Meet and Love: Alyonka
Host, Producer, Podcaster, Storyteller, Social Engineer, Speaker of Truth, and Founder of Wo/Men Workshops
“I am Human. I ride my waves as they come. Everything else can step aside.”
We caught up with our friend and future Love Squad Series panelist, Alyonka! We are super excited to have her join us on the panel on June 28th. A unique and beautiful human being, we are certain you’ll feel inspired after hearing her story.
LS: What do you do?
AL: I am a host, producer, podcaster, storyteller, social engineer, speaker of Truth and founder of Wo/Men Workshops. In all facets of life and work, I facilitate a space for men and women to engage in a much needed conversation on what it means to be a modern human in today’s society.
LS: Share with us your story, share with us major achievements, obstacles your faced..
AL: I’ll keep this short.
My Story can be pieced together though my obstacles and achievements.
Obstacles faced: working, persevering and succeeding in a male-dominated industry for ten years. Learning to navigate my way out of emotionally abusive and emotionally unavailable relationships with men and women. Gong through the process of healing my relationship with my Father. Still moving through that space with my Mother. Both, are one of the hardest things I’ve had to go through. Living in an Eating Disorder for ten years. Almost dying from it.
Major Achievements: Choosing Life. Living Recovery. Finding my Voice, My Truth, My Story. Championing My Flaws and the Flaws of others. Building my own business, brand and belief system. Creating a community of Humans looking to better understand the Human Condition by connecting intentionally and engaging in meaningful conversations. Starting my Podcast before I was ready to (are we ever? Get over that hump! jump!) Being a really good sibling to my brother and sister. Being a really good friend to my close-knit circle and my extended family of humans I’ve met through my years working, especially recently. Learning to love Women again. Learning – as in, actively learning – to love myself.
LS: What is your relationship with your body? What is your relationship with food?
AL: I am in Recovery for Anorexia Nervosa so my relationship with my body is ever-changing. It fluctuates on a daily basis from good to bad to great, and everything in between. Just like my body, the relationship is flawed and that’s what makes it unique to me. It is mine for as long as I choose to take care of it so I do my best to Show Up in the best way I can so that it keeps on keepin’ on for me. I have learned – the painful way – how quickly the body can go out. Just like a light. At one second on, at another second off..
Similarly to my body, my relationship with food is flowing. I have rewired my brain to view food as a source of energy and sustenance. Food is the fuel for my engine which allows me to stay alive, to stay active, to stay working, to stay engaged, to stay actively listening, and to stay present in any given moment. I value my brain above all and I know it smiles deeply when I nourish it. I keep that in mind during the hardest moments when food all of a sudden becomes dangerous, an annoyance, heavy, etc. I check-in with myself with a gentle reminder that my brain needs 500 calories just to activate it’s engines and for someone who’s as cerebral as I am, I’m going to need more than that if I want to do justice in this world.
LS: We hear the words “Body Positive” — what are some things that you practice to stay body positive?
AL: I dislike this phrase very much. I dislike any phrase that has the word positive attached to it. I understand the sentiment but I do not come from the world of positive thinking ie; think and it shall be yours, or, positive = results/success, etc. I believe that the world in which we live, our bodies and minds, our thoughts, our trajectories, ebb and flow. Just like the ocean, there will be days where the waves are mild, and the days when the currents are strong. On the difficult days, it does not matter how “body positive” I am or try to be. It does not matter how much I resort to my tools to kick me out of my funk. Sometimes a funk is just a funk and there’s no need to look into it much deeper. The point is – just like in surfing – sometimes you have to ride that wave or funk. If you try to exert too much power or strength or manipulation, you’ll fall off your board and the wave will consume you whole, pushing you further into its’ current, further into the depths of the waters. It is best to surrender into that space – yes, even the discomfort – and to be with it, embrace it, LOVE it, and then to move on. Loving your discomfort comforts your body and mind to understand that you’re HUMAN and that you will have those days when nothing feels right. So, my phrase is: I am Human. I ride my waves as they come. Everything else can step aside.
LS: How has nutrition and food played a roll in your life?
AL: I come from a family of athletes so nutrition and food has always been front and center. I grew up eating very healthy, whole foods. ‘Junk foods’ were not part of our vernacular (or pantry). However, when I picked up my eating disordered tendencies, I threw out the word nutrition and began to focus on food as a way to control my life and my emotions. This manifested in many ways: overeating, binging, over-exercising, restricting and eventually into full-blown Anorexia Nervosa. Food became something to avoid at all costs which ironically became the only thing I would think about in my desperate attempt in avoiding it. It has now become a source of energy, sustenance and nourishment, however, it is not a desire, want, or an explosion of emotional satisfaction. It is stark for the time being. On purpose. So as not to entangle emotions into something that should be seen as life-giving. At some point, I hope to be a person who can answer ‘what is your favorite food?’ with a genuine answer. But that’s not me right now and that’s OKAY.
LS: What advice would you give to our readers if they are struggling with eating disorders and trouble staying body positive?
AL: In my worldview, the two are separate and conflating them only causes the problem to be bigger. My advice is always to start small. Start with one thing, build on it, and then reach for another one. It’s the same as rock-climbing. If you’re thinking about how you’re going to get to the top, you’ll never, ever get there and chances are, you’ll fall. With something like a mental illness, we need to set our healing trajectories from a space of reality. Hope – of course – is needed, but we have to be realistic that there will be pitfalls and steps back taken, but that these are not failures, just small bumps on the road.
It’s hard to give advice to someone who isn’t willing to do the work. Eating Disorders are extremely personal, unique to each individual, and privately lived. They are an identity and they become you. That is why it’s so hard to separate. At a certain point, the identities mix into one and you start to forget the person that you used to be. I’d say, when you’re ready to ask for help, start talking. Start speaking to someone you trust and begin the conversation with a “i don’t need you to do or say anything, I just need you to try and to listen, to refrain from bringing in judgement into this space, and to let me speak my truth so that I can release it, after which, I’ll need time to process and feel through whatever comes up for me”. The person on the other end needs to know that this is a process and a long one, and it takes A LOT of work, time, patience and an extremely loving and caring community and support system. Seeking professional help is a MUST. Whether that’s working an speaking with a psychologist or psychiatrist. Whether that’s going to a nutritionist specializing in eating disorders. Whether that’s calling a treatment center and checking yourself in. Whether that’s finding a support group in your local area. In my belief, the more you start sharing your story and speaking your truth, the less IT will have hold over YOU. From there, the work begins.
As for body positivity…again, you’ve heard my opinion on this statement. I’ll say – which I repeat on the regular in my Workshops – that I strive to be a Content 5. People, self-help gurus, spiritual leaders, etc. are always preaching POSITIVITY! STRIVE TO BE YOUR BEST SELF. MANIFEST GREATNESS! Yeah, yeah, all of those things are great. But when you’re shouting these things at someone whose battled with anxiety, depression, and any other mental illness, it’s extremely difficult to see the glass half full. Striving for a PERFECT 10 is nearly impossible. There is no such thing as perfect so why lean on something that might never come to fruition. I like being in my Content 5, where, I’m goooood. Like, I’m coasting. I’m not a 10 bouncing around the walls, high! Nor am I at an all time low, 1. I’m 5. And should I fall back to 1, I can get to 5 again, and vice versa. I apply this to my Body as well. It’s always changing. The look, the feel, the way I perceive it. It’s ever-evolving. Like me. There will be days where I feel like a 10 and I feel like a 1. TEN IS NOT SUSTAINABLE. NEITHER IS 1. As long as I’m at 5 – i’m goooood. I’m coasting. I can handle it.
LS: Can you share with our readers some first steps to changing the way you see your body, food, and understanding the nutrition of it?
AL: I had to start from scratch. LITERALLY baby steps. I had to learn how to eat again. Whole foods. I started with bananas. My body was insanely deprived of potassium which is why (amongst other reasons) I was near organ failure. Bananas were mandatory. I hated bananas. Knew their calorie and carb count. Avoided them like the plague. I had to find a way to eat them. Now, this is NOT professional advice. THIS worked for ME. I know that in treatment this is looked down upon, but it worked for me because I am not someone who takes kindly to forced-change, let alone forced-feeding. I cut up my banana. One banana. Into small little pieces. I would lay them out on a small plate and I would begin to eat. The first three months I repeated this every.single.day. Each time, it would take me nearly two hours to finish the banana. What was the fear? That a whole food would cause me to gain weight, balloon up, trigger me into binging, then restricting and the cycle would start all over. What I focused on was the IMMEDIATE clarity my brain would receive from eating. I could see and think more clearly. Words came out more easily. I would literally feel my body charge up with energy. This was very exciting. However, the dread of weight gain would quickly follow. It wouldn’t be until the next day that I would see that I didn’t balloon overnight. Bananas were safe. Good. AND they created immediate positive effects. WHOLE, REAL foods were GREAT. After a while, I started eating the banana whole. Today, I don’t think about it at all. I do, and enjoy. This continue with other foods. Full bowl of oatmeal. Avocados. Salads etc. etc. etc. I believe in setting attainable goals which are sustainable instead of shocking the body into DO THIS NOW. It might work for some but it doesn’t work for me. Now I see food as fuel.
“Alyonka Larionov spent 10 years in the TV and media industry as a host, broadcaster and producer, working for companies such as HBO, TSN, CBC, the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center, MSG Networks, the NHL Network and most recently as a producer for VICELAND’s show “VICE World of Sports.” She now finds herself sourcing from the many conversations had with athletes, celebrities and people, in her work with Wo/Men Workshops — a guided and moderated group conversation where Women | Circle and Men | Gather to discuss what it means to be a modern human in today’s society. She’s also the host and producer of the “Tell Your Story” podcast and is launching her own YouTube channel called A.”