What It’s Like to Live With an Eating Disorder

Montreal photographer

Having an eating disorder is like living with your worst enemy; it is sharing your mind with a mean, heartless bully.

It is a voice that is always there, telling you how ugly, worthless and powerless you are. Food becomes your rival, and the only way you feel in control of your own life is by not eating — or eating the least amount of calories possible.

In my case, the bully is called anorexia nervosa. She’s so powerful that I shiver every time I need to say her name. I’m a shadow of the person I used to be, my abuser a constant companion. She is bigger, stronger and always holding me back.

Learning to love yourself
Roberta Terry, owner of La Peau Sauvage

As if living with this isn’t nerve-racking enough, there is also the social interaction with people who don’t understand what living with a mental illness is like. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard things like “Oh, stop it! You don’t need to go on a diet!”, or “You need to eat! Don’t you want to have kids?” and so on. Things got worse after I had my baby. I ate regularly during my pregnancy; the love I have for my son is the only thing stronger than my bully. I told myself I needed to feed him so he could grow and be a healthy baby — and I did. But after he was born and I couldn’t breastfeed him anymore, my bully took over again. I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror without crying and feeling disgusted by my reflexion.

People stopped seeing me as a person, and completely ignored my struggle. “You need to stop it, right now! Your baby needs you to eat. Do you want to die and leave him alone?”

These are the kinds of things people started telling me after Ethan was born. This is the kind of guilt I carry within my soul — but I can’t control it, I need help. I’m not choosing to be this way. Who would?

One day, I was looking at some pictures of myself and felt something I never had before: the pictures made me feel beautiful. It was almost as if I was looking at a different person (trust me, what I see in the mirror is far from being pretty). With this thought in mind, I started wondering why we are so harsh to ourselves; and when I say “we”, I mean women in general — not simply those who suffer from an eating disorder (or any other mental illness).

How many of our girl friends are happy with the way they look? How many of them wouldn’t change a thing about their bodies? I bet the answer is “none”, and that is exactly what inspired me to start photographing women of all ages and body types.

I want us to feel gorgeous, I want us to appreciate ourselves the way we are. I want to live in a society that won’t judge us by our looks, but instead, one that accepts us for who we are.

The other day, for example, I read an article about a girl who wrote this to a complete stranger on Twitter: “He still loves you even though you’re fat” — and I couldn’t get it off my mind. It’s not ok to say that, and it’s definitely not ok to think someone doesn’t deserve to be loved because of his or her weight.

That’s when I started my journey. I doubted myself a lot in the beginning — until the day one of the women I photographed shared her pictures on Facebook and wrote, “it’s been a long time since I last found myself beautiful.” It was so gratifying that I just couldn’t stop working; I feel like I’m on the right path. It’s actually amazing to see how unique every woman is — each one of them in their own way.

Learning to love yourself
Photo via La Peau Sauvage

For this reason, I invite all of you to La Peau Sauvage. It’s about time we start celebrating and accepting ourselves. I know it might be hard sometimes, but that’s why I’m here. I want all of you to feel loved, appreciated and beautiful. Close your eyes and repeat as many times as you need: “I am beautiful.” Believe me, you are.

I’m sending all my love to you. Feel free to contact me whenever you want!

Here’s where you can find me:

Roberta Terry

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