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By Kassie C.

Eating disorders and disordered eating are hard things to explain to someone else - whether you’re aware it is impacting who you are, are in the thick of it or on your recovery road. For me, being in recovery, my thoughts still are so influenced by the way my brain and body used to normalize habits and behaviors; they show up in ways I didn’t even acknowledge as challenging or unhealthy. In recovery, the idea of “living your life” becomes the forefront, yet on bad days or bad weeks, I find myself mourning parts of what I thought control was in my “previous” life. However, I can now acknowledge this is a thought and in practice I know that control leads to a very slippery slope. 

 

I am having a bad week, and I am wanting change, but unlike wanting change with an eating disorder, the change in recovery is better the freer it gets. We deserve to live our lives - love our lives. Control translates to prioritizing once normalized unhealthy food behaviors and to stop living; the desire to reinstate those unhealthy habits are the number one thought that comes into my head now when I’m struggling. But reminding myself that enjoying my people, my environment and myself will always lead to that freedom I am looking for rather then restricting now to be able to live later.

 

“Living later” when you have an eating disorder is setting yourself a finish line that is never attainable because it stems from an idea of perfectionism that is unachievable or is perpetuated by the shame of being unable to achieving this impossible standard; every time you’re close you think it’ll be better if “I push it a bit farther” because in this race our finish line will be always be after the next restriction, the next unhealthy habit we justify, so we end up running in circles that turn into spirals. This week I am consciously deciding to stay out of that race and am choosing to live in the present because if happiness is the goal, then living now is the path towards it.


My name is Kassie C. I am in my late twenties and am trying to live what I preach - picking yourself first and that loving yourself really is the best medicine. It’s not always easy and it definitely is not always pretty but it’s real. I hope joining me on this journey will provide perspective, connection and solace. So, here’s to life because for good or bad we are all in it together :).

*Photo credits: Kassie C.

By Shaely Ritchey

There is a place I go when I need to ground myself. Here, cradled between land and sea, I feel at ease. My gaze wanders over the surface of things, my lungs expanding in my chest, my heart finding the rhythm of the waves that break upon the shore. The sound of the city above falls away, and I am cocooned by the sound of the water, the wind, and the gulls circling above. There is a deeper current to this place and when I am here, I begin to trace its course within myself as well.

Of course, like much of nature and life, this place isn't always predictable. Sometimes the storms rage with the kind of ferocity that can only be respected from a distance. Anything else is courting danger with elements more powerful than myself. Sometimes the winter tides rise so high that the entirety of the beach is swallowed whole, only to be released when the sea is done with it.

In the midst of the storm, the horizon is hard to find. All one can focus on is keeping their head down or retreating inside while the wind and rain lashes against anything and everything. What we cannot see in these moments is that this is all a part of it. These blustery winter storms are what makes these seasonal coastlines as rich as they are. What seems destructive is in fact, the very birthplace of abundant life. It is in the cold and churning waters that nutrients are brought to the surface, supporting whole and complex chains of life that stretch inland.

It still catches me by surprise, but I know that after the waves have finished breaking their fury upon the shore, I can come and seek among the wreckage, the broken and the unbroken. Here I find glittering gems, taken from their original purpose and turned beautiful by the weather and wear they have endured. Beads of glass born from breakage exist at the same time as fragile snail shells that are somehow still whole despite the battering they have been through. I take the metaphors nature gives me and hold them close to my heart. Tucking them in my pocket for safekeeping. A reminder I can return to in times of scarcity.

When I am here, I am entirely present in my body I struggle to otherwise be - brought alive by each of my senses. I am present, but I am also drifting. While my hands move over the pebbles that adorn the beach, I find myself feeling as if I am holding something sacred, tracing it with my fingers. There is a precision to each of my movements, like a conductor leading an orchestra or a surgeon holding a scalpel. I am not a religious person, but I do believe that all humans have a spiritual element to their beings: though we may tune into, and honour it, in different ways.

I come here for myself, but at times I feel as though I am here for others, whispering my version of a prayer across the water. It seems to hold every secret, every wish, every mournful cry I tell to it, in confidence. All is held, considered, and returned to land in time.

I know I am not alone in feeling some sense of emotional impermanence when I am deep in my struggles. Though I know on an intellectual level I am loved and remembered, I cannot recall the feeling in these challenging moments, despite people's best efforts. Still, when I find myself holding others tenderly in my own thoughts - practicing a version of what amounts to a loving-kindness meditation - I can begin to imagine that others must do the same for me at times. Perhaps it is mostly a practice that benefits the person generating the feelings of love and warmth as they hold someone in their mind's eye, but some part of me (against my more scientific sensibilities) enjoys imagining that some kind of energy, radiates outward to the intended destination.

Sometimes I find this place of holding others in my thoughts when I am making art. I find a feeling and a sense of someone that fills me entirely, and I allow that feeling to unfold through creative processes. I hope that some of it can perhaps be felt when the final creation is gifted to the other person.

Perhaps it is the metaphor of searching through what is seemingly broken upon this beach, that brings those I love to mind. The scattering of shells and worn glass are not truly broken, only born into something new. Sometimes it is easier to see the promise of things in others, than it is in ourselves. I know it does not change the lonely feeling in the moment, but I am always honoured to hold hope, love, and tenderness for others when it may be challenging to do so for themselves. I know it can be hard to hear (and truly take in), but I want to offer this reminder that you can return to in times of scarcity. I cannot take away your pain, but I can be here beside you as we navigate through it. You exist in other people's hearts and minds more than you know. Your life touches others: your presence is felt and cherished. You are loved, you are loved, you are loved.


Shaely is a registered nurse with interest in further education in nursing or medicine. She is also a passionate mental health advocate in her community. In her spare time she loves getting outdoors and photographing wildlife.

*Photo credits: Shaely Ritchey

By Megan Zolorycki 

1. Name one thing that’s taking away your power. Describe it, picture it, be with it. (Sometimes it’s nice to rip the paper up after)

2. Describe your perfect morning, afternoon, and evening. What is filling your cup in these moments? (It can be simple)

3. Pick a part of your body that makes you feel confident and empowered, why does it make you feel this way? Describe the feeling.

4. Pick a part of your body that you aren’t as confident about, write this part of your body a love letter. Explain to it that it’s just as perfect as all your other parts.

5. Gratitude. List what you’re grateful for at this moment.

6. Go outside and sit in the grass, the dirt, or on your favourite chair. Free write. Let nature inspire you.

7. What would you do if you weren’t caught up in others' expectations of you?

8. What boundaries could you set in order to recharge yourself? Are there areas in your life that you could loosen responsibility or delegate? Could you say no to a few more things?

9. List three priorities of your day. Imagine them as tree trunks growing from your spine, grounding you. These are the only things you have to get done today.

10. Is there a constant story playing out in your head? Write the story on paper, let the words flow out of your mind and land on something else. Re-read the story and decide whether it’s something you want to take with you or not.


Hi! My name is Megan and I’ve been drawn to helping others with their own healing since I can remember. The Looking Glass Foundation is a way for me to do that. With my words and my experiences, my hope is that every individual whether you struggle with an eating disorder or not, can come back into peace with their bodies; their homes. My day to day is always different, but I’ve been a yoga teacher for almost 2 years and most of my pieces will centre around the immense healing benefits of this ancient practice; a practice that saved me at my lowest points. 2 things to know about me: I’m from Vancouver Island (Island girl) and I love GOOD coffee. So stick around!

By Kate Grantham 

Social Media. We all have it. Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, Tik Tok - chances are, if you have a phone and you’re not a grandparent, you have some kind of social media. Media itself is not a new concept, but social media is different - it offers a personalized experience that the user is in control of, and it can reach us anytime, anywhere. Instead of a billboard or a magazine ad being shown to you, relying on physical delivery, you get to pick what you see, and you can do it from anywhere. 

For me, it can feel like I’m lost at sea sometimes, trying to navigate the online social space. It’s a vast ocean with different rigs at which I can dock my raft. A slight breeze or a current can steer me in a direction different from where I thought I was going. A storm can derail my raft entirely from a rig I’m comfortably set up at. 

There are studies, such as the one done by Fardouly and Vartanian (2015), that have concluded that there is a positive correlation between social media use and negative body image. The evidence shows that the more someone uses social media, the worse their body image is, and that this relationship gets worse over time. When I saw this study I questioned why they had gotten these results. When we have so much control over what we see on our accounts, why is this negative relationship still so prevalent? The reality is that social media is so much more than choosing who you want to follow or not follow. There are trends, popular accounts, and spaces that feel special, exclusive, or more highly valued. But why are some spaces favoured more than others?

Social media feels special compared to other forms of media because it is so tailored to the individual. It enables you to connect with people you know, or people you want to know, and feel like you have a meaningful relationship with them. That is how social media was at its inception, and corporations quickly realized that those intimate parasocial relationships had excellent marketing potential, and began to exploit them. 

Many marketing agencies will choose to work with accounts that will give them the best return on investment - that is, will make them the most money.  Money is made by convincing consumers that there is something wrong with them, and that buying the product being marketed will fix that problem. If an influencer is promoting acceptance and happiness on their account, their followers will be less convinced to buy something, because they are not being told that there is anything wrong with them. 

Unattainable and unrealistic beauty ideals are idolized on social media because they are exactly that - unattainable and unrealistic. Consumer culture will try to sell us things with the promise that we will attain those standards. Often the more outlandish the promise, the more it sells. 

We have the power to mute, unfollow, or block all the accounts that make us feel less than amazing. It feels odd, because we are so sensitized into believing that the people behind these accounts are god-like figures to be adored. We have been told to love, idolize, and aspire to be them. But what if we didn’t? After all, they are not in control of our lives. We are. 

We get to choose what we see. We have the power to curate our feeds to serve our own best interest, and not the best interest of diet or consumer culture. We have the privilege of making our own existence more enjoyable, so why not take advantage of that privilege?

One of the best things I did for myself was take back that power. If an account made me even slightly question my own self-worth, I unfollowed.

I cleansed (the only kind of “detox” that’s worthwhile) my feed of the people and messages that did not lift me up. I chose to fill it with accounts that made me feel happy, that reminded me that I was fabulous in my own right. 

It isn’t an easy process. It can be hard to come to terms with the fact that some people you follow have a negative impact on your life, especially if that person seems to be genuine and kind. But, you probably don’t force yourself to listen to music you don’t like just because the musician might be a nice person. You can appreciate that that creator is a good person without consuming their content. Similarly, you can recognize that many influencers are likely good people, but that does not mean that you have to follow them. Their content may not be your cup of tea. It may not make you feel good about yourself. It may make you question some decisions you make - decisions that you previously felt confident about. 

The rule of thumb that I followed was that if someone’s content didn’t make me feel elated or inspired, I didn’t need to see it. I unfollowed people whose content either sparked feelings of negativity or ambivalence. If I found myself resenting that person because of their appearance in their content, I unfollowed. If I found myself looking at a picture and thinking ‘if only I looked like that,’ I unfollowed. Life is too short to be at war with the way you are, life is too short to question your worth, and life is certainly much too short to consciously choose to consume content that doesn’t elevate you. My social media became a space that I was proud of, that I was excited to engage with, and that reinforced my belief in my own worth and potential.


Hello! I'm Kate and I'm a PRS volunteer with LGF. I've always had a passion for helping others, and after having my own experience with an eating disorder, I wanted to get involved with Looking Glass to encourage others on their own recovery journeys. When I'm not working or volunteering, I'm either drinking copious amounts of tea, petting any dog I can get my hands on, or re-watching Marvel movies. 

By Megan Zolorycki 

I recall being 8 years old when the idea of “I’m not enough” popped into my head. I remember noticing that I didn’t look like my other elementary school friends. My body looked different. My skin hung on my bones in a way that I didn’t like. At that moment, I became engrossed with the fact that I needed to change how I was perceived by the world. I was only 8 years old.

 

I am now 22 and up until last year, I’ve struggled with this idea that my body was my greatest enemy, food was comfort but also riddled with guilt, and I ultimately wasn’t enough. After 13 years of drowning in this cycle of needing so desperately to change myself in order to be happy, I changed the narrative.

 

Now, how do you change a way of thinking that is inked into your existence? How do you finally get to a point where you no longer have the intense need to make sure everything is in place on your flesh? Well, it’s not easy. Actually, it was probably the most uncomfortable situation I’ve ever put myself through. But somehow and in some way, I made it through to the other side.

 

At the beginning of 2018, I found a practice that I believe we are all familiar with: Yoga. Nourishing movement was unfamiliar to me at this time. I was still roped into this idea that if you don’t drain your body completely while moving it, you’re not doing anything. I was skeptical. However, as I walked into my first yoga class; something shifted. I was ready to be there. I was ready to move, breathe, and reap the benefits of a practice that was there to fill me up instead of tipping my cup over. Everyone has their own darkness, but it’s when you decide to show up, sit with it and work through it, that’s when the real change happens. Yoga helps you be in your body, in your mind, and as cheesy as it sounds in your soul. When you practice, it’s just you and your mat. There’s nothing to hide behind, no cozy corners to curl up in. It’s you and your thoughts. You learn a lot in that space and it's uncomfortable. However, healing isn’t easy and when you’re able to look your darkness in the eyes and be fully with it, that’s when you start to grow. So, day by day; practice by practice, I looked the 8 year old version of myself in the eyes and started to cultivate a home where I never thought there could be. I started to find a home within myself.

 

So here we go. In February 2019, I went to Ecuador on a 30 day Yoga Teacher Training. I looked 60 individuals in the eyes and told them yes, I struggle with a disorder that affects 30 million people. The support was beautiful. We so often hide our struggles and fears from every open eye. We keep our insecurities tucked in a nice little box under the bed. We are terrified of opening that box and letting vulnerability spill all over the floor. But the fact in the matter is, this is how the growth starts.

 

This growth led me to become a Yoga Teacher and that is healing in itself. I get to guide individuals through an experience that has helped me so much. Whether or not it lands in the same way, I believe you grow every time you step onto the mat. Every class I teach, I try to reinforce this concept of positive embodiment; feeling at home in your own body. Feeling safe, feeling strong, and feeling love in our own flesh. Finding this home is the journey I’ve been on for the majority of my life and it’s something I want even one of my students to feel in my classes. I believe it’s a privilege to teach such a sacred practice and I want to use this privilege to make my mark. No matter how small or large that mark is.

 

In 2020 everything changed. Every being on this planet went through a collective trauma of uncertainty. For individuals struggling, the isolation was a breaking point. So now, after a few years of healing, everything starts bubbling to the surface. No longer did I have the escape of taking or teaching a yoga class. I had to go deeper inward. I had to reconnect to myself in a new way. How terrifying is that? While I could have stayed in my isolated state, I reached out. I reached out, but then ran away. Reached out again, and then got caught in a beautiful safety net.

Common ground is a beautiful thing. The feeling of talking to someone who knows exactly what you’ve been going through is magical.

In this magical moment, I felt understood and I was able to gather tools to guide me in the direction of healing my relationship with not only my body and food, but with everything else in my life. I was finally intuitively connected to what I had been missing for 22 years. 2020 brought this to me.

 

The stages above have led me to be writing these words today. Do I still struggle to see the light on some days? Yes, of course. Healing isn’t linear, but it’s possible. Can everyone take yoga teacher training in a foreign country? No. But, I believe the metaphor of escaping somewhere and being vulnerable with other people is a stepping stone into a beautiful path. I teach yoga, but what do you do that curates a home for you to snuggle up in? Art, writing, reading, dancing; are all ways to express and contribute to your own version of safety. Reach out and keep reaching out until you find the tools and resources that help you. It will take some time. It will cause a lot of discomfort. But imagine a life without living in a place of fear. Amazing right? So take a deep breath. You are here. You are right here. Keep going.


Hi! My name is Megan and I’ve been drawn to helping others with their own healing since I can remember. The Looking Glass Foundation is a way for me to do that. With my words and my experiences, my hope is that every individual whether you struggle with an eating disorder or not, can come back into peace with their bodies; their homes. My day to day is always different, but I’ve been a yoga teacher for almost 2 years and most of my pieces will centre around the immense healing benefits of this ancient practice; a practice that saved me at my lowest points. 2 things to know about me: I’m from Vancouver Island (Island girl) and I love GOOD coffee. So stick around!

This poem was written and delivered by Victoria's 2021 Youth Poet Laureate, James Summer, who shared their beautiful and heartfelt poetry during a provincial government announcement of funding to enhance eating disorder care in BC. We are grateful to James Summer for their honesty, insight and compassion.

Walking Myself Through Recovery

This experience is like crossroads in a forest

And all my body tells me is to go back 

To go into past 

And fix this from the beginning

It's too late for that though 

So I learn how to pick myself up 

With gentle hands

And lift myself into the safety of health

 

The trail is not easy 

And yet how strange of a walk this has been 

To hate the vessel I have been placed in 

And then learn to relove myself

Every thought feels fresh 

And as seasons change I understand what it's like to live again 

 

As I walk deeper through the forest

Through recovery

I look back over my shoulder

And catch a glimpse of my old self

I realize how much time I wasted 

Befriending obsession

Therefore I continue forward 

This is letting go of what I didn't start 

But what became of me

 

And I used to blame myself you know!

Let my thoughts take over like a haunting 

Using guilted minds to convince 

That what all had been destroyed was my doing

Turns out that was a lie

And now walking into reality feels like opening a third eye

Where here I can see young minds become tainted from the beginning

 

I take more steps closer into recovery

There's no questioning how far I've gone now

It's time to turn my life around 

Put love into my future

Every tree in this forest shows me light 

This right here is what living means.


James Summer was announced as Victoria, British Columbia’s Youth Poet Laureate on January 15th, 2021. The Youth Poet Laureate serves as Victoria’s champion for youth and the literary arts, seeking to inspire and engage local youth to share their stories through both written and spoken word, and serves a one-year honorary term. James Summer began writing poetry in their junior year of high school when they joined Vic High School’s slam poetry club. Over the years they participated and competed in Vic Voices, Hullabaloo and various open mics, and became president of the slam poetry club in their senior year. As Youth Poet Laureate, they hope to connect with other youth in Victoria and share their love of poetry. They find that poetry is a medium that can express growth, pain and love through self-expression in a safe space, and want to be able to help create that safe space for others.

“Poetry has helped me cope with feelings of loneliness and memories of a bittersweet childhood,” said James Summer. “As a transgender individual and as Youth Poet Laureate, I hope that I can bring awareness about the topic of being transgender and to have important conversations about stigma and labels.”

For more information, visit: www.victoria.ca/youthpoetlaureate.

By Samira Saadatfar 

I never believed that this nightmare was going to be finished for me, but here I am today sharing my recovery story. And I believe the nightmare can be over for you as well - you can recover. A life full of joy and happiness without feeling shame and guilt IS possible. For me, every challenging moment was worth it to break free from my eating disorder thoughts. The following are some of the approaches and perspectives that worked for me.

During my recovery, the ACT approach really helped me. What is ACT? Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) encourages people to accept their thoughts and feelings rather than pushing them away or feeling guilty for them. The ACT approach is all about accepting the situation you are in.

Acceptance does not mean that you have to like your thoughts or your feelings, it just means that you try and not run away from them. During my recovery, there were many times where I did not like the process and it was difficult to do the opposite of what my eating disorder was telling me to do. Not restricting was tough and even though I did not like going against my eating disorder thoughts, I learnt how to tolerate these new thoughts despite how uncomfortable it was.

I’m here to tell you that for at least a little while, the road to be recovery may be about tolerance rather than acceptance but that’s okay. It’s a hard journey but the commitment to that journey is worth it.

Another perspective that helped me was looking at the bigger picture, committing to the journey of recovery and taking action everyday. You could look at recovery as a mountain peak that you want to climb. Reaching the mountain peak may mean boldly facing challenges in your way, enduring pain and emotions, and tolerating the uncomfortable feelings that surface on the way to the top. It takes strength, courage and vulnerability to get there. But let me tell you that when you reach the top, everything will be brighter for you. For me, reaching recovery meant getting back to joy, happiness and love and I am so grateful for that.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!


My name is Samira and I am going to graduate this summer with a bachelor degree in psychology. Recovering from my eating disorder has shown me how to be passionate and kind towards others and has also taught me how to increase my tolerance regarding the difficulties I'm facing in my life. Not only do I want to share my experiences with others who are suffering with eating disorders but I also want to be a psychotherapist in this field. My hobbies include playing the violin and playing chess in my free time.

By Olivia Paoluzzi-Brown

 

Hello Liv,

 

This is your body writing to you.

I’m not happy with you, but I understand you and accept how you treat me. 

I put up with it because I know everything you’ve gone through. I feel physically what you feel mentally. You hurt me a lot and I’m not sure why. I’m a part of you and when you hurt me you only hurt yourself. 

I do a lot for us you know. I think you pay more attention to things I don’t. It seems unfair to put these expectations on me.

You think a lot about yourself. I’ve been through hell with you. Taking your unexpected abuse, to my shell and my center. You completely disregard what I do for you.

My legs have moved you to mountain tops. My hands have kept you fed, kept you creative, kept you able. I keep your heart strong everyday, I keep it beating, and everyday that’s what I take from you. 

How can we make this better for the both of us? You can’t escape your own shadow. I’m stuck with you forever.

Before you tear me down try and remember I just want what’s best for you. I want you alive and well. I’m going to take care of you even when you stop taking care of me. 

I’m always going to try and keep giving you strength to get up and experience every new day that comes. You deserve that just as much as the rest of us.

I need you to love me so you can love yourself. If you can’t love me right away, like me first. I’m sure you can find one thing to like. 

Someday you’ll see how valuable I am to you, as you are to me. And I’ll be waiting for you, like always with open arms. I love you Liv, I’m always here for you, never forget, it’s you and me forever against it all. 

 

-Olivia


By Blaire Pearce 

In a social structure that has become over-connected through modernization and industrialization, it is necessary to go back to basics in order to discover the hidden caves that have yet to be entered and explored. In my eyes, these caves enclose secret, hidden paths that are only travelled involuntarily. Looking at this from a logical standpoint, it makes perfect sense that no one would willingly discuss their terrifying, lonely and challenging journey down the winding paths enclosed in these caves.

Myself, along with one million other Canadians, have found ourselves trapped in the eating disorder cave and have felt the isolation, confusion and true difficulty of dealing with the unknown. The eating disorder cave is completely terrifying. Speaking truthfully, I have yet to find my way out, but I can see the light at the end of the cave. It is distant but, it is there. The light is what every person who enters the cave needs. The darkness needs to go. The silence, the lack of understanding and the isolation need to go. The judgement needs to go. Honestly, the whole cave needs to go. It needs to be excavated to provide support, comfort and proper resources to those who find themselves in the cave.

Although the cave creates isolation, the only way to successfully leave the cave is through the support of others; having someone there to pick you up when you fall and to celebrate each and every little victory with you. Because they are just that; victories. I have begun to rebuild the cave I have entered through a strong and supportive group I can truly rely on. Even though none of them have ever been in a cave of their own, they do their best to understand mine. We are learning about the cave together as those, like myself, who are trapped in the cave are often blinded by the darkness and need everyone they trust pointing their flashlights and guiding them back to the right path.

From where I stand in my cave, what I want to go more than anything is the restriction. Not the restriction of food but, the restriction from my true self, others, social gatherings and the real world. I am not living in the real world; I am living in a cave. I have faith that the restriction of food will disappear but only if there are others around who are aware of the restriction and isolation that is endured when living with an eating disorder.

There are many things that I have yet to discover in my cave but, the isolation has become my imaginary friend. It is a strange concept to feel completely alone in a room filled with your family, your closest friends, when you are at work or at school; the isolation follows you virtually everywhere you go. I have been best friends with isolation for as long as I can remember. There is not one moment I can recall where I haven’t felt completely alone when I was in fact, surrounded. This must be an absurd concept to anyone who hasn’t had the misfortune of stumbling into the cave.

This point of confusion is what allows the isolation to emerge and take over. It is a lack of information and discussion about eating disorders that perpetuates the isolation and barricades those, like myself, in our caves. I have lived in my cave for ten years. If isolation wasn’t so common, I would have probably abandoned my cave by now. But I have not. I slipped through the cracks like so many who are plagued by this illness. Limitations surrounding diagnosis, treatment and general awareness of this black cave need to go. If more people are unaware than those who are aware, things will not change. If limitations surrounding diagnosis and treatment are not addressed, no change will occur. And we need change. I need change. Anyone trapped in a cave is begging for change.

Attempting to restructure a cave, and essentially a person, is an extremely draining and trying task that can only be accomplished hand in hand with those that surround us. But there will be no hands to hold if we, as a society, do not make the effort to change. The barriers blocking treatment and thorough understanding will only begin to budge when the illness is better understood and the pressing need for change is realized. As someone currently engulfed in a cave, the need for change is glaringly obvious. I want, above any other desire, to run from my cave and never look back.

I have the potential to leave my cave alive because I finally gave in, broke down and asked for help. Accepting that I am not okay, that I need help and that I am trapped in a cave is by far the most difficult thing I have ever done. But, in light of the difficulty and feeling of defeat, it has been the best decision that I have ever made. With the help of doctors, nutritionists, therapy, books, family and a select number of friends, I have built a team to help me find my way out of this cave.

Despite all of my resources and support, I do not speak openly about my eating disorder. There have been so many people, even within my support system, who have told me to ‘just eat’. News flash, if it were that easy I would have abandoned this cave a long time ago. I am still stuck because of the difficulty that surrounds speaking up. That needs to change. Speaking up and asking for help should be easier.

You are not going to develop Anorexia Nervosa by simply looking at me or shaking my hand. What needs to go is the sheer lack of care and acceptance for those who suffer from an illness that no one can control. This did not become my reality as a result of reckless behaviour or a blatant disregard for my safety and well-being. I became trapped in this cave as a result of both genetic predispositions and exposure to uncontrollable, life-altering circumstances.

I did not decide to enter this cave and travel this dark and winding path. I did not consciously choose to isolate myself, overexercise and restrict my eating. I did not want this. I do not want this. This needs to go. Something has to give in order for the entrances to the caves to be blocked. By barricading the entrances to these caves, others will not risk being trapped. I have been trapped for ten years and it has been ten years too long. Over half of my life has been spent in my cave and it is about time I found a way out.

I spent over eight years living in a cave with no realization that my way of living was disordered and substantially different than those I encountered on a daily basis. I thought that everyone felt the same way, that this was how life was supposed to be lived. But this is not how life is supposed to be lived and I was taken completely off guard when I realized how mistaken I was.

People do not live in caves but, I found myself trapped in a cave because I didn’t know any better. People need to know about the severity of eating disorders so they, themselves, and people they love do not find themselves trapped for as long as I have.

As heartbreaking as it is to realize, these disorders are not going anywhere anytime soon. What is slipping away are those who have become victims of this illness. People are leaving and finding themselves trapped in caves just like I have. Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, friends, family, co-workers are getting trapped in their own caves. We need to find a way out. I need to find a way out. No one will be getting out anytime soon if things do not begin to change.

Things will change when those standing in the sun make an effort to understand those trapped in the darkness. Things will change when there are more resources available. Things will change when the voices of those trapped in the cave are finally heard. And, when things do finally begin to change, the darkness, restriction and isolation will go. When the limitations begin to go, the eating disorder will begin to go.

And the cave will finally be abandoned. 


Blaire is an HR professional with a Bachelor of Human Resources Management from York University and a general manager in the fitness industry.  As a former world-level Irish dancer and current instructor, she has a passion for arts, health, fitness and mental health.  Her favourite past times include reading, writing and tackling her long list of DIY projects.

 

By Faith Collier

“Now that summer is here, I need to lose weight and get healthy to get my body swimsuit ready!”

“I am not summer body ready!”

“I need to lose weight for bikini season."

We’ve all heard it - whether it was on social media, or said by a family member, stranger, friend, or even yourself. There is this bizarre misconception that every year, for the summer months, one must change themselves physically by dieting and working out more in order to wear a swimsuit, and this misconception seems to pop up everywhere. Just last week, a close friend joked to me that she has to start a diet soon to get her “summer body” ready. And this morning on Facebook I saw a meme with an adorable baby looking at its tummy with the caption “ When you’re cute, but you’re not summer body ready”.

Year after year, I continue to hear these types of remarks and statements, and typically I just laugh it off or nod uncomfortably. Logically, I know that the idea that losing weight because of seasonal expectations is silly, but a small part of me always feels the need to conform to these expectations. But this year, I would like to actually take this comment seriously, and look at the negative mentality it creates towards body image and body positivity. 

Firstly, losing weight and being thin doesn’t necessarily mean someone is healthy. 

Ever since I was a little girl, I was always taught that if you were thin, you were healthy. And if you were bigger, then you weren’t. It was as simple as that. However, I have come to learn that this is most certainly NOT true. You can be any shape or size and still be healthy and active. Your weight does not define who you are, nor does it define your “healthy-ness”. As an example, look at all different types of athletes  - sprinters, basketball players, gymnasts, swimmers, even sumo wrestlers! They all have different body types, yet are all extremely active and passionate about their individual sport. If you really want to be healthier, take time to do things you love, and most importantly, aim for balance. You can enjoy both cake and vegetables, and everything in between. You can be active and you can relax and rest! Giving yourself permission to slow down can be incredibly therapeutic and calming in itself.

Secondly, ALL bodies are swimsuit bodies! Say it with me: “All bodies are swimsuit bodies!”. You don’t have to change yourself in order to wear a swimsuit and enjoy the sunshine. Swimsuits are meant to be worn and enjoyed. So, strut your stuff my friend, and own your body, because it is you and you are fabulous in every shape and form. Just make sure to stay hydrated, wear sunscreen, and have some fun!

And lastly, just because it is summer, doesn’t mean you need to change. Summer is just another season of the year, it is no different than Fall, Spring or Winter. Just slightly warmer temperature-wise. You can be healthy and happy with yourself and your body all year round no matter what the weather or what you choose to wear! If you are holding back from having fun in the summer for whatever reason, make a list of one thing you will do a day or every few days that is fun and enjoyable for you and do your best to follow through. By allowing yourself to have fun and engage in an activity that brings you joy, you can take your mind off your body and societal expectations and instead move into the present moment - a useful practice for any time of year!

Ultimately, your weight or how you look does not define who you are. Nor should it invalidate your existence. You are a beautiful person, both inside and out. There are so many reasons why the concept of having to lose weight for summer in order to wear a swimsuit is ridiculous and flawed. So this year, fight the idea that you have to look or be a certain way to wear a swimsuit, and instead go out there and enjoy the sunshine (but don’t forget to put on sunscreen!).


My name is Faith and I am currently a nursing student at the University of the Fraser Valley. Ever since recovering from my own eating disorder, I have been passionate about helping others and recently began volunteering with the Looking Glass Foundation after going to their summer camp as a teenager. Some stuff to know about me is that I love learning and trying new things. When I am not at school or studying, you can find me reading, playing with my dog or doing some sort of outdoor activity! 

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