Brianna Deutsch can pinpoint the defining moment when her obsession about her body image began consuming her.
Brianna was just 11, at her grandparents house, when she said, “If I was just thin enough the kids would like me. I would be approved of.”
Those preteen insecurities paved a long, hard road of challenges that took emotional and physical tolls on Brianna, who has battled with anorexia, bulimia, substance abuse, and overeating in her young life.
Brianna sharing her story takes extra significance as this week (Feb. 1 to 7) marks the launch of the Provincial Eating Disorder Awareness (PEDAW) campaign.
Now 27, the Trinity Western University student will share her story at the She Talks Health & Fitness forum at the Langley Coast Hotel & Convention Centre this Saturday, Feb. 6.
She is among the 16 women who will speak about their personal stories and journeys through adversity.
The event runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and tickets are $45 each for adults, and $25 for students, and include lunch, refreshments and door prizes. For details click here.
Brianna admits being nervous about sharing her trials and tribulations in front of what could be a large group of people, but notes that ultimately, it’s very much worth the anxiety.
“It’s time for me to share my truth and share my story,” she said. “I wrestled with an eating disorder for the past 10 years and it was a journey to overcome it.”
This journey took her to an inpatient treatment centre in Chicago in 2010, followed by stays in a pair of transitional houses in California, in Malibu and Culver City.
She was a bit pudgy growing up and after her first bout with anorexia, she started over-eating.
“I remember eating whole large pizzas and packing on weight,” Brianna said. “Everyone was saying, ‘You have to start eating.’ My parents were worried, my friends were worried, so I’d say, ‘Fine, I’ll eat.’
The 6’ tall Langley resident’s weight would yo-yo; she’d go from being rail thin at 115 pounds to 215 pounds at her heaviest.
She dropped out of university, and at that point became bulimic.
“I started abusing other substances,” Brianna added. “I want to escape reality. I finally said to my parents that I had to get help.”
When she sought treatment in Chicago, Brianna had high expectations. She thought it would save her life.
“In all honesty it was a great bubble; it kept me safe and taught me great skills about how to cope,” Brianna said.
But when she returned home, the bulimic and anorexic tendencies started up again.
“I didn’t want to change,” she recalled. “I said all these proper words but didn’t want to do the hard work.”
And hard work has brought Brianna to the place she is today.
“You’ve got to be honest… you have to be honest, and you have to put action behind your honesty,” she said. “This has been the hardest challenge I’ve ever had to overcome so far.”
And while Brianna said she’s received “amazing support” she stressed, “support is huge but I have to take ownership of my recovery process.”
And there’s still more to be done.
“I’m getting there… I’m almost there,” she said. “I still struggle with the thoughts but I do not act out any bulimic tenancies, anymore.”
This is a big step forward for someone who was once afraid to go out in public.
“I show up for life, now,” she said. “I wouldn’t leave my apartment because I was afraid people would think, ‘This girl’s too heavy to leave her apartment.’”
Brianna admittedly has moments where she eats too much, or too little but she’s giving herself a pass, now, not beating herself up too much.
“I’m not perfect and the recovery process hasn’t been easy and hasn’t been graceful – and that’s the beauty of it,” she said. “Society tells us that we have to be perfect and have to be ideal and that’s what frustrates me a lot. When we have this idea of perfection, there is no self love or self acceptance.”
Brianna said she takes life one meal, one hour at a time, while studying business leadership and psychology at TWU and working as a freelance writer for the Light Magazine and other online magazines.
“I’m getting there,” she said. “I’m evolving as a person at this stage of my life.”
Like the other speakers, Brianna will take the mic for eight minutes during She Talks.
Why eight minutes?
Because the eighth of March is International Women’s Day.