Eating Disorder Recovery Session | Carissa's Testimonial
Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of ANY mental illness*. In order to help those who are struggling to seek help, we need to lift the stigma that surrounds them.
For myself, it took me years into my own recovery from anorexia to really open up to those around me about my journey. I've made it my mission to help lower the stigma surrounding eating disorders and shift into celebration of the recovery journey instead. Also knowing how much courage it takes to open up about the struggles that go hand in hand with eating disorders and body image issues, I am so moved by Carissa.
Carissa Shaul is a disordered eating coach and yoga instructor who took the time to roadtrip from Olympia, Washington, all the way up here to us in Vancouver, Canada. Her courage, strength and transformation throughout her recovery experience and straight on into her boudoir photoshoot was such a honour to witness and to share with all of you now in this interview!
Can you tell us a bit about your eating disorder (E.D.) history?
"Eating disorders are unique in that they aren’t like a physical ailment where there is an exact onset date. My journey with food and body issues began in 2009 when I became vegan in order to have a positive impact on the environment - losing weight was never the objective.When I left for a year long study abroad program in 2011, I was happy and healthy but still incredibly concerned with my diet. While there, I got into an unhealthy relationship with a heavy metal musician whose dominant energy drew me in. This new lifestyle of partying and being more in the spotlight made me hyper conscious of my diet and body. Unconsciously, I stopped eating around him and became more restrictive with my diet. When I returned to the States it became apparent that I had dropped a significant amount of weight which garnered attention from concerned friends and family. I withdrew from those around me and developed Bulimia as a way to cope with the pain I was feeling. All of my energy was focused on not regaining the weight.
What followed was a very dark and lonely couple of years battling for my life. I moved three times, once back to the country I had left, all to get away from the panic and chaos that food seemed to be causing. After losing ⅓ of my body weight and having ½ of my hair fall out, I finally checked into a treatment centre in Northern California and began my recovery journey."
What was the turning point in your choosing recovery - what made you decide that you wanted recovery?
"Up until I entered treatment I didn’t consider the possibility that I had an eating disorder. Once I was in inpatient treatment, I met amazing women on a similar healing path. For the first time in years, I didn’t feel alone with my struggles. Since I clearly understood that they deserved having their lives back from food and exercise it eventually dawned on me that perhaps I did as well."
Is there one word that represents what eating disorder recovery means to you?
"FREEDOM! and presence. Ok that’s two words but they go hand in hand."
What are you most proud of in your recovery journey?
"I’m proud of myself every single day. ED still whispers that I am not lovable if I’m not starving but I continue to eat, live and choose to love myself despite it. I love getting to prove him wrong."
What is the best recovery advice you have ever received?
"Small wins! It’s all about making the next best decision and not expecting recovery to be linear. No matter what, get back up and just keep putting one foot in front of the other. At some point, you will look around and find yourself doing things that previously felt impossible."
Do you have a go-to self care activity?
"It’s a tie. Massages are my favourite way to treat myself and feel connected to my body. But cuddling with my boston terrier definitely wins for emotional self care and fills me with love."
What made you decide to do a boudoir session?
"Impulse! This year has been all about embracing my femininity and sexuality which has strengthened my recovery so much. When I came across Chelsey’s work I knew this would be a great chance to celebrate my restored curves and new era of empowered womanhood."
How did a boudoir session change/shift your body image or perception of self?
"It was definitely exhilarating and a great practice in vulnerability and confidence. I was so worried there would be no good pictures but came out of it loving so many of them."
Would you recommend a boudoir session for anybody else who is recovering from an eating disorder?
"Yes! Obviously, it can bring up a lot of old fears but it was totally worth it and extremely liberating. I recommend having some support people to call on for encouragement and reminding yourself that you don’t have to change or “fix” yourself in order to feel beautiful."
Do you have any other thoughts about your boudoir session that you would like to share?
"I am so grateful that Chelsey is doing this work. It was incredibly healing and helped me to embrace my unique beauty and body. I highly recommend it for any woman that has suffered through any form of negative body image and as part of a path to acceptance and self-love."
Thank you from the bottom of my heart Carissa for your unbelievable bravery and letting me be a part of your healing journey.
Do you have thoughts you'd like to share? I'd love to hear them, so please leave a comment below!
If you are in the midst of your healing journey from an eating disorder, I invite you to a complimentary consultation to discover if a Recovery Session photoshoot is right for you as a part of your recovery journey.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to claim your free consultation today!
- XOXO, Chelsey
Hair and Makeup by: Lilia Afsahi of Lilia Glam