Weight Wasn’t The Only Thing I Lost

What I lost while struggling with an eating disorder:

Weight wasn’t the only thing I lost during my struggle with anorexia nervosa, but many vital contributors and positive elements of my life. I was blind to the discordance of my relationships, collapse in school, lack of energy and complete unhappiness due to constantly monitoring caloric intake and excessive exercise. Because I was spread so thin by a long commute, adjustment to university, working part time jobs and contributing to publications, there was a major void in my life. The eating disorder was my identity. It deliberated all aspects of my life and became a coping mechanism for an uneasy transition from high school to university.

Some of my main interests were taken from me: I could no longer participate in high exertion exercise, missed out on many family events and became too ill to work at my part time job. Due to a weak immune system, I was sick all the time, averaging a new cold or flu every two weeks. I was always faint and worried about blacking out in ublic places like the subway or school hallways.

How my eating disorder has shaped me:

Life always has room for improvement and I still have my ups and downs, but I have gained a greater appreciation for life, values, loved ones and following my heart. I now view media images and messages differently. I view people not by their body types but by their personalities, which always shine through first.

I have learned to be kind to myself, both emotionally and physically, for you cannot help others if you do not help yourself. I have learned that I have one body and one life, so I must treat them with well-deserved respect. Like a deck of cards, I will continue to face challenges and opportunities in what is dealt to me.

The best part about recovery:

As a second generation Italian from a family of foodies, cuisine, both native and international, is an innate passion. During my eating disorder, I missed out on so many cool meals and visits to favourite restaurants with family and friends. I am always ready to try a new cultural dish, just as much as I love to bake and cook them!

A strong part of my recovery is a food blog I have been updating since last year. Writing Blasphemous Meals for my blog on Canadian heavy metal music webzine, Hellbound.ca, has been one of the most therapeutic practices of my recovery. I document three meals per entry, reflecting on my experiences cooking and eating from Annick Giroux’s Hellbent For Cooking, a cookbook compiled with recipes from metal bands around the world.

My life requires consistent balance in mind and body. To relax in times of stress and improve this balance, I practice vinyasa, slow flow and restorative yoga.

What I am doing now:

I am currently a student at the Ryerson School of Journalism in Toronto. In addition to being a full-time student eight months of the year, I contribute to four publications, writing about Italian-Canadian culture, lifestyle, music and everything in between. In my spare time, I like to bake and cook. I love culture and enjoy attending festivals, live music performances and discovering new restaurants. I believe that travel is the best teacher in life, thus my goal is to explore as much as I can!

Recovery is possible because:

Even though it’s a long, winding road, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. Recovery is a struggle in itself, for repercussions to the body are difficult to overcome. Surviving an eating disorder is possible when you direct your energy in the right areas, focusing on your dreams and what fuels your passion. Nothing is worth starvation. Nothing is worth restriction. I have learned the difference between healthy happiness and destructive despondency. Recovery does not happen overnight, but it’s something that develops from hard work and a strong perseverance. Slow and steady wins the race in this consistent process.

I chose recovery because:

My life was on the line. I was tired of rarely eating; yet when I did, eating bland food, and living a life that was not mine. Anorexia nervosa just didn't suit me, as my future was headed for a downward spiral. I’m a perfectionist and strive to achieve success in all of my endeavors, which was both a catalyst for my ED and a motive to recover.

In the winter of 2011, I applied for an international reporting program to complete a multimedia journalism course for one month in Urbino, Italy. It was a sticky situation, as my parents were concerned for my mental and physical state, worried about me traveling alone for the first time at 18 years old.

I was accepted to the program, yet torn between anxiety for my health and desire for adventure. It wasn’t until I visited a psychiatrist at Toronto General Hospital, who interviewed me to evaluate my eligibility for a recovery program waiting list. The doctor told me that it wasn’t a good idea if I spent one month studying abroad, but a deep intuition told me I must. I left that office both confident and enraged: I decided to begin my own recovery. I went back to my original therapist for frequent visits before my departure. Things were shaky a few weeks before I left, but something in my heart was calling me to “la Bel Paese” – my Promised Land. I knew recovery was waiting for me in the hills of Urbino, so I made it a point to start early to discover what my life was waiting for.

I got involved with EDOYR because:

Not only do I want to give back to the organization that helped me, but to further my recovery experience by advocating change and solutions through the art of the written word.

This is a great way to support a community. Eating disorders are not always visible. They are mental illnesses that eat individuals from the inside out. You may be living with someone who has an eating disorder, know someone that has recovered or be unaware that a neighbour, teacher or friend is suffering. This is a global issue that affects women and men of all ages, occupations and ethnicities. Models aren’t the only people with eating disorders; it’s way more than a desire to be thin.

Follow Ola on twitter: @ola_mazz