Tesa Drew is a 22-year old girl from Vancouver, BC. She's a Flight Attendant and Server/Manager/Bartender. She's currently in recovery from anorexia and bulimia nervosa. She started a blog to share her recovery journey with others in hopes to raise awareness and end the stigma around mental illness and especially eating disorders.
Tell us more about your experience with having an eating disorder.
I suffered from anorexia for 3 years and in my first year of university, it changed to bulimia as I had to cover up the fact that people started to notice I was not eating. I suffered badly for 7 years and finally after a failed suicide attempt and hospital stay I decided to get help. I went to a treatment centre for eating disorders in Brandon Manitoba in Canada, where I learned to love myself again. I learned to appreciate my own body and the way it was meant to be. And to deal with my emotions in a healthier way.
Tell us about the difficult times that you experienced body issues.
I used to always compare myself to everyone. I would walk into a room and immediately look for the skinniest girl, and then compare myself to her. If I was smaller, my eating disorder would praise me, if I was larger than her it would feed me with so many negatives thoughts about myself, and make me engage in eating disorder behaviors even more. This lasted for years and years before I was in recovery.
How did you get “out” of that negative thinking? How did you feel at the time when you had an eating disorder?
I went to an inpatient treatment centre for eating disorders, where I learned to recognize the negative eating disorder thoughts, and distinguish them as different from my own thinking. Once I separated the two thoughts, those of my eating disorder and those of myself, I was able to stop the negative thoughts as I recognized them. I would say things like "Yes my eating disorder may be trying to tell me that I am fat, but fat is not a person. I may feel fat right now, but I am not fat". Saying things like this over and over again helped me turn the negative eating disorder thoughts into a more positive outlook on myself. When I had an eating disorder I constantly felt defeated. Nothing I did was ever good enough. I was so negative and miserable all the time, I felt like I was missing out on so many amazing things that life had to offer, because I was so preoccupied with exercise and calories and how my body looked.
"Yes my eating disorder may be trying to tell me that I am fat, but fat is not a person. I may feel fat right now, but I am not fat".
Are you happy with your body? Do you feel pressured weight-wise?
Through my recovery journey, I have had to learn to accept my body the way it is. So far, it has been the toughest thing that I have had to do in recovery. I have always felt pressured to be "skinny". I was a competitive cheerleader for 6 years and I was a flyer. The extra added pressure to remain thin and light definitely played a part in my eating disorder.
Have you always been happy with your body?
I don't think I have ever truly been happy with my body. Even when I was at my lowest eating disorder weight, it was not good enough for me. I always thought I could look better and be skinnier. I have learned through recovery to accept my body for the way it was meant to be.
What made you realize that you needed to change to recover from your eating disorder?
I was so miserable and I felt like I was never going to be able to escape my eating disorder, I thought that the only option I had was to end my own life. After a failed suicide attempt, I realized that I was given a second chance at life. I was determined to beat this eating disorder, and no longer let it control my life and happiness.
What motivates you to be healthy today?
Today, I am motivated to be healthy and in recovery because I know how amazing life truly is. There is so much that I want to do and none of that involves my eating disorder. I like being happy. I like being able to be present with friends and family. Those are things that I would never be able to do when I was in the depths of my eating disorder.
Top 3 things that helped you recover.
Going away to an inpatient treatment centre was the start that I needed to be able to fully accept recovery. All the support from my friends, family, and counsellors also played a huge part in my recovery. Also taking time for myself and recovery work was crucial. I had to learn when to say no, and when I needed space and time for myself. Doing activities such as journaling and colouring helped take my mind off the non stop thoughts. Also sticking to a meal planned made learning to eat again a little bit easier!
"Taking time for myself and recovery work was crucial.I had to learn when to say no, and when I needed space and time for myself."
What do think about curvy bodies and fat on bodies - and how society should view curvy bodies?
I would never look at someone and say the negative things that I would say to myself. I would never call someone else "fat" or think that they weren't beautiful because they were curvier. I believe that everyone is beautiful in their own way, cliche I know. But everyone was made differently. Some girls are just bigger boned, and some girls are just made petite. No two people should or want to look the same.
What do you think about today´s body standards for models? What should be changed in the modeling industry?
I believe, today's modeling standards plays a large part in why young women (and men) develop eating disorders. First of all what you see in magazines and on Instagram, most of it is extremely edited and is not real. Secondly, people don't see all the behind-the-scenes stuff that some models go through. This past year I was signed to a modelling agency, and I got to see first hand what it was like. I actually had to step away from it because it was compromising my recovery. You are so pressured to look a certain way and have certain measurements so that you can be booked by all of the best clients and go to all of the best castings. Instead of focusing on your own beauty, more focus is put on fitting a certain measurement or quota. Days before a photo shoot or runway show you find yourself going to the gym twice a day and starving yourself, afraid to even drink water as it will make you bloat. All these things are completely against what I stand for and what I am trying to do to spread the word about eating disorders and recovery.
You can follow Tesa's recovery journey on her Insatgram: @recoveryisarollercoaster and her blog www.recoveryisarollercoaster.wordpress.com