Summer is here, a time of year where pressure to look a certain way is amplified and when our inner saboteurs thrive. Twenty-nine-year-old Christchurch woman Ellie Haines has gained a notable online following for challenging these beauty standards. Metropol catches up with the hilariously honest and refreshingly real activist about self-love and redefining the status quo.
Your Instagram account started to document a weight loss journey. What inspired the transition to @lovingelliesbelly, a place to celebrate body positivity?
“I was around 23 when I first started ‘Losing Ellie’s Belly’. At that point I had a ‘need’ to lose weight and thought that I would be happier when I did. I was spending several hours each day at the gym and sharing all the meals I was eating trying to, I guess, ‘inspire’ others to lose weight with me. I tried to make myself vomit and not eat. I was asked by an ex-boyfriend to delete the page as he could see my unhealthy addiction to it. I deleted the page – but then he dumped me! So I began the blog again, this time I was on a mission to ‘get a revenge body’, which I documented for a few months, until I went to the live premiere of Embrace: The Documentary and I met the director, Tarryn. Afterwards in the car with my mum and sister in law I said, ‘I am changing what I do, I want to inspire people to love themselves as they are’. And I did exactly that! Here we are today with an amazing community of women and men who inspire, uplift each other, and let me be me.”
There’s been a big movement online surrounding body-positivity, body-normativity and stopping body shaming. You call yourself “plus size” in your online bio – what does this movement mean to you?
“In New Zealand, if you are size 12-plus you are plus size, and those words have such a bad stigma. There is nothing wrong with being plus size (or as I like to call it, extra luscious) because in fact the average Kiwi women’s size is 12 to 14. So, by putting that in my bio, I want to instantly break the barrier for anyone new that comes to my page to know I am proud of my size, and so should we all be.”
Pop star, Lizzo, recently told Vogue body positivity has become “too commercialised and cool”. Can you talk a little bit about the commercialisation and hijacking of this message?
“There are so many people that will post about body positivity because it’s a trending hashtag but really don’t have self-love. Inspiring yes, but you can’t promote something if you don’t believe it. I would share photos of my body, say in togs, and women would comment saying I was ‘brave’, and it makes me sad that a woman standing there at a beach in togs is considered brave. Why is that brave? Because society has destroyed our thinking to make us believe we are not good enough as we are? One of my favourite quotes is, “If we started loving our bodies, imagine how many industries would be out of business” – and it really makes you think, doesn’t it?”
A lot of the above movement seems to be driven by younger generations. Have you noticed anything generational about your journey, or your supporters and critics?
“I have actually found my biggest supporters are a few generations above. Many women my mum’s age say it’s helped them and how they wish they had someone back in their day to help inspire. They then recommend me to their daughters! I fear the younger generation actually have it harder. On Tik Tok, they are editing their faces with extreme beauty filters and living in this [false] reality that that is ‘beauty’. We’ve got a big fight ahead of us to ensure we protect the younger generation from what’s online!”
Coming into summer we see a lot of “how to get a summer body”-type messaging. What would your advice be for women at this time of year when facing the tide of body image-related content?
“Oh gosh, isn’t it sad at this time of the year how much advertising goes on to achieve the ‘perfect bod’. When you already have the perfect body! That’s where that quote above comes in handy, right! Just wear the togs, or change from pants at the beach to shorts, or t-shirt to a singlet – enjoy summer and don’t let the worry of what you think others are thinking, stop you from living your life. My favourite quote is, “nobody is actually looking” – and it is so true because everyone is in their own lane, fighting their own body confidence issues at the beach or just simply having too gooda time, to even care what others are doing!”