Friday, May 31, 2013

My Experience as a Peer Support Worker

Sometimes we learn better from someone with lived experience who has walked the same path.  That’s what I feel makes a Peer Support Worker so valuable --it’s first-hand experience. 

When I was struggling with an eating disorder, I remember feeling more understood and at ease with someone who had recovered from an eating disorder themselves.  To this day I truly believe there are some aspects of an eating disorder that just cannot be explained or taught.  The intense fear that rises when taking that first bite of a meal, that vicious dark cloud of loneliness that follows you everywhere you go, the blurry haze that separates you from your loved ones as you strain your weary eyes to break free….some of these things are just, indescribable.

This is one of the reasons why I took on the role as an Eating Disorder PeerSupport Worker at the KeltyMental Health Resource Centre.  When I first meet with people and they begin to tell me their story, I feel as if I already know them.  There seems to be this underlying connection of a shared struggle, an understanding that they are not alone in their experience.  I honestly believe that Peer Support ultimately gives people hope, as I show them day after day of a living example that recovery is possible.  Whether it’s to parents, youth, student counselors, teachers, service providers, adults, professionals, dietitians  roommates, friends, coaches, etc., I bring a unique capacity to feel empathy and aim to help people with the same common goal: recovery.  The tricky part is, everyone’s recovery looks different – it’s about finding what works and pushing out of that comfort zone that’s important!  So as I listen and provide valuable first-hand coping skills, I always let the person or family know I am not there to judge, it is not their fault, and most importantly, they are not alone. I encourage people to trust that it will get easier and continue to take small challenges.  Like jumping out of a plane, you must trust that the parachute will open. 

People say that recovery is the most difficult thing they have ever done.  But I have to say it is also the most worthwhile, the most rewarding, and the accomplishment I, to this day, remain proudest of.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

All about PEDAW!

Curious with what the Provincial Eating Disorders Awareness (PEDAW) campaign actually does?  Wondering why it's so unique and effective?  Check out this short video all about PEDAW!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Guest Post: Looking Glass Online Support Groups

People who have never experienced the difficulty of being truly mired in disordered eating and thoughts revolving around food don't realize how isolating it can be, and often can't fathom why the 'patients' can't just talk about it and eat more. When I began the downward spiral into anorexia at age 15, I didn't want anything to do with eating disorder (ED) support groups because I didn't want others to see my face and remember me for my disease. I rejected in-patient and out-patient group treatments and refused anything beyond weekly one-on-one counselling. I wish I had known there was something as completely anonymous as the Looking Glass online forum. I probably would have felt less alone and scared.
Online support offers those who are experiencing an ED an outlet to rant, to ask for help, to share how their day to day battle with food turned out, all without fear of being judged by strangers, or being exposed in real life. It is beyond valuable because distance and location doesn't matter as long as you have access to the internet! Looking Glass forum sessions take place across Canada for all ages on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 4:30-6:00 PM and 7:30-9:00 PM [PST]. There's also something to be said about being able to get support from the safety of your home. You can be all the way in Ontario and be talking with someone in British Columbia! What's great about the Looking Glass Foundation is that they see this experience as a valuable tool to help others, not a flaw that prevents one from being a volunteer. Few people can empathize better than those who have gone through the fear of weight gain, hate of body fat, anxiety from bloat, and inability to stop on a self-destructive path.
As a facilitator, I feel like I am making a difference in someone's day when they log on and decide to trust with me with their thoughts. I'm grateful I can turn what was a negative period of my life into something positive by interacting with people who are currently in a negative period of their lives. If you or someone you know are experiencing disordered thoughts around eating and food, there are a many ways to contact Looking Glass Foundation. Please don't hesitate to do so, whether it be for more information about the summer camps or to seek support through the online forum.

Sign up FREE at the LG online forum (Tuesday + Thursday sessions):

PHONE: 604-314-0548

Thursday, May 23, 2013

My experience making a video

This year as my role as the Provincial Eating Disorders Awareness (PEDAW) campaign coordinator, I was given the exciting opportunity to make a video on eating disorders, body image, self-esteem, and media awareness to be sent across the Province of BC.  There are several reasons why a person can develop negative body image, especially since we receive constant messages that a ‘perfect’ body can yield happiness, success and even love. The consequences of negative body image can be devastating: low self-esteem, low self-worth, and even developing an eating disorder.  My overall goal for this video is rather simple: to make people feel better about the body they have right now and ultimately prevent eating disorders.  I only had one thing standing in my way from making this video absolutely extraordinary: I knew nothing about video production!  With the help of volunteers, students, and colleagues, I was able to reach my goal and complete the video

Here were the steps I took:

  1. Came up with the message (positive body image!) 
  2. Created a script
  3. Editing of the script
  4. Created a story board
  5. The filming
  6. Editing
  7. Voice over (more difficult than you’d think!)
  8. More editing
  9. Choosing a soundtrack
  10. Even MORE editing
  11. DUNZO!

Here is what I learned:

•Never shoot a video with a single battery. Always have a back-up. Always.
•Carry snacks with you at all times, especially on shoot day.
•The answer will always be ‘no,’ if you don’t ask.
•Prepare! Prepare! Prepare!
•Always have several copies of the script on hand
•Never stop trying… just do what you believe.

Love Our Bodies, LoveOurselves is a 24 minute video designed to promote conversation about how we feel about our own bodies.  I hope my video will encourage you to think more critically about what it means to live in a culture where media encourages us to have a negative body image, and discuss ways to overcome this. 


**Please email me at if you would like a sample lesson plan to go along with this.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Amy's Tip of the Day!

Appreciate Behaviors and Talents

Compliment others on non-appearance characteristics such as behaviors, a skill or talent they have, an accomplishment or even their ability to make other people feel welcome. We have so much more to give to the world than how we look.  Let's start complimenting people for those other skills and attributes!  For example, instead of, "you look fantastic!  Have you lost weight?," consider saying, "dinner was amazing, I always enjoy when we can get together and catch up" or "I really admire your passion for your work, it's so inspiring."

Friday, May 17, 2013

Amy's Tip of the Day!

Love who you Are

Instead of beating yourself up when you look in the mirror, write positive affirmations on post-it notes and encourage yourself to believe those things about yourself when you see your reflection.  Focus on non-appearance aspects about your character or some of the things about your body that you do love and why you love them.  For example, rather than saying, "my arms are so flabby," instead say, "I love my arms because they allow me to hug my friend."

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Amy's Tip of the Day!

Admire Individuality

Don't be critical about others.  It won't make you feel better about yourself and it isn't funny.  If you observe someone wearing something that you don't feel is flattering, keep your comments to yourself.  Admire their confidence and challenge yourself to think about why it bothers you in the first place.  Try to think of three things about the person (whether you know them or not) that can offset being critical. For example, if you're thinking, "I would never wear that!," or, "did she not look in a mirror before she left the house?," counter those thoughts with, "I admire her confidence," or, 
"I like how she exhibits her individuality."

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Amy's Tip of the Day!

Dress with Self-Confidence!

Select an outfit that makes you feel confident.  Whether you are dressing at home or shopping for something new, focus on how the clothes fit your body, not on how your body fits the clothes.  Don't beat yourself up because something doesn't fit.  Recognize that everyone has a very distinct body type and every piece of clothing does not accommodate every person.  Instead of saying, "I'm too fat to wear this," say, "I don't think this cut is the most flattering for my body type."  If your friend asks, "does this make me look fat?," you should encourage her to focus on how it flatters her instead. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Q&A with Amy!

Q:     Ok, so I always feel like I need people to like me. And so I often get anxious about saying things because I’m concerned with what people will think of me.  I know you hate the word, but is this “normal”?

A:  First, as you already know, you cannot control what other people think.  There are always going to be some people out there who don't understand you, who don't take the time to get to know you, and who decide not to like you.  You may be genuinely kind, polite, generous, and helpful -- but if someone decides, for whatever strange reason, not to respond positively to you -- it's their reason, their problem, and probably more a reflection of them and not you.  In essence, while it's great to be liked and to feel accepted by others, you can't be, and you don't need to be liked by everyone. 

Is this anxiety more about how others view your intelligence?  That you somehow lack validity?  Remember, anxiety results from "what if" thinking, visualizing the future and assuming something unpleasant will happen: "What if they don't like what I have to say?" "What if they don't think I'm smart?" "What if I'm rejected?"  You run less of a risk of rejection if you offer others your true, unembellished self.  They can take it or leave it. 

I'd also like to remind you that you can't read minds (if you can, please fill me in on that trick!).  If you want to know what someone is feeling or thinking, it is best to directly ask them.  Remember, it’s ok to express your needs, wants, and desires –they’re worth being heard.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The number on the scale

The number on the scale...

~Does not determine if you're a good or bad person

~Does not determine if you are a good cousin, friend, brother, artist, sister, student, son, athlete, daughter, aunt, etc.

~Does not determine your self-worth

~Does not make you any more or less deserving


Believe it.

Confessions of a Recovered Individual

Confessions of a Recovered Individual

There’s no tension when I eat around my family

I no longer weigh myself anymore

I no longer live my life in fear or with self-hatred and sadness

I no longer have my mood or actions dictated by a number on a scale or the amount I exercised

I exercise to feel good, not for punishment

I feel comfortable in my own body

The way that I feel about myself no longer stops me from doing things that I love

I’m now able to enthusiastically engage in study, work, and voluntary activities

I have energy to do the things that I love

I’m no longer obsessed with calories, recipes, cooking, etc.  And I now have other interests!

I no longer have to live a 'secret life'

I’m able to rejoin the world (emotionally, psychologically, physically) and leave behind the feelings of isolation

I feel good and have a feeling of peace that accompanies it, which has me smiling to myself in moments I would least expect

I now look at myself in the mirror and think I look good

I believe that my life has worth again

I am able to unburden my mind and focus on something-anything- other than food

I can enjoy my time with friends and family and not be so distracted

I am able to eat spontaneously and not need to plan everything in advance

I have so much more energy and concentration

I actually enjoy food

I can enjoy myself in public without feeling as though everyone's looking at me

I feel I am a much a better girlfriend/friend/daughter/sister

I have my personality back

My identity is no longer of the eating disorder

I have energy to do the things I used to enjoy

I no longer feel worthless

My mood isn’t determined by what the scale says

I can eat a chocolate bar and enjoy it

I can go to a restaurant and eat food without being concerned about the calories

I know I always look amazing regardless of what I ate that day

I can wear clothes that I like, not baggy clothes to cover up my body

I now focus on things that matter in life

I am able to eat and enjoy flavors and not worry about my waist and thighs

I am able to look at holidays and get-togethers as a time to socialize with friends and family.

I can face the mirror with a smile everytime

Food no longer controls my life

I am able to eat in groups and not feel I am being judged

I no longer compare myself to others

My mind is set free!

I am able to be at a healthy weight and still feel like I deserve love

When I smile, I truly mean it

I can FEEL my feelings now!

I have the ability to love and let others love me

I no longer feel guilty when I eat

I discovered I have a fantastic personality!

I can laugh again!

I am much more confident now

My hair is healthy and shiny, and my skin now has a healthy glow to it

I can eat a handful of food, put it away, and not have the bag calling me from the cupboard to finish it

Something to keep in mind…
The most important thing to know and remember about recovery is that it is possible - not just for everyone except you, but for everyone including you.  It takes an enormous amount of persistence and courage, but it is possible and is definitely worth it!