I have a very specific memory that will forever be burned in my brain. I was 12, Libertee was 17 and she was in the process of getting ready for a party. To me, Libertee was perfect - her skin was made of some sort of ambrosia-like substance, good enough for the the gods. Her hair was shiny and thick. She actually had a reason to wear a bra; something I can’t identify with, to this day. It wasn’t just the rose coloured glasses of being the younger sister, I could see her, inside and out - and to me, she was perfect.
You can imagine my frustration when we both stared at the same reflection in the mirror and I felt nothing but envy, and Libertee, nothing but disdain.
I didn’t understand. . . until I turned 17.
There’s a day in every woman’s life that surreptitiously transfers the onus and ownership of our bodies to an “other.” Somewhere along the way, we allow, accommodate, and seek the outward approval of our body from a story written outside of the scope of our own reality and control. Happiness becomes meeting someone else’s measure of success, and as a result, becomes as elusive as crossing a non-existent finish line.
This week is National Eating Disorder Week, and we wanted to be a part of the conversation, and invited someone that is very near and dear to our hearts, to contribute.
This is our friend, Candice.
(And these are some ridiculously gorgeous pictures Libertee has taken of her)
Lecina and Candice have been best friends since forever, and for that same amount of time, Candice has been successfully pursuing her musical career. To this day, Lecina considers herself Candice’s de facto Manager, and has been known to introduce her as: “This is my friend, Candice - she’s on iTunes. . . here, give me your phone, and I’ll download her albums. You’re welcome.”
You think i’m kidding, but i’m not.
Given the span and depth of their relationship, Lecina thought she knew all of Candice’s
secrets. Good and bad.
Candice, like many women, kept a secret from her friends, her family, and in many ways herself for 15 years.
It started when she was 12, and when asked to identify precisely what triggered it, she asserts that it would be nearly impossible to name simply one thing.
“We live in a society that literally tells us your value is your appearance. You can argue whether this is wrong or right, but the reality is, it’s the truth. We celebrate drastic weight loss, we critique celebrities who gain weight, and we openly shame ourselves for not fitting into a cookie cutter version of what everyone thinks “pretty is.” The scary part is, we deem this behaviour as normal at best, and acceptable at worst”
It started innocently enough, I would skip a meal here and there.
“I was 12 years old when I became bulimic. I left school for a summer, and ultimately came back a different, smaller version of myself. Everyone told me I looked great. All of the sudden I had more friends . . . all of the sudden, I was popular. The positive reinforcement was intoxicating; it perpetuated a cycle of finding validation through my physical appearance that would stay with me well into my adult life.”
“The thing was, I never saw myself as fat. I didn’t look at my reflection and see a different version of myself. . . I simply looked at myself as something that needed fixing. I picked myself apart, piece by piece; I participated in a cycle of an incessant search for perfection - but when you’re searching for something that’s subjective . . . you’ll never really find it.”
But I kept looking. I looked for 15 years.
“I had a consistent conversation with myself that I would be better the next day. But as an adult who was pursuing a career in the entertainment industry, I became conflicted. As a woman who stood 5 foot 8 inches, and weighed 110 pounds, I was getting booked consistently for modelling jobs. My success rate at this weight was concertedly higher than when I weighed 15 pounds more.”
“Not only did this success validate my behaviour, it introduced me to women who were living the same life. Deep down, I think I knew what i was doing was wrong; but in these situations, on the surface, it seemed like my behaviour was almost normal.”
“As time went on, I became more obsessive. I wasn’t just purging, I was dieting, restricting my calories, trying to capitalize on the latest fad - south beach, zero carbs, you name it, I gave it a go. I relied on dieting to meet my goals, but anytime I stepped outside of what I thought was acceptable, or ate a food that was generally considered off limits, I purged to erase my mistake.
“I knew that what I was doing wasn’t necessarily in my best interest; I told myself it was okay to diet, and that I just had to commit to doing a better job of it. If I did a good job of dieting, I wouldn't have to purge. Purging became an eraser for “mistakes” I made. Every time I purged, I told myself it would be the last time.”
“I was essentially chasing a finish line I could never feasibly cross. I would set a goal of losing five pounds and ultimately recalibrate that goal once it was met. I was living a life wherein food was something to be restricted and exercise was penance. I specifically remember running on a treadmill and feeling as if I was literally trying to run out of my own skin.”
“And then I went on vacation with my boyfriend. Like every vacation I’ve ever been on, I took a book with me. This particular book ended up changing my life. It was called “The Happiness Project.” In the very first chapter, it suggested that in order to be truly happy we need amongst many things, a roof over our head, an organized home, and to eat when we are hungry.”
I didn’t do that. Nor could I remember the last time I had done that. I’d been hungry for 15 years.
“For the first time, I felt myself facing my problem. I started to educate myself, to understand what to do next, and all of the literature I read stated that I should tell my doctor.”
I’ve gotten on stage and performed for thousands of people, but I can tell you,with absolute certainty that I have never been more afraid in my life.
“Somehow, I managed to get the words out of my mouth, and I will forever be grateful for the gracious understanding of my doctor. She got me into treatment. I was diagnosed with EDNOS - which is Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified.”
“I spent seven months dissecting the monsters that had lead me down this path. Self reflection, honesty and acceptance were all a part of this journey. It took time to be patient with myself, strength to be kind to myself, and a new perspective to frame my future.”
“Years later I’ve learned that my appearance doesn’t contribute to things I actually want to accomplish in my life, nor does it foster my happiness. I eat when I’m hungry, I appreciate the foods once considered sinful and for exercise I only do things that I love and really enjoy.”
It’s one thing to say these words to your doctor. . . it’s quite another to tell the world.
“I made the decision to share my story in the hopes of helping people facing the same struggles as I did. I want people to know that it’s not necessary to live a life constrained by the limitations of your physicality. Restricting you calories, excessively dieting, and chasing a number on a scale not only limit your experiences, they dictate your story. I wanted people to know that there is a happier, freer side of life and that their story should be representative of what they want to accomplish, not what they want their body to look like.”
Candice is an advocate for the organization that helped her, NEDIC (National Eating Disorder Information Centre), a non profit, Canadian Institution committed to providing resources and raising awareness on eating disorders and weight preoccupation.