When I read Michelle Cordeiro's piece Shifting Body Perspective: Strong is Not a Look, I was reminded of the struggles many of us face with food and our bodies. I felt validated in the serious self-work I have been doing this year. In 2018, I took the plunge and dedicated all of my energy towards recovering from an eating disorder that I’ve been struggling with for 14 years.
With the help of medical professionals, I have been working towards normalizing my eating, learning healthier strategies to cope with stress/anxiety/depression and accepting my body as it is. Easy enough, right?
After spending years in a constant cycle, restricting-binging, striving to look a certain way to feel love for myself, my body said no more. I was unable to keep up with the demands of life because of my illness and with the support of my family, sought out professional help.
The first step was getting a referral to an outpatient program for adults. In Hamilton, the nearest option is St. Joseph’s Eating Disorder Program. The wait-list can take as long as six months, but I was fortunate enough to get a call after two months.
In February, I entered a 25-week long group called “Making Changes,” offering Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to adults with Eating Disorders. The group is run by a team of professionals who have devoted their careers to the research and treatment of Eating Disorders. This team includes a psychiatrist, psychologists, nurse practitioner and dieticians. We met with the team weekly and learned how to introduce change into our lives - that would support our recovery. Words cannot describe the growth that took place over those 25 weeks.
During the months that I was waiting to hear from St. Joe’s, I decided I needed to reach out to other resources in the city that may be supportive. I came across Body Brave, a non-profit founded by Sonia Seguin, a strong woman who recovered from an eating disorder, and her mother, Dr. Karen Trollope. Body Brave offers affordable services and workshops for individuals struggling with eating disorders and body image issues. The atmosphere is warm and comforting and their approach to helping others is sensitive and compassionate.
If you think you or someone you know is struggling but are not ready to take the outpatient approach, I highly recommend checking out Body Brave! You can chat with Sonia and find out how they may suit your needs; check out a workshop or sign up for a body-positive yoga class. Body Brave offers workshops on topics ranging from mindfulness, to beginning the stages of recovery, to maintaining recovery, body image, etc. Service fees are very accessible (either OHIP-covered, PWYC, or minimal to cover basic costs). Through Body Brave, I have met some beautiful souls who I now think of as dear friends (one of whom is now my lovable new roommate).
Another aspect of my recovery was finding exercise that is meaningful and not punishing. After years of over-exercising, I developed joint issues and coupled with years of restriction, I developed osteoporosis (that’s right - osteoporosis at 29 years old…). I realized that I needed to change the way I approached exercise to protect my body from further harm. That’s when I discovered the Ritual Movement Method. I came to one of Robin’s R&B Pilates classes at Sous Bas and was hooked. With a sexy playlist, a challenging-yet-playful practice and Robin’s sense of humour, I felt like I finally found a sustainable and fun form of exercise (who knew such a thing existed?!). ‘Sayonara’ Stairmaster, ‘hellooo’ Elevator Clammies...
I am forever grateful for my family, St. Joe’s, Body Brave, and R&B Pilates for helping me through a difficult point in my journey and I definitely feel like there is still more work for me. Recovery is long road and right now, I am especially feeling the icky feelings of poor body image with the weight restoration (in my case, weight gain) that came with normalized eating. These feelings, of course, are magnified in these hot summer months, during wedding and vacation season, in the age of social media, in a Western culture that is becoming more and more “health” conscious…
I am about to begin the next chapter with St. Joe’s, a group titled “Body Image” for these exact feelings so stay tuned…
If you or anyone you know is suffering from disordered eating, feel free to check out the resources that I found helpful. The process of recovery is not a “one-size fits all” method (no pun intended) and what helped me may not help everyone, but I can confidently say that recovery requires making changes and change helps with the support of others.
St. Joseph’s Eating Disorder Program: http://www.stjoes.ca/hospital-services/mental-health-addiction-services/mental-health-services/eating-disorders-program
Body Brave Website: https://www.livingbodybrave.com/
National Eating Disorder Recovery Centre: http://nedic.ca/
About Morgan MacDonald:
Morgan works in administration at McMaster University. Taking a leave of absence to focus on recovery, she has been focussed on connecting with people in the community to help with the healing process. She is currently developing a clothing line with her mother, Carol Davies, an experienced fashion designer. Their brand, Metta Made in Hamilton, creates high-quality, comfortable “wellness wear” made from sustainable fabrics. Keep your eyes peeled for Metta Made in Hamilton’s launch of a new line this Fall which will focus on creating size-inclusive, age-inclusive capsule pieces that aims to make everybody look good and feel good.
If you have visions of what you would hope to see in a size-inclusive clothing line/any challenges you experience shopping for clothing, please reach out because we would love to hear your input!