Food Freedom, Body Peace, and Joyful Movement with @theintuitiongk

Friends, you are in for a TREAT! My first introduction to Austen's IG @theintuitiongk came from the recommendation of a friend who noticed I was struggling with restrictive, obsessive eating patterns and a distorted body image. The title of this post really sums up the purpose of her platform. Her posts have helped me through some really hard times, and I am so honored to share her story with you today. I am perpetually inspired by her wise words and genuine messages of love. So, gals, further ado, here's Austen! <3

Tell us a little about yourself, where you grew up, and some of your favorite hobbies/passions!

Hi friends! My name is Austen {The Intuition Gym & Kitchen}, and I’m an actor, teaching artist, and intuitive wellness advocate. I was born in New York City, where I also now reside, but grew up just outside the city in New Jersey, and went to college in St. Louis, MO. When I’m not working, I love to spend time connecting with people, reading, doing yoga, cooking & baking, learning to play the guitar, going to museums & seeing theatre, and exploring new places.

Take us through your journey with food and body image. Where did it begin?

The seed of a struggle with body image and disordered eating & exercise habits was planted for me in high school. I was in every play and musical, often in front of large audiences wearing revealing costumes, and the pressure to look a certain way began to mount in my teenage years. When I went away to college to study acting, the new autonomy allowed me to spiral into a several year struggle with obsessive food & exercise control, body dysmorphia, and an inability to prioritize the things I truly cared about because the aforementioned two struggles had such a tight grip on me. On one particularly difficult day, I felt so overwhelmed by this solitary struggle (only so because of my own shame and unwillingness to open up about the matter) that I finally reached out for help. And thus began a long journey toward recovery, all centered around regaining a relationship with my intuition, healing my relationship with food & exercise, and eventually making peace with my body by placing far more value on my brain & soul. But I will repeat… this was a long journey. And I think it’s important for us to talk about the scope of it realistically.

What were some of your hardest obstacles you’ve had to overcome in this journey?

Hm… this is a great question. I think, honestly, the actual step of admitting that I needed help was one of the hardest for me. There’s such a stigma around eating disorders in practically every community, and I felt pretty terrified of what that might mean. But once I was able to face that, and own where I was and where I wanted to be, I think the hardest part was probably patience. For me, the healing process was very much a “one step forward, two steps back” situation, messy & nonlinear as all healing journeys are. There were days (and nights) where I felt like I’d lost all of the progress I’d been making, and it took an immense amount of patience and consistent commitment, even when there wasn’t yet a tangible end in site, in order to get to where I am now.

When and why did you start your Instagram platform @theintuitiongk?

This is actually a perfect segway, because when I finally reached a place where my intuition was strong, and my relationship with my body had improved so dramatically, I felt as though I wanted to shout it from the rooftops! I was so proud, and found so much beauty in this messy journey, that I wanted to connect with folx who were also on that journey, no matter what phase of it they were on. I rediscovered my love for cooking and movement of many different varieties while healing, and wanted to share these perspectives with whoever might benefit from them. So I dreamt up The Intuition Gym & Kitchen, an Instagram blog that would discuss everything from eating disorder recovery to diet culture, and from intuitive eating to body diversity. I was grateful to join a community, almost instantaneously, that was rallying around many of the same topics, and it became pretty easy to get rid of all of the old wellness & workout accounts that made me anxious, and to fill up my feed with new, inspiring voices. I still feel so fortunate to be a part of a community that provides support for people of all backgrounds in their pathways to making peace with their uniquely strong bodies.

As an actor, do you feel that this shift into listening to and loving your body has changed your craft?

Absolutely, yes. And another fantastic question! As I mentioned in a prior response, I regained my passions once I began to create space in my brain and energy in my body to commit to working on the things that I truly love. Rather than spending hours upon hours planning workouts, counting calories, worrying about food, thinking about my body, scrolling through Instagram and pining after perfect figures, I now had so much time & energy to devote to reading, learning about people, working on new skills and sharpening old ones. I quickly felt as though a fire has been rekindled within me, and this was a truly refreshing feeling.

Now, the greatest change I feel has taken place in more recent years is a sort of abandon that exists in telling stories and embodying characters that I wasn’t capable of accessing for some time. I was so concerned with the way my body looked that it limited me to a very narrow range of human behavior. It’s exciting, both in my daily life and in my work, to know that the ugly, silly, messy, and unkempt are all valuable and beautiful in as many ways as they’re unearthed, which I could never have allowed within myself while in the throws of my eating disorder.

I just saw that you came back from a beautiful trip to India. What inspired you to go?

Ah, yes! This was actually my third trip to India! I teach for an organization called Artists Striving to End Poverty (ASTEP) here in New York, and my work with them often brings me over to a school in rural southern India, as well. I teach dance, theatre, and music to youth from underserved communities all over the world, but my relationship to the students in India has always been special. This year, I extended my trip to include a week of yoga study and a week of solo travel in the north of India. I’m already dreaming about the next time I can return...

Did anything you learned during your time in India take you by surprise? What are some of your biggest take aways from your trip?

Because I’ve had the great privilege of traveling to India before this trip, the solo travel aspect, which was new for me, was what I learned the most from this time around. Stripping away my normal wardrobe, makeup, food comfort zone, movement routines, and expectation-laden human connections, I felt an access to my deepest intuition that I don’t think I’ve been able to access since my childhood. This also allowed me to see the purest essence of everyone I met and interacted with, and I felt totally free of judgment of myself and of others. This is something I’m seeking even as I’m back in the states: judgment-free connections with folx based on energy rather than ideas. I’m also working to question routine more often than giving over to it, and allowing things to ebb & flow based on daily needs rather than preemptively planning every moment before it’s upon me.

What are five things you are grateful right now?

Currently, I’m grateful for the curiosity that’s alive in myself & others, I’m grateful for friends new & old, for my home & my city, for advice from those who’ve lived more life than I have (whether in years or experience), and for access to resources.

What advice do you have for the gals out there struggling with their relationship with food, body image, and exercise.

To any person who might be struggling: Spend more time with yourself & others than with social media & screens. Don’t be afraid to open up and ask for help. Seek literature and new thoughts & ideas that inspire you rather than make you feel small. And, above all, be patient with yourself. As my favorite yoga teacher in India often said: “Slowly. Day by day. No need to force.”

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