In 2015, in an attempt to unmask society’s often unrealistic beauty standards, the French government passed legislation aimed at the fashion industry. The law, which is now coming into effect, states that fashion magazines need to clearly label photos that have been retouched, and that before being hired, French models require doctor’s notes confirming they are of healthy weights.
Certainly it is an interesting and important time to be having conversations about beauty—thanks to social media, images depicting women with nonexistent waistlines and “thigh gaps” have never been more accessible. Whether it’s a young girl or a grown woman looking at these sorts of pictures, the reaction is often the same: feelings of unworthiness, of shame. They are thoughts that Erin Treloar became all too familiar with when she was a teenager, and they are reason she eventually set out to change the way females interpret the concept of beauty.
“I was comfortable with parts of my body but uncomfortable with other parts, and all the girls that I was seeing in the magazines that I was looking at in the advertisements had very specific bodies,” she recalls of her high school years, seated at a communal table at Kafka’s Coffee & Tea. “My body didn’t really even have the weight to lose, but I lost it, and eventually slipped into wasn’t just ‘controlled healthy eating,’ as I labelled it, but a full-on eating disorder.”
It got to the point where Treloar needed acute care, and was taken to an inpatient program at a Vancouver hospital. “I agreed to go in for a week,” she says, “and ended up staying for three months.” When she got out, Treloar spent years focused on finding confidence within herself and discovering ways to keep herself grounded and healthy. And while she was personally getting back on track, something was still missing—something larger. The collective conversation surrounding beauty needed to change. And so, she launched Raw Beauty Talks, a website dedicated to featuring interesting local women, photographed without makeup or retouching, at the end of 2013. “I wanted images that I could relate to: ‘This woman is real and raw but also beautiful and sexy,’” explains Treloar. Each lady featured on Raw Beauty Talks is interviewed about beauty and self-love, sharing her own struggles, inspirations, and triumphs. Now a full-fledged nonprofit, Raw partners with brands like Lululemon and Beyond Yoga to put on events that bring Vancouver women together, and raises money for local organizations that work with schools to foster self-esteem in youth. Through these tiers, Raw challenges stereotypes and creates a more dynamic, nuanced, and honest view of what it means to be beautiful.
And now Treloar, who also manages one of Vancouver’s first clinical Pilates studios at Treloar Physiotherapy Clinic, is ready to add another piece to the puzzle: personal coaching. “Last year, 2016, I was starting to have this feeling again of wanting to be able to make more impact,” she says. “’Okay, we’ve started this conversation, and now what? What are we going to do with the conversation?’” So she got her health coaching certification, and has just launched two one-on-one for-profit programs that are “focused on the pillars of nourishment, movement, personal growth, and self-care.”
The term “self-care” has had a lot of buzz lately, but beneath the glitter of a thousand hashtags lies a simple and effective message: take time for yourself. “I would say my biggest deep, dark fear about all this is that there are still a lot of people who are like, ‘Self-love? What? So airy-fairy, and what does that even mean?” Treloar admits. “There’s always that little piece of you that says, ‘What about those individuals who aren’t there or don’t get it yet?’ But at the end of the day you can’t worry about that. To me, self-love is about understanding yourself, understanding what energizes you and what takes away your energy, and then really dedicating time to incorporating into your day more of the things that energize you—more of the things that light you up.” It’s entirely personal and individually defined; it could mean going for a long jog, catching a Saturday matinee at the cinema, or finally taking that ceramics class. The point is that these moments act as refuelling stations, so that we can jump back into hectic lives with renewed vigor.
Treloar, who has a young son right now and a baby girl on the way, deeply believes in the importance of creating a more positive discourse not only for her children, but also for herself. “It works to invest time into yourself, and into your body, and into treating yourself well,” she says. “It pays dividends.” And that’s beautiful.