TOI Magazine September 2018 Issue 11

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Survivors of Anorexia and Bulimia tell their testimonies.

INHALING THE STRESS AWAY? Certifies Aromatherapists and well-known vegan company, Apothepurity, explain the benefits of Aromatherapy.

JULIAN ROSEN "I found that every single time I took action in the face of fear in order to pursue my passions, the depression subsided."


"YOU are worth it, YOU deserve it." In-Depth Interview with Non-Diet Certified Eating Disorder Dietitian

TOPICS Suicide Awareness & Depression Help Julian Rosen's Battle with Depression Inhaling the Stress Away (Aromatherapy) ED from a Nutritionist's Perspective ED Warrior's Stories

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. ISAIAH 41:10







ight now we have different versions working in Denmark and Norway and also a worldwide (free) light version. There are more than 20 downloads per day and both users and clinicians give me positive feedback about how Minplan helps them fight against emotional distress leading to suicide. As the app works on mobile devices, it is always within the reach of the user at all times. Hence there is no fear of forgetting it, as it would be on a piece of paper, laptop, etc. This is the biggest advantage and It was this problem I identified and decided to solve several years ago.

Around 75% of suicides occur in low and middle in-come countries, where people have limited access to mental health care. On the other hand, many people have access to smartphones which now can be a powerful tool for suicide prevention. I do not say that Minplan can save all who want to take their own life. However, the majority of suicides are preceded by warning signs and are associated with risk factors, such as the accessible means for suicide that might be used in a moment of despair. And in these cases, Minplan can be helpful as a safety plan. Between 2015 and 2017, the original Minplan app’s design and functionality were updated by means of involving Danish and Australian researchers and users, which also included a cross-cultural adaptation and translation of Minplan into Australian English. Most notably, the app’s memory changed from being app based to cloud based, which, for instance, allowed users to share strategies online through a strategy-bank. My vision is to spread out the new cloud-based version worldwide. Suicide takes an enormous toll on individuals, families, communities and our health systems. I am convinced that Minplan can make a difference all over the world. Today I invest all the money I receive into up-scaling the Minplan and in the same time, I work on a sustainable business model. So the development of Minplan is not depending on my energy alone. It is too untenable and peoples lives are on stake. Here in September, I am running a Kickstart campaign. The Minplan app is no doubt relevant technological innovation, to further expand the reach of the app across the globe, more funds are needed. Also to do this, more and more innovations have to be introduced into this app to ensure it fits into the diversities of the world. I wish to build in machine learning to optimize support and I wish to build a chat robot to handle the increasing number of users around the world, those who because of money, stigma or geographical placement are not able to get help.

What does MinPlan do to assist people's lives? As I mentioned, using mobile phones gives the opportunity to reach people who would not otherwise have access to help, maybe because of stigma, geographical problems or both. Minplan is programmed after the idea from two researchers Stanley and Brown’s, who published a paper based on safety planning tool. It is a well-known and professional approved method in the field of psychiatry. I made the app with the intention to create a self-help tool for the management of a suicidal crisis. The app consists of ”empty spaces” where the user enters information regarding his or her own ”symptoms” of suicidal crisis, which can be linked to individualized ”strategies” for coping. It also includes direct links to selected contact persons, hotlines, and map directions to the nearest ED In that way Minplan combines different preventive modalities: 1) Encouragement to contact peers and professionals; 2) Cognitive, problem-solving, and personalized safety planning; and 3) Encouragement to limit access to lethal means in the environment. 5) What gave you the push to create your company/app? Was it a certain event or just the love of helping others mentally? When I was a young girl, I used a lot of energy to figure out, what I wanted to do with my life. I was kind of philosophic and frustrated about just be in the normal daily routines, going to school and stay with my family. I made myself a promise that I would try to make the world a better place before I died. You know, I wanted to conceive something to look back upon and to be proud of. After I had my first two kids, this feeling was growing stronger and I started with a friend making free first aid courses for families with toddlers. In the meantime, I also finished university and started working in the world of psychiatry, which was very fascinating and at the same time frightening. Psychiatry is opposites to most medical specialties where it is largely the diseases that are interesting. Here an unusual tumor is interesting, but in psychiatry, it is the person and the surroundings. I started exploring the gap between what today's technologies could achieve and what the psychological hospitals needed for their patients. In this

period I meet some of the coolest and brightest researchers that I have ever meet. I was so fascinated and inspired by all that knowledge and engagement. It came clear to me that I could really work with them, building technological solutions and save lives at the same time. The first time I learned that my work had saved a life ohhh It was so awesome! It is really worth all the hours and nights I have been using building up the company and the app. What are some highlights/features about MinPlan? My hypothesis is that an app-based safety plan is more effective than a paper version based on its availability and mobile phone technology. The availability of the safety plan makes it feasible for people to continue working with suicidal triggers, coping strategies, and developing new strategies in the app as well as continuously revising them. Furthermore, the app offers features of distraction such as links to photos, music, videos, YouTube videos, and homepages that all may be linked to individual strategies. Additional features include (1) a map function with the current location and nearest ED (as an aid in a crisis situation), (2) prewritten messages that can be sent during difficult situations to facilitate contact and communication with others before a suicidal crisis, (3) direct phone links to selected contacts, for instance 24/7 crisis support, emergency services, friends and family, (4) access to a list of other app users' strategies for inspiration, and (5) a virtual hope box.


"The Suicide Safety Plan app is designed to help people dealing with suicidal thoughts. I envision a world where people can turn to the app when they're feeling overwhelmed or having thoughts of suicide and know that there is somebody out there that can help."
















There are 3 parts: Plan, Guide, and Crisis. The Plan part of the app is a safety plan. A safety plan is like a set of instructions for what to do or who to reach when you have thoughts of suicide. Generally, you develop a safety plan together with a trained professional, like a counselor and therapist. It's also important to reach out to people you trust and get their contact info to add to your safety plan. The Guide part of the app contains helpful information about warning signs of suicidal thoughts/behavior, coping strategies, and ways to keep your environment safe for yourself or a loved one. This is where you can go to learn about how to handle suicidal thoughts and keep yourself safe. The Crisis part of the app is for times of emergency, when other steps you've taken to feel safe isn't working. It lets you reach loved ones and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline and the Crisis Text Line (both for USA). It also finds nearest urgent care centers and emergency departments in your area.

Taking Action in the Face of Fear "At times it was scary and unpredictable, but I found that every single time I took action in the face of fear in order to pursue my passions, the depression subsided." Words by Julian Rosen From Cleveland,Ohio, Julian Rosen is a coach, entrepreneur and thought-leader who helps purpose-driven men and women move past the anxieties and overwhelm holding them back from building successful and impactful lives. With his platform, the Fearless Life Project, Julian shares the powerful tools and strategies he used to overcome loss, depression and anxiety so that he could step up and live an authentically fulfilling life while building an impactful business and an unbreakable body.





rowing up I had always been susceptible to falling into 'funks' that would last a week or so. I always put a lot of pressure on myself to

succeed, to meet expectations and to please all the important people in my life, and when I felt I was falling short, I would recede into a dark place where I felt like a shell of myself. The good news is, I would always feel like my real self again after a few days. When I was 22 years old, however, everything changed. My sweet, amazing mother, the most important person in my world, looked me in the eyes and told me she had an aggressive form of breast cancer. Within 12 months, she was gone. So there I was at an age when the world expects you to figure your life out, but I felt lost, frustrated and overwhelmed with pain and fear. That's when I fell into a deep clinical depression that I thought would last forever. I was able to put on my 'game face' and go to work, soldier through the day, but when I got home, I would implode. For hours I would break down, screaming and crying into my pillows so that my neighbors wouldn't think someone was getting murdered (they called the cops once

actually...pretty embarrassing). I simply floated through life, merely existing and enduring each day. Even though I was exhausted, I would try my best not to fall asleep at night because I truly hated the pain that awaited me every morning my alarm went off. After years of this, something truly remarkable clicked within me that allowed me to start moving forward with my depression. At the time I was working out regularly, reading a few books and practicing some meditation, and as a result, I was able to create a little space between me and my depression. Yes, I was experiencing the symptoms and the pain, but I finally embraced that I was not my depression but simply the observer of it. I developed a more graceful relationship with myself and the depression I was feeling, and decided to view my pain as a message from my heart that I needed to create change in my life. After making this realization, I began to take action on my passions and started to move toward the things that excited me. At times it was scary and unpredictable, but I found that every single time I took action in the face of fear in order to pursue my passions, the depression subsided. I found that

the more I took goal-aligned actions, despite the symptoms I was experiencing, the better I felt and the more fulfilling opportunities I was able to create. Consciously choosing to see my depression as a sign instead of a weakness truly changed everything. As I sit here typing this words, I am the happiest, healthiest and most content I have ever been in my life. And it was because I chose to embrace my symptoms instead of villainizing them.

ANXIETY At this time I was also experiencing anxiety. Since anxiety is fear of the future, it makes total sense that I was constantly overwhelmed with how my life was going to unfold. Once I realized that fear of the future did not actually positively impact what was happening in my life, I was able to steadily get a hold of my anxiety as I moved forward.

REFLECTIONS Plain and simple, I learned that I am the limitless creator of my own life. My depression was not a character flaw happening to me, but was a callto-action from my soul communicating on my behalf.

CAN YOU My advice would be to first RELATE? acknowledge that you are not broken or weak. Depression is not a defect that is singling you out to bully you. It is simply an internal indicator that something is off in your life and there are some graceful adjustments to be made. Also, enriching your mind and body is crucial at this time. A steady diet of exercise and positive reading material will help create physical and mental growth in your life that will remind you of how strong and capable you really are. If you need any reading recommendations, simply reach to me on social media. I'm happy to share my top picks with you :)

CAN'T RELATE? Just how two people can look at the exact same piece of artwork and have two totally different experiences, depression can be the same way when it comes to experiencing life. To someone deeply entrenched in depression, they are perceiving the world in a completely different way than you. They are filled with doubt and fear that is usually accompanied by a lack of direction and purpose. This combination is a painfully heavy burden to carry, so suggesting something that you perceive to be 'simple' or 'helpful' can seem insurmountable or hopeless to someone who is in a dark place.

.ABOVE Julian and his mother. Julian's transformation is also shown above to capture his elevated mindset.

A much better approach to supporting people in your life dealing with depression would be to create a receptive space for them to communicate what they are feeling and why. By encouraging them to explain the reasoning behind their feelings not only gives them a chance to be heard and feel supported, but will also help them foster a deeper understanding of themselves that they would not have been able to create by staying trapped in their own head.

What are some benefits of aromatherapy? "Aromatherapy has been shown to help with emotions and moods as they regulate the lymphatic system. The benefits are virtually endless!!! Boost Immunity, enhance your skin care, remove toxins, first aid kit for cuts, burns, scrapes, natural insect repellent, toxin-free cleaning, boost your metabolism, support for literally every system in your body- and that without the severe side effects that prescription medication can have. So its a very potent, safe, plant based way and tool in your wellness cabinet. The way I see it, a nutritious wholefood diet, exercise, rest, fresh air, healthy emotions or stress reduction (which aromatherapy also helps with!) and aromatherapy are all the most important tools you can have to be well and healthy and practice preventative medicine. A life of wellness means to live life to the fullest, and keep our body and mind in balance - before we get sick. " In regards to mental health, does aromatherapy help with it? "There have been studies showing that Aromatherapy can help or ease symptoms of depression and anxiety. Please look them up on PubMed. ( Please always see a doctor if you suffer with your mental health and discuss appropriate action, and the inclusion of aromatherapy into your therapy. Aromatherapy is there for support but doesn’t replace conventional medicine and effective treatment. Many people report feelings of calmness, happiness, relaxation and well-being when inhaling or diffusing oils, so why not give them a try anyway? Even a little help or reduction of symptoms can make life so much easier. "


@ T H E W E L L N E S S W I T C H E S

@ L O V E 2 M O V E _ S Y D N E Y

F B : T H E W E L L N E S S W I T C H E S W E B S I T E : W W W . T H E W E L L N E S S W I T C H E S . A U

"Growing up in Germany, my dad always used German chamomile and eucalyptus oils over a bowl of boiling water or in the bath to ‘cure’ us from anything- often to our annoyance! Generally, in German pharmacies, you will find a huge range of herbal teas and remedies, homeopathic treatments and aromatherapy. So it has always been a normal part of my wellness cabinet. After leaving the film industry and studying Body Therapies and Massage it was a no-brainier to add Aromatherapy to my skills- I just love oils, I believe in the power of plants and natural remedies and I deeply enjoyed learning everything about them! I used oils at work and during my pregnancies, and had the most beautiful plan to incorporate oils for my first birth -which of course didn’t come to be as I started vomiting when my husband used the oils on me during labour! A funny lesson of life- to have to surrender and abandon plans and go with the flow! I often laugh about that. My babies were massaged with lavender oil from the start as a lovely night time relaxation ritual. Oils are such a beautiful part of our life, they bring joy and beauty, health and even wealth. "

What are the best oils/ingredients in aromatherapy for stress, as well as, depression (if any)? "Lavender and frankincense are traditionally the go-to oils to feel calmer. There are many more, and it often depends on an individual which particular aroma uplifts them. Many people love citrus oils like lemon, orange, grapefruit and lime or floral notes like geranium, neroli or rose for their joyful aroma. Again, if you suffer from depression please seek professional help. You will need the help of conventional medicine, therapists, nutritionists, and address the problem in a holistic and effective way." For someone who is very new to aromatherapy, what should they consider to start off with? How should they go about their aromatherapy journey? "Start with informing yourself first and finding the purest oils. Cheap oils can be adulterated, not potent and a waste of your time and money or in the worst case, do more harm than good. As in all things, as consumers we need to be empowered to learn and find the best product for our needs. Then, if you are sure you have found the right oil supplier or company, buy a starter kit or some oils that interest you, learn about the safety and dilution rates and get started! Don’t worry too much, explore, play around, have some fun. They bring us back into our childlike, innately creative centre were we become our own alchemists and feel joy, power and wellness come back into our life. You can diffuse oils, apply them topically or even ingest them if they are pure. There are many free online resources, recipes, videos and inspiration, DIY workshops etc available for you to keep loving your aromatic journey."

Words from Alicia...

Apothepurity Founder What gave you the push to create your company? The beginning of it all started at a young age. My mother passed away from a pharmaceutical overdose when I was fourteen. This is what truly planted the seed for my current lifestyle. Fast forward seven years, the idea for Apothepurity came about while living on the island of Oahu in my early twenties. I learned so much that year about sustainability, the importance of organics, switched to a plant based diet, and so much more I can't begin to put into words. When I returned to Tennessee, I wanted to spread what I had learned like wildfire. Back then, it was nearly impossible to find truly organic, beeswax free, afforable products in my home state. I knew I had to change that. After learning the horrors of the beauty industry, the many toxins lurking in our every day products, and how these harsh chemicals are harming our bodies and the environment, I had to do something about it. I had attended school for aesthetics prior to Hawaii, but never practiced due to a hand injury. It seemed like a natural progression to begin making fully organic products for myself and close friends and family, given my background in the skin care field. The word began to spread, and people began to ask if they could buy them. I spent years perfecting my formulas, creating a logo, working on labels, gathering supplies, and finally officially started what is now known as Apothepurity on New Years Eve in 2015. I started my company with a mission. I wanted to help people change for the better. Not only did I want to help people change their body products, but their lifestyle for the health of the person and the planet as well. Fast forward to today, our products can be found in many stores in the Nashville area and beyond. It is so incredible to watch this little seed that was planted years ago become what it is today.


See reviews of this product on YouTube in TOI Magazine's PR Unboxing Videos. Also, WIN this for FREE in our Instagram giveaway!!

Shop online and at selected retailers :


"...everything is 100% organic, vegan, affordable to the average customer, and as eco-friendly as possible. The labels we use are made from PLA, a plant material. The labels are biodegradable/compostable rather than made from toxic materials commonly used like vinyl. We source only the best ingredients, many of which are locally grown. We try to avoid the giants in this industry and support other companies doing the right thing, like using fully recyclable shipping materials, providing a lab report with our oils, and more! We want to know with certainty what is going into what we create. We want you to ask yourself the question, "what's in your products?" We want you to be able to answer that question with confidence."

VEGAN. Hair Care

Apothecary Body Butters Bath Soaks Body Mists Crystal Aromatherapy Roll-Ons Body Scrubs Shampoo Deodorant Yoga Mat/Hand Cleanser

PURE. So now lets ask you...

what's in your products?




": I am a Health at Every Size®, weight-inclusive, non-diet Certified Eating Disorder Registered Dietitian and Certified Personal Trainer. I seek to help people rebuild their relationship with food, movement, and their body. I’m also a mom to a 5, soon-to-be 6-year-old ball-of-energy boy!"


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WHAT IS CLASSIFIED AS AN EATING DISORDER? WHAT ARE SOME SIGNS ONE CAN LOOK FOR TO KNOW WHEN THEIR EATING HAS BECOME UNHEALTHY AND OBSESSIVE? Well, in the DSM 5, the diagnosable eating disorders are Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder (BED), and Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID). There is a category called Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorders (OSFED) and that’s used when someone doesn’t necessarily meet all the criteria for the other eating disorder diagnoses. That’s the formal answer! I suppose the biggest thing I want to convey is: anyone can have an eating disorder. It transcends socioeconomic status, body size, and ethnic/racial and gender identities. It’s important to dispense with the myth of the thin, white, cis-gender, upper-class female as the only person at risk for an eating disorder. It’s also important to realize that eating disorders come in all body sizes. As an example: there is the socalled Atypical Anorexia diagnosis, which is used to describe a person who has the medical complications and behaviors of “classic” Anorexia but live in a larger body. I say “so-called” and put the word “classic” in quotes because I don’t believe that there should be any differentiation between the two; it’s all Anorexia, no matter the body size. The behaviors are the same: restriction of food intake and possible compensatory behaviors such as purging or excessive exercise, alongside extremely poor body image. Additionally, one does not need to be in a larger body to be working through BED and not everyone in a larger body has BED. Bottom line: you can’t tell who is living with an eating disorder just by looking at them. When I work with someone, I listen to their lived experiences and what they feel are the issues that are problematic in their lives. It’s in these stories where the work begins, not on any preconceived notions of what a diagnosis “should” look like. Many of those whom I get the opportunity to work with are living with issues of disordered eating, or “sub-clinical” eating disorders. They are working through daily anxious and intrusive thoughts surrounding food intake, body hatred/ distrust, and an all-or-nothing relationship with physical activity. The way we work together to address this is, I gotta say, as varied and individual as each person walking in my door. One of my favorite things to ask my clients is: where is the eating disorder

•lurking right now? Getting into the seemingly innocuous thoughts can be some great relapse prevention! Things like, “Oh, everyone is cutting out [insert fad diet rule here]. It won’t be a big deal if I do that, too. After all, I’m still eating!” or, “Well, my friend skipped lunch, so can I.” We always want to think: no matter what everyone else is doing, how will that behavior work out for me? It’s about getting honest with oneself and building an awesome sense of self that transcends what others – friends, family, society-atlarge – say and do. Some questions you can ask yourself to start to explore your relationship with food, body, and movement: 1) Do you find yourself ruminating about food, either how to restrict it or manipulate it somehow? 2) Do you feel you need to track your macros/Calories to make sure you are staying on your “healthy” diet? 3) Do you feel that life would be so much better if you could just lose those X amount of pounds? 4) What are some reasons you move your body/ engage in physical activity? Do you enjoy it? Do you feel the only reason one would bother to exercise is for weight loss? 5) Do you feel you need someone else to tell you what to eat? That your natural proclivities aren’t to be trusted? 6) Do you trust your body?

DOES FOOD HAVE A DIRECT CONNECTION IN ANY WAY TO YOUR MOOD AND/OR MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES? (DEPRESSION, ETC.) There are some studies that involve brain imaging and rodent studies, however these studies that try to prove “food addiction” do not consider current restriction. If someone is restricting, dieting, etc. they will be at risk to then disinhibit (read: overeat, binge, etc.) when they are around the food(s) they are restricting. Regarding depression, anxiety, etc., there is some research about sugar intake, some ingredients used in processed foods, among others, a lot of it based on rodent studies. My issue is this research is preliminary and creates some unnecessary fear surrounding foods. While all this research is being done, what does it mean for us TODAY? My focus with those I work with is to create variety and include foods the person enjoys, has the budget for, and access to. Not everyone has access to or the budget to eat all organic, sugar-free, gluten-free,

or whatever the fad diets that are popular are telling everyone to eat, nor it is necessary. What is necessary is to define for yourself what foods taste good to you and give you energy, without eating disorder, diet culture, or other “good food/ bad food” input. No single food, meal, day or week of eating will cause you to suddenly fall ill or come down with a nutrient deficiency. It’s patterns over time that will have an impact on overall health. Also, eating disorders often present as an encyclopedia of food rules the person has accumulated over their lifetime, steeped in diet culture, that are then applied to every bite of food they consider. Instead of making blanket statements about “eat this, not that”, discovering the joy in food and eating, creating community with others, and making choices that support your life, body, and well-being are what’s important.

FOR THOSE WHO STRUGGLE WITH ANY TYPE OF ED(EATING DISORDER) WHAT DO YOU ADVISE FOR THEM TO DO NUTRITION-WISE WHEN THEY HAVE STARTED THEIR BETTER HEALTH JOURNEY? Anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder (BED) all start with restriction. So, we want to start eating enough at regular intervals to reduce eating disorder behaviors. I might discuss what a meal and snack can look like, help with coming up with ideas that work for that individual, and many times, working out when to fit eating in during the day. Oftentimes, there’s been a long-standing habit of avoiding food, whether that be eating it, making it, or even purchasing it. Sometimes, we need to work through the fears of grocery shopping and eating at a restaurant. Other times, it might be about learning ways to prepare food that works within our lifestyle. When weight restoration is needed and hypermetabolism is present (often the case in anorexia), food intake will need to be temporarily increased to accommodate this, often more than the person would naturally do themselves. Once recovery-based behaviors and patterns of thinking are starting to become the norm, that’s when the work will center around what I stated before: discovering the joy in food and eating, creating community with others, and making choices that support your life, body, and well-being. As you can see, it’s

not about WHAT one is eating, but HOW one is eating. What’s the relationship with food, body, and movement? What is driving that relationship? The eating disorder or what your needs/ wants are telling you? Being aware of things like wanting to eat “healthy” and where is that coming from? A deep care and respect for your body or a set of rules that require you to eat rigidly and not be able to deviate from that? It’s all comes down to being willing to explore: Where is this coming from? Me or my eating disorder?

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO SEEK PROFESSIONAL NUTRITIONAL HELP WHEN RECOVERING FROM ANOREXIA AND ANY OTHER EATING DISORDER? It’s really important to work with a Certified Eating Disorder Registered Dietitian when working through any eating disorder. As mentioned above, there are nutrition considerations that need to be addressed, such as metabolic changes, and issues such as hypothalamic amenorrhea (the loss of one’s period for 3 or more cycles) and nutrient deficiencies that can occur in any eating disorder. Additionally, it’s often hard to see what behaviors are of the eating disorder, as it’s become so ingrained, perhaps over years. A trained dietitian can help you work through and tease out what is the eating disorder and what your new relationship with food will be.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE SOMEONE WHO IS GOING THROUGH AN EATING DISORDER, BUT DOES NOT FEEL COMFORTABLE ENOUGH TO SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP? Start with listening to podcasts such as “Food Psych” with Christy Harrison; “Love, Food” with Julie Duffy Dillon; “Dietitians Unplugged” by Aaron Flores and Glenys Oyston, and “Body Kindness” by Rebecca Scritchfield (also a book). Speaking of books, reading books like Body Respect by Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramor, Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, The Body Is Not an Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor, and Eating in the Light of the Moon by Anita Johnston. Following all these folks on Instagram and adding @nalgonapositivitypride, @themindfuldietitian, and you can always follow me at @laurenantonrd. These are just a few resources you can start with, but I absolutely encourage you to find someone you can personally work with to help you through what can

be a confusing time. You are worth it and deserve it.


FROM YOUR EXPERIENCE, WHY DO YOU THINK ED TENDS TO OCCUR? Eating disorders are genetic in basis and are triggered by a myriad set of circumstances. What they are NOT is a “diet gone wrong” or selfish. They are not caused by society or magazine covers, although these can be triggering. Eating disorders present as a set of maladaptive coping mechanisms that often are serving to “protect” the person in some way, even as they cause that person’s health to deteriorate. There can be a trauma background, but not always. There can be co-occurring mental health issues, as well. I often say, if you’re leaning towards eating disorder behaviors or having bad body image, that’s a waving red flag that you are avoiding something else (the real issues) in your life.

• Oh my goodness, do you have a couple hours? All kidding aside, listening to each person’s lived experience and making no assumptions are the most important things I’ve learned during my years of being an eating disorder dietitian. I also have learned that I’ll always be learning, because each person is so different and the ability to work with each individual as just that -- an individual -- is vital. Being able to stand beside them and help them see where the eating disorder ends and where their true self begins – that is the work and it’s the most rewarding work I’ve done in my life. I’m grateful for each person who allows me to walk alongside them in their recovery journey.




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this is my story... WORDS BY

ABOUT I am a Personal Trainer and have a passion for all things health and fitness. I also have a YouTube channel and like to promote health, happiness and hopefully provide inspiration for others on Instagram by sharing my thoughts, workouts, nutritious foods, struggles, experiences. If I can change one life for the better, it makes everything worth while. (Also, Aroosha was born in Aberdeen , Scotland. "But I currently live in Manchester , England.")

HER STORY I struggled with anorexia nervosa on and off for most of my late teens and early twenties - however I didn’t recognise what it was at first, it was just bubbling below the surface and had not fully taken hold of me at that point. From a young age I struggled with confidence issues and self worth. I had gone through bullying at school, pressures to succeed, trying to fit in. I had set myself unrealistic goals , and would hit at myself for not achieving them. In my search for perfection , I began doing more harm than good. During my time at University I found my studies in Law to be quite a big pressure on me, I also struggled with a break-up that left me feeling quite low in myself. Slowly these problems and difficult situations I was coming to face with in my life, were chipping away at my self worth more and more. I was digging myself into a deeper hole and blaming myself for all that was going “wrong” in my life. Wanting to be perfect, I turned to restricting my eating habits , and the more I restricted and controlled it, the better I felt I could handle everything else that was happening around me. I started doing excessive running and not eating very much. I found that this control of food was a distraction from the real issues in my life I refused to face. The real problems I had with myself and the hatred I had for myself. I though I was a waste of space, and starving myself was the answer, because I was good at it, and it was maybe the only thing I was good at at the time. As well as becoming dangerously underweight, I became more isolated and withdrawn, I would avoid social situations, my hair was thinning and falling out, my skin was awful, I was cold all the time.

I was in denial about my disorder for a long time. My family, my mother especially were very worried about me, she tried to reason with me, but there is no reasoning with an ED. Sufferers do not see reason, they do not recognize wrong from right, they only see themselves and the disorder and this need to control. This need to control, means everything, and anyone who is looking to stand in the way of that is the enemy. My mum never gave up on me, even though I had given up on myself, she held on to Aroosha and would not let go. She saved my life. My mother took me to the doctors, they had warned me the the rate I was going I would be in a wheelchair and I still didn’t listen. My mother looked at rehab clinics, one in particular in South Africa, but in the end I could not go, because I was too underweight to fly. So my recovery started at home, my mum became my main carer, and I saw a therapist and nutritionist frequently every week for a year. At first I used to sit in my therapy sessions in silence, barely speaking , because I was still in denial I had an issue, or that the issue was as grave as everyone was telling me. However in time, I began to open up, and start to venture into the reasons why I was doing this to myself, why I was punishing myself so much. The recovery process was hell, one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, as you have to fight with your own mind everyday, a back and forth battle, its one of the hardest things to do , to reason with yourself. My self-esteem was also so low that it was hard to accept that I even deserved recovery. I had made myself into this small person , and I think I hoped that one day , I would get so small that I would disappear and not be a burden on anyone anymore. During recovery, I had my good and bad days, what was a big motivation for me was this community of female bodybuilders and weightlifters I began to follow online on Instagram and YouTube. These women were strong, confident, could move some heavy weight and had incredible bodies that they looked after well. I wanted to be like them. I was sick of being this frail shell of person that didn’t eat or move, I wanted

to be more and give myself more. Once I was a healthier weight I started yoga to help build mental and physical strength and make peace with my body. I then started getting into weightlifting and instantly, I loved it. The power and sense of accomplishment and stress release I had was incredible. That hour I get to spend on me, is so important now, and is an important part of my day. Its a time to better myself, remind myself how strong my body is and what it can actually do and to love my body because it never gave up on me, even though I treated it horribly. I turned this passion into a career because I wanted to help others better their health. I chose to come out publicly about my disorder because I carried a great deal of shame about it. It was like a release to tell the world “hey I went through this pretty traumatic time, but you know what I recovered from it, and I came back stronger than ever , and you can to.� I wanted the world to know that recovery is possible, you just need to take those steps towards it, and take your life back! If you are suffering from an eating disorder my advice is you need to speak to someone about it, eating disorders thrive in silence and isolation. Once you tell someone you can come to terms with accepting that you have a disorder and that now you are going to do something about it. Make sure you have a strong support system, I could not have recovered on my own, I had the help of my family, friends and professionals. You need this support system, because you are not thinking clearly during recovery, its hard to recover with distorted thoughts, your battling with your mind everyday, you need support from others to help you see more clearly, what the actual truth is with your situation, how the disorder is not your friend, and does not have your best interests. You also need to be patient with yourself, recovery takes time, it took me a good year and half to get to a better place mentally and physically. I had to drop everything in my life and focus 100% on recovery , on self love, on self worth, on forgiving myself, on not being ashamed.

You also need to be honest with yourself, you have been secretive and lying so much during this disorder, that complete honesty is the only way to keep driving forward through recovery and knock those barriers down. Also remember that you deserve recovery. You are not alone. I have no regrets in my life. I accept that I had to go through that difficult time because it made me the person I am today. I lost a lot of time, memories, and years with my disorder, but I have now gained it back and so much more. I had to go to that place in order to get stronger. We all deserve health and happiness, but we can only give that to ourselves first and foremost. No one can do it for us. They can support and help us, but we are the ones with the power to change our own lives. I also look at it, that my struggle, could be someone else salvation, if I can take my experience and save just one life by sharing it, it was all worth it. The tears, pain, struggle, discomfort, was all worth it. I have now learned to love myself, in every way but most importantly I now accept the things about myself I cannot change and continue to love myself still.




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ABOUT I’m a stay-at-home mom to boy/girl twins and have been married to an amazing man for over 15 years. I have a passion for health, fitness and nutrition which started when I was inpatient for anorexia and bulimia. I’m currently in the process of becoming a certified personal trainer, and have hopes of furthering my education in nutrition. My university degree is in criminal justice and fine arts. I’ve run many half-marathons and a marathon before my twins were 2. While I love fitness and nutrition, my heart and soul is committed to empowering and inspiring others daily to become better versions of themselves.

THE BEGINNING I remember being very aware of my body shape at the age of 8. I was in dance, had to wear a leotard and felt that my body was bigger than the other girls. That’s when I started to compare my perceived flaws and imperfections to others. My family and I experienced many moves during my childhood and it was difficult for me to put myself out there, because I was a shyer and more introverted type person. I was also bullied in junior high and wanted to fit in while in high school. I started to restrict my food intake to lose some weight before high school began. This is when anorexia and bulimia started to work it’s way into my life.

HER STORY I felt I had more “control” over my anorexia and bulimia until I started university. My parents and I moved from Canada to California and I was about to start university. Prior to the move, I became ill with mono and gained more weight than I would have liked. I decided to take some advice from a friend and began running 2x a day and restricting my food to 1 salad per day. The weight melted off & my obsession for compulsive exercise (aka. exercise-induced bulimia) began. I felt things were ok, until my half-sister and baby niece came to live with us. I am adopted, and up until this point an only child; having a biological child of one of my parents move in with us was very challenging. It was a hard time for everyone and a big adjustment. I think we were all trying to figure out a new normal. This was a defining moment for my anorexia and bulimia. Things for me felt very disorganized, so to try to have some sense of control, I restricted food, compulsively exercised

and took handfuls of diet pills. My weight dropped to a BMI of 15. I was in pain probably due to a lack of electrolytes and my heart was racing to a point that I knew if I didn’t seek professional help, I would be having some serious health complications. When my sister and niece moved back to Canada, I was ready to seek inpatient care. Fortunately, my parents had great health insurance and were able to get me into an inpatient eating disorder clinic within days. It’s funny, when you walk into a situation like an inpatient facility, you look at how sick everyone else is. You are in such denial that you don’t see that you also need to be there. Inpatient therapy was intense and hard work. The support of my boyfriend (now husband) and parents attending therapy, helped all of us understand the depths of my eating disorder. My spiritual beliefs allowed me to tap into an inner strength. This facility taught us to seek a higher power to understand that we’re not alone in life or this journey to recovery. I learned the power of prayer is a very powerful tool for me and for my recovery. I remember waking up one morning, 5 weeks later, and thinking “I’m going to be OK”. I’ve definitely had my ups and downs over the years, but through the skills I learned in therapy and the support of my loved ones I’ve continued on a healthy road.

ADVICE Reach out to those who love you, parents/teachers/mentors/friends, to support you and have your back. Once you reach out, you don’t have to do it alone. It’s a hidden disease, and sadly one that requires lifelong awareness. It’s going to be one of the hardest challenges mentally and physically you’ll ever go through. But I can tell you, that the fight of recovery is 100% worth it. I feel there is nothing more beautiful than the life we’ve been gifted with.

ADVICE FOR LOVED ONES WHO KNOW SOMEONE THAT'S STRUGGLING WITH ED Parents/family/friends, please educate yourselves about the disease. The person suffering needs to hear that you love them and are there to support them however they need you to be. Patience is important because recovery is a long road. Most importantly, while they may need help and support during recovery, it’s not up to you to “fix them”, they have to want to make the changes themselves.

THROUGH ALL OF THIS, WHAT DID YOU LEARN ABOUT YOURSELF? I’ve learned that it’s ok to not be “perfect” and the mistakes I’ve made are part of my journey and story. All the failures and setbacks have made me who I am today. They keep me grounded, humbled and have shown me strength that I didn’t know I was capable of. Life is so much about being present in every moment not about trying to be perfect. Comparisons rob you of joy, so please realize that it’s OK to be your own individual self. Be an #EDWarrior.

Run Under The Sun Running Under The Sun 8


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I am a yoga teacher, body-worker, and mother of two boys. I am passionate about embodied healing for the sake of being ever more fully alive and whole.

During the worst period of my eating disorder -- 2007- 2009 -- I was in an abusive relationship with a man who sold and used drugs extensively. The break-up was extremely violent and drawn-out. In some ways, I used the abusiveness and toxicity of the relationship to distract me from the deepest pain (the rapes) much like I used the obsession with eating less. After he was finally thoroughly out of my life because I had moved to another state for graduate school in 2009, I continued to see the Jungian psychoanalyst through Skype and I was also in a healthy relationship with a man who loved me. Under these circumstances, I could eat sometimes but the moment stress appeared, my appetite would disappear. Denying myself food was still something my nervous system could fall back on as a coping mechanism. My weight fluctuated between 140 and 100 pounds (at my lowest, I was 97) for years, based on where my stress levels were at. After graduate school, I entered a new relationship with yet another drug trafficker and user who also abused me emotionally and physically. That break-up, while much more sudden, catapulted me back into traumatic flashbacks, rapid weight loss, anxiety attacks, and depression deep enough that, once again, I couldn't get out of bed without a substance in my system. This relapse in 2012 pushed me to go back into therapy and to begin going to a yoga studio. Something about going to a studio, with other people, kept my head enough out of suicidal thoughts and more in the world of the sane. I decided to enroll in my 200 YTT, hoping to "wring out my inner goodness" as I wrote in my journal the first day of training. I wanted to find something likable about my body. I was tired of feeling numb -- it was safe but it was miserable. Yoga had to be the way to something better: time on my mat was the only time I could catch a glimpse of feeling comfortable in my body, or to even be aware of my body at all. It wasn't easy and there were so many times I wanted to run away and quit both in my YTT and in subsequent courses I took to earn my 500 hours of yoga teaching certification. Through those times, of wanting to run but staying put, yoga taught me how to NOT run from feeling the rest of my life off the mat, including my past. How to sit in

THE BEGINNING It's impossible to pinpoint a single beginning or trigger. It was a combination of things that made food and my body's size topics of anxiety for me, and why anorexia became one of the ways I coped with suffering. Like most little girls, I noticed at 7 or 8 years old that thin people were pretty and pretty people weren't criticized. My girlfriends told me I was thick, big-boned, and ugly, and I remember thoroughly believing that by the time I was twelve years old. It was at this age that I began to feel too big for space. Throughout my childhood and particularly teenage years, finances, and food, were often scarce enough that I worried about eating too much or not having enough to eat tomorrow if I ate too much today. I would often steal food from people I babysat for or visited. I was deeply ashamed of this, and of my hunger. Given this childhood context, it's not surprising that later, when I was struggling with PTSD from three events of sexual violence that happened in 20062008, I fixated on becoming thinner and finding ways to eat less, starting in late 2007. Eating already made me feel anxious and ashamed, and after being raped, I wanted my body which had betrayed me and brought such terror to be LESS. More than anything though, I wanted something else to think about than the continual re-living and re-feeling of the traumatic events. Avoiding food became a mental obsession that distracted me from the trauma. After awhile, I didn't need to think about how to not eat. I simply, honestly, wasn't hungry. My appetite was gone and entirely replaced by feeling large, too  large, and so full, all the time. I had no sense of my actual body anymore. I don't know how to explain it exactly, but my proprioception was literally hijacked by the mental illness. I was living in a bigger body than I actually have. I was living in a Too Large Body Suit rather than an actual, feeling, real BODY. The Suit, miserable as it was, felt safe because it was numb.

my seat and stay there. To feel what's here no matter what it is. To not distract myself. To pay attention to my body and to truly occupy it. This is now my passion as a yoga teacher and why I love teaching and doing bodywork as much as I do -- I love how this work wakes people up to the bodies they actually have.

MENTAL HEALTH I had both depression and anxiety with the PTSD. My jaw locked up and would hurt so badly I would actually cry from the pain. I couldn't see or talk to anyone without drugs or alcohol in my system.

REACHING OUT FOR HELP In late 2008, I went to the therapist on my college campus at the advice of a professor. I thought I needed help with my inability to concentrate. I couldn't think straight and it was very hard for me to sit through a class and remain in my desk. However, I walked out of the therapist's office with a much different diagnosis than the one of ADHD that I'd expected and had been given before. He asked me in the visit what I thought about myself when I wanted to leave a room. I told him I was too big for space. That was the first day that someone told me: you have anorexia nervosa. You are not too big, you are actually very thin. While somewhere inside me, this rang true, I knew it wasn't the whole story -- it wasn't, the root cause was severe and untreated PTSD -- but I also couldn't face the truth that I had an eating disorder. I told myself that if I embraced that diagnosis, I would truly, actually become fat. What it really was, though, was my fear of what was underneath the diagnosis. I didn't want to face the trauma I used anorexia to distract myself from and I wanted to keep the sense of numbness, safety, and DIS-embodiment that I had in my Too Large Body Suit. I went home and decided, okay, I don't want the prescription or the diagnosis that that guy gave me... but I do need help. My jaw hurt so bad, it made me cry. I couldn't leave the house without a substance in my system. My mom referred me to a Jungian psychoanalyst who she told me specialized in working with creative types (I was a poetry major)... I found out years later that she actually specializes in eating disorders and PTSD.

At the same time as all of this happened - late 2008 -- my roommate shared the advice she had been given that day for her own anxiety: do sun salutations. I decided to begin practicing them every morning. I didn't notice, at first, that it did much for my anxiety overall, but they did make me feel calmer and more in control while I was doing them, and that was enough to keep me at it. I also liked how my body felt while I did them. It didn't feel too big or too small while I did yoga. It just felt like a body, and a pretty nice one even, sometimes. I didn't feel that way any time other than while doing yoga. This was how yoga helped me begin to acquaint myself with my real body.

THROUGH ALL OF THIS, WHAT DID YOU LEARN ABOUT YOURSELF? I've learned that living in my body is the best way to live -- it's the only way to truly LIVE. I've learned to slow down and mourn when there is something to be mourned. The value of stillness, of simply sitting and feeling, is immeasurable.

ADVICE Look at what's underneath your thoughts. The story in your mind that you tell yourself is rarely the true story. It's rarely all that's actually going on. What are your thoughts distracting you from? What are you afraid to feel? Whatever that is -- FEEL THAT. It won't go away until you do. More than anything -- believe that you deserve better. You deserve to be embodied and empowered. You deserve to delight in your aliveness.

ADVICE FOR LOVED ONES WHO KNOW SOMEONE THAT'S STRUGGLING WITH ED Love them. Love all of them. Don't try to fix them. Just love them.



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ABOUT I am a National Level Powerlifter, Personal Trainer, Vegan Blogger and Artist. My passions are lifting weights (heavy ones ;) and helping people grow in self -confidence and live a healthier lifestyle. Raising awareness of mental health. From the UK!!

THE BEGINNING The eating disorder started when I was 16 years old. I developed Orthorexia which then progressed to Anorexia and Bulimia. There were a number of elements that triggered the eating disorder, a lot stemmed from my childhood. I had always experienced bullying when I was young which made me very self-conscious about my body and being sexually abused by my next door neighbour when I was eight had made me suppress a lot of feelings and emotions. As a teenager, I was a carer for my father who had been stabbed, resuscitated and lost the use of one arm and found it difficult to use his legs. He had to have a triple heart bypass and was diagnosed as diabetic so I had to look after him. This was a big strain on me as I was working three jobs and trying to complete 4 A-levels. It all got too much for me and I started to take it out on myself. I felt worthless and hated myself and my body. Starving myself was a form of self-harm. I didn't feel like I deserved food. A voice then formed in my head and I was trapped. I couldn't escape it. I had no control or structure in my life so the only way I could gain control was to restrict my eating.

HER STORY The eating disorder began whilst I was in high school. I became very body conscious and had a lot of stress at that time. I started showing symptoms of orthorexia which then developed into Anorexia. I became obsessed with food and over exercising. It got to the point where I was surviving off a bite of an apple and diet everyday. I was very weak and had to stop playing football and all the sports teams I was dedicated to which broke my heart. I moved to Brighton to study Fine Art and in attempt to have more control of my life. Whilst at work I collapsed and was hospitalised. My heart was giving up on me and had to wired to a heart monitor 24/7. Sitting in a cardiac unit wasn’t something I wanted at the age of 17. Not being able to look after myself anymore

I had to move back to Southend where I was then a patient at Basildon hospital eating disorder unit where I would spend days trying to structure my eating and attend group therapy. This didn’t unfortunately work as I would hide the food so I wouldn’t eat it. The bulimia started when I found I could be ‘normal’ around people by eating food then throwing it up afterwards. This became an awful addiction and a cycle I couldn’t break out of. It became so bad that I would throw up 14 times a day, binge till my stomach felt like it was going to split and end up passing out covered in my own vomit. The physical and mental effects were killing me. I split my oesophagus open from throwing up and shoving pencils down my throat in attempt to bring more food up, I’d get constant acid reflux, stomach problems, teeth started to crumble and formed heart problems. My mum had to put a lock on the kitchen door just to stop me bingeing but I still managed to find a way. It was almost like I was possessed. I’d binge on things I didn’t even like just to feed the demon inside of me. The guilt would kick in and I’d purge. If I could no longer purge then I would overdose on laxatives. It just got to the point where my body and mind couldn’t take it anymore. I felt worthless, disgusting and isolated. Lonely and very depressed having no hope for the future I overdosed on sleeping tablets to just shut the voice down in my head and numb the pain. I woke up the next morning in hospital with a psychiatric nurse by my side and my mother with red eyes who had clearly been crying. It’s crazy that even though I was putting myself through all this pain it still didn’t scare me out of it. Due to the seriousness of the illness I managed to get funding for The Royal Maudsley Hospital which I am forever grateful for. This was whilst I was attending University in London. I spent the whole of Uni in and out of hospital every week – it wasn’t the standard University life that I had always looked forward to. But it taught me a lot. It wasn’t till the end of the treatment that I started to see changes. I was back to a healthy weight but still severely suffering with bulimia and depression. I was on heavy anti-depressants which helped some-what. My step-dad unexpectedly passed away during my second year of uni which sent me into a bad relapse. I eventually got back on track then found

out my father had been diagnosed with cancer. It just seemed like I was always taking one step forward and two steps back. When I was discharged from The Maudsley I felt helpless with no one to turn to. My funding had run out and I didn’t know where to turn. Yoga had really helped me become more mindful and grateful of each day. Appreciating the good days and finding the small things that made the bad ones a little better. I then discovered the gym. I began weight training and I felt so good about myself. It was somewhere I could go to get out the house and just focus on lifting the weights and releasing any negative energy. I started to become stronger and loved the feeling. My nutrition got better as I started lifting more and the bulimia got better. My first two consecutive days without throwing up for 3 years felt amazing. It gradually got better, still with a few relapses but that was expected with recovery. I then got into Powerlifting and never looked back. I am now competing at a National Level in Powerlifting, have graduated from University and am now a Personal Trainer & Yoga Instructor helping others to get into fitness and improve overall wellness.

MENTAL HEALTH I experienced severe depression, anxiety, insomnia, Borderline Personality Disorder and exercise Bulimia.

REACHING OUT FOR HELP When it reached the point of collapsing at work and fainting doing everyday tasks I realised I needed help. I had pushed away my friends and family, isolated myself and was very suicidal. I was hospitalised many times. It wasn't the life I wanted to live. I didn't even know who I was anymore. I went to my GP, he diagnosed me with Anorexia Nervosa and I started treatment at Basildon Hospital. I also went to a private Homeopathic doctor for CBT. At this point the Bulimia started getting worse and I couldn't go on throwing up 14 times a day. It was obvious it was affecting my family seeing me in this state. I managed to complete college with a distinction despite the eating disorder and received a unconditional offer at The University of the Arts London to study a degree in Fine Art. The bulimia became worse during university and I managed to get funding for treatment at The Royal Maudsley

Hospital which I was so grateful for as they are one of the top hospitals to specialise in Eating disorder recovery. My University also had a great mental health team.

THROUGH ALL OF THIS, WHAT DID YOU LEARN ABOUT YOURSELF? I learned so much about myself, I really grew as a person. Although what I went through was the most awful thing I am in a way glad I experienced it. I now understand eating disorders and can, therefore, help others. I have become so much more grateful for life, the beauty of it, the ups, the downs, and have learnt acceptance. I take risks and live life to the fullest not worrying about things that I can’t change. I have learnt to love myself, love my curves and my mind. I am stronger than I have ever been before, mentally and physically, and have grown in confidence. I have learnt that the mind is so so powerful. Our thoughts literally control everything. Developing a positive energy, being optimistic and being in control of your thoughts will change how you perceive situations. I am aware of my mental weaknesses, I am aware of triggers and have found ways to deal with stresses/situations better. I still get relapses now and again, but I’ve learnt to be completely honest and true to myself, accepting my emotions and not hiding them. I feel like if I can overcome an illness as life-consuming as this I can accomplish anything I put my mind to. Only in the process of fixing myself did I know who I truly was. I am not ashamed of my story, as I hope it to inspire others.

ADVICE You are not alone through this. Find professional help, it doesn’t mean you are weak it is just showing that you want to defeat this illness. It does not define you. Find at least three things each day that you can be grateful for - I found practicing gratitude and mindfulness helpful. Please do not give up, you deserve health and happiness.

ADVICE FOR LOVED ONES WHO KNOW SOMEONE THAT'S STRUGGLING WITH ED Yeah I got this a lot especially when anorexic people would say ‘just eat more’. The problem isn’t the eating it’s all in the mind. Re-wire the thinking and the eating will get better. The problem is the sufferer has no compassion for themselves, they feel worthless and not worthy of nourishment. They do not think

like everybody else. It is difficult as everyone has different triggers so you have to be careful, sensitive and very open to the sufferer. Doing your research on the disorder and being as supportive as you can really helps. Eating disorder sufferers will tend to develop to be compulsive liars to hide their eating rituals, be aware of it but don’t force anything on them. Help them to find professional support/therapy. The hardest part tends to be getting the sufferer to admit they have an illness. Give your time, listen to them and try not to give advice or criticize them as they will most likely push you away. Make them feel valued. They are often scared to lose loved ones so the support is appreciated greatly.

Sophia Ellis PT soph_ellis @sinfreesophia

forever a warrior.

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ABOUT I’m Gaia Rio, I’m 22 years old and I’m from Como, in the norther part of Italy. I’m currently studying at Les Roches Global Hospitality Education, a top university in the Hospitality Management industry, in the French part of Switzerland. My dream is to become a Hotel Manager and I’m working hard to reach my goal. I love my family, my friends and my boyfriend and I feel satisfied and glad whenever I am able to help people.

THE BEGINNING & HER STORY My eating disorder actually started at the beginning of 2014, when I broke up with the guy I was dating at that time, for apparently no reason after two years. At first I was really sad and I didn’t want to find a real reason for what was happening. Therefore I basically stopped eating for one week, I did not feel like eating at all. After a few days my sadness mostly disappeared, I realized that I deserved someone better than him and decided to move forward (at least with him). What really happened, instead, was that I started to look at myself in the mirror thinking that, after losing a couple of kilos during the week I stopped eating, I looked better and prettier. I have never been fat, I actually loved the body I used to have before anything happened, but I still “convinced” myself that I should have lost a couple more kilos and I would have appreciated myself even more. That was my real initial goal, that at the end I was not able to accomplish since I progressively stopped eating losing more and more weight without control and I weirdly felt extremely happy and proud whenever that number on the scale was going down, until I reached 34kg (around 74 pounds), becoming a real walking skeleton. I spent 2 years of my life rejecting food, people’ affect and help, isolating myself. I spent 2 years of my life crying and complaining, but at the same time without the courage to make a change. I wasted 2 years of my life for an inner peace I have not been able to find. I wasted 2 years of my life, being obsessed with food and studying ways to avoid it. I ended up being alone, weighting 34kg (1.69m tall) and devoting my whole day to study and to obsessive/compulsive thoughts about food. I couldn’t find any other reason to wake up in the morning, I couldn’t remember

how to smile or spend time with people I used to love anymore. Living just became so useless but I knew I just wanted this to be over. Yet, when you do not educate your mind properly, then your mind rules you, and trying to change what it makes you do becomes almost impossible. Almost impossible. Cause nothing is impossible when you really want it.

MENTAL HEALTH I lived those two years with anxiety. Everything needed to be related to timetables, habits became obsessions and I found myself completely lost if I was not able to live the day following those fixed steps at a particular fixed time. (It was so bad that, for example, I was forcing myself to take a shower for 35 minutes with super hot water, every day at the same time. I was setting my alarm clock and waiting for it to ring before going out of the shower. It might seem funny to say now, but I would have cried like crazy otherwise).

REACHING OUT FOR HELP Mental recovery is way harder than physical recovery. Since the beginning my parents tried to avoid my breakdown or at least to help me by driving me to a Clinic for rehabilitation. Yet, doctors and nutritionists there have not been able to deal with my situation since I was completely rejecting any type of assistance from them. I was then undergoing psychological treatment, that mainly made me reflect on what I was going through especially regarding my anxiety. My parents as well did their best to help me and to make me understand that I had to make that change and I knew that no help was sufficient if not mine. I had to choose recovery, I had to make the change.

THROUGH ALL OF THIS, WHAT DID YOU LEARN ABOUT YOURSELF? .What I really had to do to recover was stepping out of my “comfort zone” to meet life with passion and fervor. I was convincing myself that sadness and depression were what I actually deserved for whichever reason, turning them into my “comfort zone”, something that at the end almost made me feel good. Only by making that step out I realized what life really is, that I actually deserve a lot of love and happiness (that I finally found

now). I realized how strong and how to appreciate myself for the person I am. I am learning how to love myself despite all my imperfections building the best version of myself. I realized that I wasted two years of my life but that at the same time I know now how to face bad times and that I want to be proud of myself for many other reasons rather than for being a walking skeleton. We have been given one life and we have to live it at its fullest.

ADVICE Every day I am reached out by many many girls on social media who contact me for advice and help. I met my best friend 4 years ago on Instagram, she texted me when we both were struggling with this terrible “monster”, as I use to call anorexia, and we progressively helped each other to recover. We are now so close and always supporting each other especially during the hardest moments. I feel glad and proud whenever I have the chance to read all my direct messages and whenever I am able to give my help and advice. What I actually tell all of them is that your own help to yourself is what will allow you to recover. Our mind is too powerful, it rules over everything. We have to educate it to the right direction. It’s not easy, it will not be, the journey is long and steep, but the view from the top is amazing. We only have one life and there’s no reason to waste it for an inner peace we will never find, for a body shape that will not give you happiness or make you feel fulfilled. Food is not our enemy, food is good and vital. I keep receiving every day messages from people asking me how I could recover, how I could gain so much weight back. Finding an answer to this question is still quite hard for me. I just know that one day I woke up and I thought I had to make a change, cause the real Gaia is not skinny, not perfect, but happy. Gaia, in Italian, means “happy” and there’s a reason if my parent chose to give me just this name when I was born. Recovering was hard, I cried million tears cause I was not sure I was doing right and I didn’t really want to leave what had become my “comfort zone”. But I started to realize I wanted to be proud of myself for many more other reasons rather than for being determined in preventing my body from eating.

ADVICE FOR LOVED ONES WHO KNOW SOMEONE THAT'S STRUGGLING WITH ED Many times I’ve heard people telling me “Try to eat this, try to eat that”. The more I was told such a ‘suggestion’, the more I was avoiding food and their advise. The best behavior and attitude for an external person not going through this and trying to help would be avoiding at all any type of comment or discussion related to food (“I’m glad you ate”; “you look unhealthy”). You should instead be prepared to resistance and reluctance, be patient and supportive, showing you care and that you are open to communication without forcing it. People suffering from eating disorders are generally extremely intelligent and won’t easily find comprises, sticking around the same idea, the same “comfort zone”.

My instagram page is

@rediscovering_gaia I chose this profile name since I have been rediscovering myself everyday since then and posting before-after pictures not only make me feel proud of myself giving me motivation and reminding me every day that I will never have to go back or give up, but also has the purpose to give motivation to anyone still fighting this “monster” to choose recovery and happiness over depression and frustration.

we are warriors of mental health.

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