The new countries, the amazing people, every single experience. The things that still give me butterflies looking back at.

I would love to be able to go back in time and have a long conversation with myself, but then again – I am here now, a lot wiser, and with so much more experience. That counts for something. 

Imagine if we all could get rid of those thoughts… Take away all of those “this makes me fat, we have eaten meat since forever, it doesn’t affect me”… Imagine if we could change it into “what is actually good for my body, what will give me the correct nutrition, how can my body function the best way possible”… – And from there knowing that all the positive changes will show on both the inside as well as the outside.

The world isn’t where it should be when it comes to plant-based and sustainable food, but together we could all get further. We are the ones who can make a change. Everything is about what we want, what we are buying, what we need. What if we could ask for the best, not just for us, but for the earth as well?

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Photo: Susanne Pettersen

But how can we make it simple? We constantly have newspapers, bloggers, nutritionists, parents, teachers and even doctors telling us one thing is good one day, then bad the other day.

What is good food? Food that is good for your health, for animals and people in the supply chain – for the planet?

Food journalist for NYT Michael Pollan summarises the science and says that the short answer to what us humans should eat in order to stay maximally healthy is – “Eat (real) food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Less is more. Less ingredients, less food additives, less mass produced products that can stay in your cabinet for months without turning bad. And yes, less meat.

More simple, clean and natural foods. Food that grows, that doesn’t come in a box and that has ingredients you know of. Food that can rot. It’s a natural and good sign. Eat more plants, seeds and grains.

When you are stuck with an illness and your only option is to eat what in reality is good for the human body, and not what people necessarily tell you – you start to realise the importance and huge impact it has, which is hard to see when you’re constantly getting pulled in different directions the second anyone talks about the word “healthy”.

The reasons why I have been eating more plant-based food in the past years have been the welfare of the animals and for my own health. I have also had many discussions with my closest people about it, and a lot of them, I surround myself with today,  have gone through a journey of their own and found reasons to choose a more plant-based lifestyle, which makes me very happy now that I know how much the food you eat can affect your health. Through documentaries I have learned how the meat industry affects the environment and our planet. Globally it is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, and in developed and emerging countries it is perhaps the leading source of water pollution. It truly needs more attention. Recently is has made an even bigger impression on me, as I now know more about the impact is has on our planet. By meeting Gunhild Stordalen, Executive Chair and Founder of the EAT foundation, I have been inspired to learn, read and educate myself more on the environment side of it all.

Please – love yourself by choosing the right daily fuel. Last, but not least – Don’t forget about our planet!  

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Photo: Susanne Pettersen