Wednesday, November 4, 2015


GREAT NEWS! The love our bodies, love ourselves blog has MOVED to a brand new location in order to deliver the best possible experience to you!

You can now read the blog by going to


Thank you for continuing to raise awareness of and prevent eating disorders!

~Amy Pezzente and the PEDAW Team

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Jessie's Legacy Eating Disorders Prevention Program NEW Website

It’s here! The Jessie’s Legacy Eating Disorders Prevention Program new website!

We are delighted to share with you our newly redesigned website, with a bold new look and enhanced navigation experience!

To start, we’ve streamlined our menus to give you quick access to the items you’re looking for. We’ve also consolidated information on our organization, our work and commitment to eating disorders prevention and awareness in BC!

We invite you to start exploring:
·         Our mission to find out what we’re all about!
·         Our new “Ask Shelley” feature where you can anonymously ask any burning question you may have around eating disorders, disordered eating, body image, or anything else you’d like to know more about!
·         Check out our calendar of events!
·         Get inspired on our blog section!

Going forward, we promise to continually expand our online content and keep you updated with the latest information on eating disorders prevention and awareness!  So check back often, sign up for our quarterly newsletter, and connect with us on our social networks!    

*We hope that you enjoy visiting our new website. Please note that due to the significant changes in the website architecture, you may experience digital hiccups.  Please email us at pedaw[at] and we will do our best to perfect your eating disorders prevention and awareness experience. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Got Wristband?

We're getting closer to February and Eating Disorder Awareness Week (Feb. 1-7, 2016).

And that can only mean one thing:  wristbands.

If you live in British Columbia, you can order one for FREE!  Simply fill out the request form here. Don't delay, order yours today and get ahead of the crowd!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

“But You Look Great”

Having worked in eating disorder treatment for many years I can appreciate how hard eating disorders can be for others to understand. The way in which a person can become entrapped, tormented and completely preoccupied with weight, shape, food, body image, what others think, what others eat, every perceived change of their body, is hard for people on the outside to fully comprehend. Lack of understanding, and often lack of compassion, can combine and fuel the knack that people have for saying the “wrong thing”. I can’t address all of the misunderstanding or well-intentioned or thoughtless ideas or words, but I hope to provoke some thought around a few.

Appearances are deceiving, don’t often fully inform and are dangerous to make assumptions about. Not everyone who is thin is happy. Not everyone who has an eating disorder is thin and not everyone who “looks healthy” is.

Despite being taught to do it so well…Please remember we can’t make assumptions of how or who someone is based on appearance and in doing so we may miss the person completely.

Your intentions may be good but your words may be all wrong.

When someone is experiencing the body image distortion and feelings of “fat” that often go with their eating disorder, they rarely see themselves accurately, often feel they will be out of place in a group of others with Eating Disorders, and compare themselves to everyone. They never feel thin enough. Never worthy.

No one is immune to the words of others. We can be impacted and wounded. There will be times when the thoughts and words in our heads relish in the fuel to turn against us. So, imagine what happens when someone hears this during a medical and emotional crisis…

"well you don't look like you have that big of a problem, you look great".

Yes, that happens. It just happened to one of my clients. At the hospital. Where she had been sent by her doctor emergently.

The effects of the hospital staff’s words lead to a cascade of shame, feelings of being unworthy of care, feeling minimized, judged, and unseen. Her Eating Disorder’s first response was to further torment her and tell her to lose more weight so she would “look the part” and be “taken seriously”. It also lead to a lot of undoing of some of the progress we had been making in therapy.

People with eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes. What they all have in common is the space that the eating disorder takes up in their head, the torment and persistent struggle. They are overcome by the agenda of the eating disorder. The agenda takes as much of the person, their life, their thoughts, their relationships, their health, and their hope as possible.

This story reminded of me of one of my first clients, many years ago, struggling with an eating disorder. She was young, brilliant, intuitive, creative and completely preoccupied with social ideals of beauty and perfection…Not an uncommon combination. She used to bring me magazines to convince me of what I was missing and had elaborate stories of the lives, successes, happiness and relationships of the thin models adorning the pages. She plastered them all over her walls to inspire and admire. She would get furious with me when I would respond with curiosity and skepticism about what could actually go on in the lives and thoughts of the images. I’d ask “ I wonder if she feels loved, was she hurt today by the actions or words of others, does she feel alone.” “I wonder if she feels objectified or may have an eating disorder”. Oh! She was mad at me for such ridiculous comments! But she tolerated and trusted me and came to see herself differently with the knowledge that no matter how “great”, “thin” or “beautiful” the world saw her it was never enough and her insides never matched. She took down the images and began to move herself in the direction of what mattered to her on the inside.

I try to be compassionate and understanding about others misconceptions or perhaps even the ignorance, but it can be hard sometimes. Especially when it profoundly hurts and further threatens the well-being and lives of individuals struggling with eating issues.

Looks can be deceiving. What looks “great” may not always be. Let’s commit to focus beyond what we see and inquire, to be mindful of our words and misconceptions and the impact they may have. See past the appearance to the core of the person and their true needs. That is what matters, and that is what really gets the Eating Disorder unsettled and vulnerable to having to loosen its grip. When that can happen “great” things can happen.

Alison Bell is a counsellor and a clinical supervisor providing therapy and support to children, adolescents, adults and families. Having worked in community Eating Disorder treatment and private practice for over 15 years, she has had the opportunity to specialize in the treatment of Eating Disorders and assist many individuals and their loved ones towards recovery. Alison is the clinical director and senior clinician of Alison Bell & Associates Counselling Group. She feels privileged to be part of so many clients lives, personal growth and change.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Kelly's Journey of Recovery

What kinds of things do you apologize for? Chances are you say you're sorry when you step on someone's foot, when you arrive late for a meeting, when you inadvertently hurt someone, or if you interrupt someone when they are speaking. Those are all great reasons to apologize.

You know what's not a good reason to apologize? Apologizing for eating food.  "What are you talking about, Kelly? I don't sit around saying I'm sorry with every mouthful!"

Okay, so maybe you don't LITERALLY apologize for eating food, but there are lots of subtle ways to do it:

  • "I shouldn't be eating that, but I've been good all week. I'll have a small piece."
  • "I guess I can have some. I'm going to the gym later."
  • "I don't WANT to eat this, but my treatment team is MAKING me!"

That last one was a favourite of mine early in my recovery from anorexia. I had to make sure that everyone knew that I knew that it was a "bad" food. That if I had my way, I wouldn't be eating it. That I felt guilty, but I wasn't the one to blame. Yes, I was eating the foods I was supposed to and returning to a healthy weight, but I was stuck in the mindset of an eating disorder: the idea that food must be earned or paid for or forced upon me.

Guilt and shame show up a lot when we feel like we have to earn our food choices. We shame ourselves by labeling the food as "bad", and promise to make up for it. We let everyone know we'd feel guilty about this if we hadn't earned it in advance. And often, by food-shaming ourselves, we're subtly shaming those around us: those who are choosing to partake in the food in question who haven't "made up for it".

As long as we keep making these apologies, we'll keep telling ourselves (and others) that food is something to feel guilty about. As long as we hold this belief, we'll never be able to fully heal.

Now, I'm not saying that full healing is perfect. I'm fully recovered from my eating disorder, and sometimes the "should" monster still creeps into my consciousness. It's hard to live in this world and NOT think, "Oh, I really shouldn't be eating this" from time to time. When it happens now, though, I make different choices: I eat it anyway. Doing this is scary, at first. The brain is made up of pathways: pathways that are formed every time we make a new choice. In the eating-disordered years, the "don't eat the scary food" path was a well-paved highway, while the "eat the scary food" path was an overgrown foot trail through the woods. It takes time and work to make that foot trail feel as comfortable as the highway.

I don't make up for it. I don't work out any harder afterwards, and I don't let the fact that I've eaten a "scary food" change the way I show up to the rest of my meals. Again, this is uncomfortable at first, but training your brain takes time. Keep at it.

"This looks delicious" Instead of using one of the aforementioned apologies, I remind myself that I'm allowed to eat food just because it's delicious and I like it.

I do it again. By engaging with scary foods on a regular basis, I'm more likely to engage with them in a healthy way - no restricting myself when I really want more, and no bingeing because I don't know when I'll allow myself to eat that food again.

It's tempting to want to wait to heal until society changes, and food-shaming is a thing of the past, but global healing takes time, too. If we all stop apologizing for eating, though, we can encourage others to do the same. In making these changes, you may discover other areas of your life that require healing. That's okay. Recovering is never easy and rarely fun, but recoverED is one of the best things you'll ever experience. It's possible, and you're worth it. 

After winning her 17-year battle with anorexia, Kelly Boaz turned her life’s focus to helping others do the same. Kelly is a Holistic Nutritionist, specializing in eating disorder recovery and helping people heal their challenged relationships with food and the body. She is also a writer and a speaker (TEDx, TDSB) and hopes to inspire others to make peace with food, and find freedom in their own lives.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Looking Back ~ Two Years Later

August 1, 2013 was the most difficult day, as a mother, that I've experienced yet.  It was the day my husband and I took our daughter, Avery, to St Paul's Hospital to be hospitalized for anorexia, she was 18 years old.

If I close my eyes, I can see it all.  I can feel the grief, sadness and guilt for leaving her there.  Though it seemed surreal and difficult to believe; her life was hanging by a very small, weak thread, and indeed, it was real!

It's nearly August 1, 2015; we're nearing the 2 year anniversary of that day.  It still feels surreal.
Back then we were immersed in a all out war. The enemy, anorexia, a destructive, life threatening illness that was attacking Avery's mind, body and spirit!  However, Avery fought with everything she had and won the war.

Avery has come a long way from where she was.  It hasn't been an easy two years, not by a long shot!  Especially for Avery.  She has continued to fight her way through every day. She has remained strong and positive, even on the tough and tormenting days.

In a guest blog I wrote for PEDAW in February 2014,”Fighting for Avery", I spoke of raising awareness once Avery was stabilized.

Throughout 2014 and 2015, I've raised awareness by organizing Professional Day Workshops for Teachers and Educational Assistants. I was also successful with scheduling a workshop at Richmond's annual "Learning and the Brain Conference" in February 2014, where parents were also in attendance.
In May 2014, I arranged a workshop at Thompson Community Centre for "Move for Health Week" for Personal Trainers and clients of the Centre.

Amy Pezzente, (Co ordinator of PEDAW), graciously presented at all of these workshops. She not only spoke about eating disorders, but she stood in front of strangers and bravely told her story of battling anorexia and bulimia.   While she spoke, you could have heard a pin drop!

I attended all of the workshops and would raise my hand to speak and share our experiences.  Without fail, there would always someone needing information about eating disorders, because they had concerns for someone close to them. Often times it was more than one person requesting information.
I've contributed in a very small way to help bring awareness to eating disorders. I am one person, one voice, but put me with all of the other voices who are doing the same; we will be heard...we are being heard!

We are no longer held tight in the grips of an eating disorder.  We are in a different place, a healing place and a place where, for the most part, the eating disorder is behind us. We don't look back very often.  When we do, it's with pride of how far Avery has come.

Unfortunately, there are still numerous... countless, men and women battling this horrific illness.  Some have been battling this illness most of their lives.  Some are alone with this illness, without the love and support of their families. Many have lost their lives to this illness either by medical complications from the eating disorder or suicide.

While Avery was in hospital, I met some wonderful women.  They helped Avery get through the first few days and fortunately, they were there for her at moments I wasn't.  I've recently learned that two of these women are in hospital now, as I'm writing these words!  I was saddened upon hearing this news.   M and L, you are both in my thoughts!  I wish you strength as you fight ED!  Keep strong!!  Sending you both love and encouragement to get well!

If you suspect someone in your life has an eating disorder, do something, say something!  Don't wait!  Don't ignore the elephant in the room. There is help.

If you're in the beginning or in the midst of supporting someone with an eating disorder, I can tell you this, you are not alone!!  Eating disorders are very complex illnesses that are hard to comprehend and they can be incredibly isolating, for both the sufferer and the care giver.  Learn all you can about them and advocate for your loved one. Attend all appointments and meetings. Ask questions and make sure you get answers. There is a light at the end of the very dark tunnel.  Remember to love and care for them and yourself!  Be patient!

In hospital, Avery had a drawing book.  In this book, while visiting, I'd write letters, draw, doodle, color, write poems and inspirational quotes.  Before leaving her each night, I'd lay the book open to the newly written page on her pillow. We'd say our good byes.  (This was always a difficult part of our day).  This book brought comfort to both Avery and myself as she always had something positive to read before going to sleep.  Often she would draw in it as well. The attached drawing is one she drew and she wrote the quote from Buddha above the trees.

I keep the book tucked away; however, I bring it out from time to time to remind myself of the love and support I gave to Avery during her most challenging times.  It brings me to tears each time I read through it.  It is also a reminder that her illness, as surreal as it felt, was far from surreal. It was this book that inspired some of my words here today.

Eating disorders are NOT a choice!  They are a mental illness that requires immediate care and treatment from Eating Disorder Specialists and many other medical professionals.

~ "Your ability to heal comes from knowing that you WILL heal" ~

Tracey has witnessed the vast destruction an Eating Disorder has on a person.  Eating disorders are indeed prevalent and still so misunderstood. Tracey anticipates the day where the stigma and assumptions associated with Eating Disorders will diminish and that others will carry the same understanding and compassion for Eating Disorders as they do for other complex, life threatening illnesses. Tracey is a daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, animal lover, dedicated athlete and chocolate connoisseur!  She is an Educational Assistant for the Richmond School District.  Tracey resides in Richmond with her family. 

"Compassion brings us to a stop, and for a moment we rise above ourselves."

~ Mason Cooley

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Swimming Taught Me to Love My Self!

“How did you learn to love your body?” 

While I was out treading water in the middle of the lake on a hot summer evening recently, a new friend asked me this question after remarking how confident I am in my skin.

Loving my body has been a process, mostly a shift in mindset. Now, even though I can confidently say that I truly embrace and accept my beautiful self, I still have off times.

Whenever I feel insecure, stressed, or down about life, I seek out the pool, a lake, or an ocean – these places have been my greatest teacher. They are where my body loves to have fun and move: in the water. No matter what the day, jumping into my local pool makes my whole being (mind, body, & soul) feel so much better.

My love of swimming came naturally. As an infant, my parents brought me to swim at our local pool and took me in the lake at my grandparents’ cottage. I grew up surrounded by water; its’ constant presence taught me so much!

Over the years, I’ve competed in water sports like rowing and kayaking; but I have never competed in swimming. Being in the water is a place I seek out to relax and be nourished. Where I can go after a long day and life’s stressors are washed away.

Funny enough, I learned to love my body through swimming. No matter where I am in the world, I seek out the water: it is a positive environment that makes me feel my personal best.

When I am swimming, my whole being feels nourished and at peace. Immersing myself in this aquatic environment makes me realize how powerful I am. I focus on my body’s strengths as it moves through the water; the belief that my body isn’t perfect never crosses my mind. During such moments, I am at my best and truly accept and respect my beautiful self. My whole being is nourished by the water; it’s my playground.

Once I get in the water, I can swim for hours. Take, for example, the night I was asked “how did I learn to love my body?” I went to the lake as the perfect way to cool down and relax after a long hot summer work day. After getting there, I entered the water easily and proceeded to swim out deep and tread water for three hours with friends. My body just kept swimming and moving in the water. I felt truly alive and at peace in this beautiful lake. I wasn’t working out as a chore to keep my body fit. No, I went into the lake because my body craved it. My friends and I were having so much fun; we swam until the sun started to go down.

Swimming is a stress-reliever, a time when I can think deeply and process what is going on in my daily life – a place where I feel like all my worries are gone. When I’m floating on the surface or diving under the water, I feel weightless. No burdens.

In the water, I have never felt self-conscious – rather, it’s a place where I feel my body’s value – its’ innate worth and strength. As soon as I jump or dive in the water, the worries of life just wash away. Through water, I know that no matter where I am in my life journey, I will be reminded of the beauty of life!

Being in the water makes me feel invincible – diving in and surrounding myself in such a beautiful place – why am I not doing this every day of my life?!

The water is where I learned to love my amazing self – with its changing hues and depth. Water nurtures life. Perhaps that’s why I always return to it.

Arianna Merritt, M.Ed., is a behavioural change practitioner, digital storyteller, & Founder of The Self-Discovery Retreat – an interactive forum that provides recent grads, entrepreneurs, and professionals with practical strategies, community, and mentorship to reach their full potential.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Keep Fighting: 4 Things to Remember in Eating Disorder Recovery


    After years of suffering from an eating disorder, I can finally say I am recovered.  It took me so long to get to this point and at times I felt as though I would never reach it.  Recovery is difficult and tiring, but worth every ounce of energy, every tear cried, etc.  It is at the end of that difficult journey that a person is able to reach living life again.

     Recovery is not all doom and gloom nor is it sunshine and rainbows.  Some days are better than others.  It is in those dark days that it is important to remember why we are fighting so hard for recovery.  These are the things that really kept me going on those tough days and I hope that they inspire you as well.

1) Be Comfortable – Wear clothes that feel comfortable to you, whatever size you may be.  I know for me, I have been tempted to wear a size smaller because I cannot possibly be a size higher or maybe I only had a size smaller in my closet.  However, I was not comfortable in those clothes.  They did not fit!  I needed to be wearing the right size.  I had to shop for a new size or find something else that was more fitting/comfortable.  Whatever size issues you may be going through, make sure each and every day that you are leaving your house in clothing that feels good to you and that you are comfortable in.

2) Remember Your Values/Goals – As Jenni Schafer says, “What dream is bigger than Ed?”  For me, every time I felt like giving up, I remembered that I have a dream of going to graduate school and making an impact.  I knew I could not do that if I was in the eating disorder.  I wanted graduate school a lot more than the eating disorder.  (I am applying soon!)

3) Journal – Expressing your emotions, good and bad, in a creative way in a journal is so helpful.  It does not have to be in words, it can be in drawings, collages, etc.  It is a really great outlet for emotions that are difficult to articulate or seem to build up to the point of exploding.  A journal is also really helpful when it comes time for therapy and you can easily look over your week.  It is definitely something to at least try.

4) Have Compassion/Kindness – This is a really hard one and a BIG challenge, but it is also really important.  When going through all the difficulty of an eating disorder and recovery, it is especially important to have compassion and kindness towards ourselves.  Slip ups will happen.  Everyone has slip ups.  It is in those moments we must try to find compassion towards ourselves rather than anger, frustration, shame, etc.  It is with compassion that we are able to move forward and recover from those slip ups.  Remember: Talk to yourself as you would speak to a friend.  What would you say to them in those moments?

Recovery is absolutely possible.  Keep fighting and never give up.

 Kristin Bulzomi is a writer and an advocate for eating disorders, recovery, and mental health. Her blog, KristinSeattle, details her own journey in recovery from an eating disorder and mental illness. She uses her experiences to discuss important recovery topics and as a platform for increasing awareness.

Kristin has a Bachelors degree in Psychology from The College of Idaho. She is in the process of applying to graduate school.