I was going to college for health and fitness in Toronto when my behaviours became extreme. As my weight and health quickly plummeted no one asked me what was going on. Even at my physically worst I was only ever asked about drug use by doctors, but never a question about food or exercise. Hidden in plain sight, I was a man with an eating disorder.
When you’re younger, you’re told you should follow your dreams. I always took that to heart and believe that if I had the power to do anything, than why not spend my time doing something that I love? Part of following your dreams means taking risks, and when I was a kid I was teased and I had practically zero self-confidence. Additionally, I was also slightly overweight at the time, which caused me to analyze and pick apart everything about how I looked. So even when opportunities came my way, I was too self conscious to even think about going for it.
I have always been a small guy. Genetically, I will never be bulky or muscular… it’s just not in the cards for me. Throughout my school years, I was always referred to as “that really skinny guy” or “skeleton.” Some people even questioned if my parents were not feeding me enough. Even today, when I am twenty four years old and at university, one of the first things people notice about me is how thin I am. I’m certainly not the skinniest guy out there, but in an age where guys are expected to be big and muscular, I am an outsider.
The NEDIC team has been deeply affected by the comments in both criticism and support of our most recent awareness campaign ad. We recognize that the ad has stirred deep feelings and strong reactions from many of you.
In objection to the ad, some have said:
“Chocolate!!” exclaims my 6 year old nephew Jesse as my sister and I are discussing the preferred flavour of cake for our annual Turkey Tea party. “I want chocolate turkey cake with brown icing!” Ok. Ever since he was a baby we have been having tea parties for special occasions and holidays, keeping celebrations short to match his uh, time-challenged, attention span. Thanksgiving always includes a cake decorated as a turkey from the local grocery store.
We preach patience. We preach life. We preach recovery. As someone who has recovered from an eating disorder, a lot of the work I do is in helping others to get better. Clients touch base with me, expressing their stresses, concerns, and feelings over their bodies, and improving their life. I respond to questions by sharing my experience but the most common question I am asked, the one that I cannot always answer simply is “What is recovery?” While in the midst of a struggle, through all of the hard work, people want to know what recovery means. “What does it feel like?
Last week, I was surprised to come across two articles discussing whether Toronto schools will soon be weighing students, determining whether they are within a ‘healthy’ weight range – and sending the results to parents. When asked what they thought about this, the majority of parents surveyed in a Toronto Star poll reported that they would not allow their children to participate in BMI testing if it was brought to their school. Why? Could it be that parents understand that BMI is not a good measure of health and wellbeing? That measuring BMI in schools continues a flawed panic – using a flawed measuring tool – about size rather than health?
Your body gets you around. Your legs keep you walking – even running when necessary. Your heart pumps blood night and day to keep you alive. Your liver metabolizes substances and excretes toxic chemicals through your kidneys. Your lungs supply the much-needed oxygen. Your arms lift, and your hands write or type. Your eyes see the beautiful things around you, and your ears hear the glorious sounds of nature. Your lips allow you to communicate, and your nose allows you to smell. Your stomach digests the food that you eat. Your reproductive organs allow you to create life.
My journey through recovery thus far has most definitely not been a smooth one. There have been many ups and downs. I will start off first by saying that I don’t personally use the term “recovered” or “recovery” or even “E.D” for that matter. I believe those terms can limit and label us. To me, life is a process and I believe that maintaining health is a lifelong practice which requires daily work in order to balance. Balance is something that I believe we all struggle with from time to time; or at least I will admit I do.
I am sitting, legs crossed on the sidewalk of an outdoor café in Old Montreal, the dew covering my skin from yoga class lifting into the summer night as the sun’s final salutations bow low against the ancient architecture of the Vieux-Port. A Canadian flag flutters the only hint of color against the tawny-gray buildings whose crevices bear the stories of the ancients, the steady clip-clop of a Clydesdale horse carrying the promise of romance to the drones of people who like me have come here to be swept away.