Born with scoliosis and restricted to wearing a brace for 13 years, when the pain became too much for Blame Andy content creator Elyse Elmer to bare – she made the tough decision to undergo a spinal fusion/straightening surgery. That was around 5 years ago.
Looking at her Instagram now, you’d hardly believe that this was someone who had only recently undergone a major surgery and had been suffering for most of her life. Posting about it to her Instagram in May 2018, Elyse wrote: “I can’t believe that only 10 months ago I was learning to walk and stand on my own and now I’m back to yoga, aerial yoga, spin, hiking, swimming… it blows my mind how incredible the human body is.
“I think one of the hardest parts of recovery has been acknowledging how different my body is now as opposed to before, accepting my limitations but pushing the boundaries. Just take a moment and even if you don’t believe yoga teachings or mind-body-spirit connections, be thankful for the people in your life that you know you can always depend on… and thank your body for putting up with all the shit you put it through.”
Now, Elyse is walking up to 10km most days of the week, as well as being actively involved in strength and yoga training. Intrigued by how far she has come and her amazing positivity when it comes to her health and wellbeing – we pulled Elyse aside for a Day on A Plate with a difference. Here, we get more in depth and go deep beyond the feed to find out everything there is to know health-wise about the creator behind Blame Andy.
First off, we do have to ask you about your spinal fusion/straightening surgery. Why did you have to go through this?
I was born with scoliosis that deteriorated massively over time. I had to wear a brace for 13 years but unfortunately it didn’t correct the curve. About five years ago, I was started on opiod pain killers just to make it through each day and that was just not sustainable in my mind – so I bit the bullet and decided to undergo the surgery. It had reached a point where the day-to-day pain of just living could not have been any worse than having the surgery!
What was the surgery like?
It was really scary and I had been avoiding it for years. They fused my T10 to pelvis and anchored it to my hips. I was in surgery for 11 hours I was told, and in North Shore Private for about a month. I don’t remember a lot from coming out of surgery to about halfway through my stay.
Can you talk me through your recovery?
It was hectic, I had to learn to walk again. I remember my feet felt like lead and I had to use a walker and be accompanied by two physios the first couple of times. Being a super active person, I did find it hard to basically start from scratch. When I went to live in rehab after the hospital, I was definitely starting to push myself. It was hard though because my organs had kind of been rearranged a bit and for about four months after the surgery and throughout recovery I couldn’t really eat. I ended up having to do a couple of juice fasts and things like that to try and get back on track, which again, I did find frustrating. But I’m lucky that I went into the surgery fit so my body was able to recover as quickly as possible.
Do you think the surgery has changed your mindset when it comes to health and your body?
My body is so different to what it was like before – so it has been a bigger adjustment mentally than I thought it would be. It’s been learning to accept my new body and be thankful for it and accept the limitations as well. I definitely take a more relaxed and moderate approach to exercise and diet now as well because I feel like everything is a new experience almost and I lived one way for so long. Yes, I was healthy then but I’m healthy now as well, just enjoying life a bit more I suppose! Everything has its ups and downs.
Well, your body might be different from before – but we think you look amazing. Can you talk us through your typical Day On A Plate?
Ahh, thank you so much! I’ve become a lot more relaxed in my eating habits over the past 2 years – I use to be much stricter. I try to intermittent fast, so I don’t usually have breakfast but will have a kombucha around 12 and lunch around 1 – usually either leftovers from the night before or a salad (cucumber, spinach, tomato, olives, feta, hard boiled egg or tuna) or homemade poke bowl (quinoa, cabbage or kale, tofu, carrot, red onion, zucchini, any other vegetables in the fridge plus some soy sauce), maybe a snack of berries or nuts or a protein shake around 4, and dinner at 7:30 or 8. Dinner could be fish and some roasted veg and brown rice, or my partner and I love tacos and I use either veggie mince or red lentils.
What is your key ethos when it comes to diet?
It’s amazing how different my views are now to a few years ago. I think that moderation is the most important thing – I don’t really feel like I have to severely restrict myself any more and it’s all about balance. Especially with intermittent fasting – I find that works really well for my body. I also think it’s important to have the real things (butter, cheese, etc) instead of always trying to substitute for a low fat version… just have less!
Do you have any guilty treats?
Cheese! I wish I could stop eating it but I’d rather cheese than chocolate. Also beer. Does that count?!
How often do you workout?
I try to do something active every day whether it’s a walk or a class or a swim. I hike/walk 8-10km about 5 days per week, swim in the ocean every sunny day, try to do strength/yoga training 3X per week, and do at least 1 HIIT session.
Do you find that having to be in a bikini on the Gram has an impact on your relationship to health?
Definitely yes. It is hard to scroll through your feed and feel less confident than you did before you started scrolling. But it’s also important as well, for me anyway, to try and not compare myself to anyone else and just try to focus on what I am doing as opposed to anyone else. It’s easy to feel like you don’t do enough and you don’t look like her, but there’s just a lot of behind-the-scenes in a lot of photos as well. I just try and keep that in perspective and also take regular breaks off social media. My partner and I also have date days where we leave our phones at home for a few hours.
How important is body positivity to you?
It’s really important to me because it took me to long to come into my own and be not only comfortable in my own skin but proud. It’s been a journey that’s for sure. I rejected my own body for so many years and I want to encourage others to not do that and to accept their bodies – as long as they are healthy mentally and physically. I use to push myself to the absolute brink with fitness and food but it never made me any happier and my goals were never tangible. In fact, I would often feel worse the thinner I got and push harder and never really see myself. I know that it is a hard journey to become healthy again both mentally and physically, and it’s easy for anyone to say: “Love the skin you’re in” – but it’s so much deeper than that. You have to be ready to accept yourself before you even emotionally allow others to accept you.
Do you feel you try and share this message?
I think it is so important in this age of social media and constant bombarding of messages, advertising, photos etc to celebrate people of all sizes that work to keep themselves fit mentally, physically, and spiritually. Also, supporting people on their own journeys to accepting themselves and becoming proud of who they are is SO important. You never know who really needs to hear from you and one bout of communication could change everything. Sometimes people just need to see or hear another perspective before it all clicks into place for them.
What is your top advice when it comes to body positivity and general wellbeing?
Figure out what works for you. Trial and error. You want to work with your body and your mind to find a positive, proud, radiant state of being. If running half marathons and eating a cheeseburger for dinner works for you and you feel nourished and happy and are fit – great, keep it up. If veganism and Pilates is more your speed, go with that. I know it sounds cliché, but I have learnt that listening to your body is so key and you don’t have to try so hard to hear it – unless you’re almost avoiding trying to hear what it has to say!
Just lastly, what would be your key message for people suffering to be on good terms with their own wellbeing?
Focus on what you like about yourself, accept what you cannot change, and try to not beat yourself up. Your body is the greatest tool that you will ever own and you don’t want to wear it out completely. Reach out to people for support – family, friends, bloggers, anyone going through something similar.
All images: Blame Andy