‘…it transformed me into the person I am today with a strong mind, body and soul’
Body image is one of society’s biggest struggles, especially for the gay community. Many of us battle stigma from outside and within in the fight to achieve the idea of the ‘perfect’ body.
Elias Nohra, 21 from Sydney, Australia, has been steadily cataloging his progress as he transforms his body.
Using his platform on Instagram, which has over 50,000 followers, Nohra discusses openly his experience enduring body dysmorphia, anorexia and bullying due to his weight and appearance.
We caught up with Elias to talk about how his life has changed, how his past determined his future and how we can support each other in order to love one another.
Hi Elias, can you tell me about your eating disorder and bullying history?
I would do vigorous hours of cardio at the gym, on school nights, even waking up early to go to the gym, where I had a membership age 14 and 9 months (the legal age in Australia at the time.)
I got my 2 or 3 hours in a day and burned calories to the point of extreme fatigue, exhaustion or pain. When I returned home I wouldn’t eat, or I would eat small amounts of food. Then when I began to starve, I would eat everything, and then I would purge.
Sometimes I used laxatives too to make sure it was all out of my system.
Little did I know, the way I went about this was excessive, obsessive, unhealthy and, eventually, became a disorder.
When you suffer from an eating disorder or body dysmorphia you don’t actually appreciate what is in front of you. Your vision and perception of reality and yourself is skewed.
Looking in that mirror as I took that selfie [below], I probably thought I was still overweight and needed to starve myself.
High school was probably the worst time of my life.
Growing up overweight, as any overweight child would be able to tell you, is an awful experience. Fellow students would torment me about the amount of fat on my body, would poke me in uncomfortable places, offer me food as a form of teasing and push me to eat in front of them.
The harsh reality is, some of us will never grow up conventionally attractive, healthy or fit. I was never appreciated or valued, and neither will you be by some people. But that’s OK.
Today, I can proudly say that the bullying, harassment and years of abuse and torment paired with my resilience and determination made me the person I am today: a happier, confident and fearless individual.
What encouraged you to undergo your transformation?
I began this journey with one goal: to be healthy. Was I forced by anybody in particular to begin my weight loss journey? No.
My parents didn’t care. My very few friend’s didn’t care. My bullies didn’t care.
I paved this journey on my own because I wanted to be healthier and happier. I wanted to wear clothing that fit nicely around my body that weren’t XXL.
I wanted to stop crying myself to sleep at night.
But, in life, you have to understand the pain of mistakes to teach yourself how to find a comfortable balance. Sometimes you just have to raise a finger and say ‘Who gives a f*ck?’ in order to start living unapologetically as the imperfect perfection that you are.
Am I in a good place now with my mental, social, emotional, spiritual and physical wellbeing? Most definitely.
Do you think that transforming your body helps transform your mind?
Most definitely. I recently discovered a concept known as Body Wisdom. Listening to your body and to your conscience and acting on that stimulus.
I tune into what’s going on in my mind because what I sense is transparent.
With sensuality, there are no rules. There is the simplicity of what I sense, the honesty of what I feel and the anchor of what I know. Thinking with our senses is the ‘feel good’ of accessing a meaningful perspective for best quality of living.
Part of this is portrayed on my Instagram with certain posts depicting a sensual side to me. Sensuality is an attractive mystery for most men and widely repressed.
Listening to my body and what it has been telling me for the last 6 years [from age 15] on this journey of self-discovery is only possible through a healthy state of mind.
Being in tune with change and growth is liberating.
If you achieve a stereotypically ‘perfect’ body are you happy forever?
There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to have a better body to make you happier.
Unfortunately, some gay men use gym culture in an abusive manner towards themselves.
So-called ‘gym junkies’ can fall into a depressive state when they do not go to the gym every single day. A lot of these men suffer from severe body dysmorphia.
I enjoy gym culture because it has become apart of who I am and my everyday life and has led me out of my darkest points in life.
What about those who judge people for believing a better body makes for a happier life?
There should be less judgement towards others who create their own source of happiness and more support for the diverse ways in which happiness can be found or discovered.
I never used to talk about what insecurities I’ve overcome because I know for a fact that there will be that one person who will come at me for them. But I am no longer bothered.
This isn’t about conforming to gay male beauty standards either. Heck, I’ve recently been told I have a woman’s body because of the amount of curves I have. But I’ll take that as a compliment!
This is about being in control of your health. I am confident because I listen to my body, I allow it to speak to me and I react off that.
How you respond or react determines your next direction.
Have you had any cosmetic enhancement surgeries?
I have not had any cosmetic enhancement surgeries. I have definitely enquired about them in the past while I was on my journey of self discovery and weight loss but such surgeries are incredibly expensive and even if I did have that money, I don’t need it.
I still have stretch marks on some parts of my body where rapid tissue growth has occurred.
I also have excess skin around my hips which I have learned to accept and love and contribute to a bigger booty.
I have learned to accept all my flaws and imperfections, whatever they may be.
Finally what message would you have for the people who aspire to look and be like you?
Often we think those in shape have been that way for years, not realising they’ve endured a long, disciplined journey to get to where they are.
Our bodies are all shaped differently. Some of us have more masculine features, some more feminine features. If you currently workout and you still feel there is a glass ceiling to break, which separates you from those you consider ‘attractive’, I hope I can make it seem palpable and not so far away.
My message goes beyond exterior beauty, it is about perseverance and congruence in order to be able to truly love yourself, warts and all.