Tell me a little bit about yourself. How did you become a recovery warrior?
When I was 17 I developed an eating disorder that took on various forms for the next four years. I dealt with anorexia, anorexia athletics, binge eating, bulimia, and long periods of disordered eating. The turning point for me was at the beginning of 2010 when my Bulimia had driven me to fear food entirely and so I went several days without eating - at this point I was frightened for my own health and so I went to one of my professors who is also one of my mentors. I asked him how long I could survive like this - without eating - to which he replied that without food I could live thirty days. It was in this moment that I realized I was not ready to die. I wanted to live! And so I staged my own intervention; I called together friends and family and sat in front of them and said "I do not want to stop, but Iwantto want to stop." And then I asked them to please not make me stop, but help me get to the place where I wanted to stop. It took a few hours, but I got to that point where I wanted to stop and that is when I entered into recovery. After this intervention, the same professor, knowing that I am a writer, suggested that I write something for the school paper, and so I sat down and wrote out my story and it got published and for the first time I was free from the secret. It was in that moment that I realized I wanted to not only recover, but I wanted to use my life as an example that recovery is possible and there is hope - there is ALWAYS hope. I graduated from Recovery at the beginning of this year - it was a long process and there were slips and trips along the way, but you know what they say, slow and steady wins the race, and I won!
-What is the message or mission that you are working to spread
I want to spread the word that there is hope for recovery from an eating disorder (and any other addiction) - I am living proof. And I want to be a living example that you can learn to love yourself the way you are today and I want to show the world that true beauty is found only on the inside and that self-worth cannot be measured by any scale, tape measure, or cultural “ideal”.
What is the Libero free network? what inspired you to create it?
The Libero Network is a network of bloggers who blog about their journeys through and recovery from issues such as eating disorders, addictions, and depression. It is a pretty unbelievable story how it all began. I was lying in bed, just about to fall asleep (I think it was about 1 am) and then I got a feeling, I felt that I was supposed to start a Facebook Page. So I got out of bed and created the libero page on facebook (www.facebook.com/libero.free) - at the time I didn't know what the direction was for this page, I just knew I was meant to create it. I came up with the name Libero because that is what I entitled my first article that was published in the school newspaper. I am Italian, and Libero is the Italian word for free. Our slogan is the Anne Lamott quote: "Only freedom from fears, freedom from lies, can make us beautiful, and keep us safe." Libero grew far quicker than I though it would, it went from a single facebook page promoting healthy body image to a page with far more followers than I'd ever imagined, and my blog Expos(ED) as well as my YouTube channel. At the beginning of 2011 I began planning where I wanted Libero to go in the future and that's when I came up with the idea of the Libero Network - I wanted to expand beyond me (because Libero was never meant to be about me) and the topic of eating disorders into other issues that people deal with such as depression and addictions. I started accepting guest blogger posts and then in the last month I signed on the first Libero Network Blogger (who isn't me) Christian Sawka - he writes on his journey through depression. Our mission is to promote self-love and acceptance by sharing our stories of recovery from eating disorders, depression, and addictions and our vision is that all people will see themselves as beautiful.
In your opinion why have eating disorders become such a huge problem in our society? I hate to blame the media; however, I feel they cannot be left out in the answer to this question. One important thing I always like to stress is the concept ofwhothe media really is. The media isnotAngelina Jolie or any of the models we see on these magazines (I feel they are simply victim to the same unrealistic pressures that we are), it is difficult to pinpoint exactly who 'The Media' is - the photo editors? but they are just doing their jobs, the magazine editors? well they are just looking for what sells...The origin of this monster I do not know, all I know is that societal pressure is a major contributor to negative body image. However, I also feel that one's upbringing, life experiences, and coping mechanisms all play a role as well.
What is one thing each of us can do to start putting an end to eating disorders and disordered eating?
I think the best thing we all can do is say no - say NO to the "ideal" image being forced on us, say NO to buying the magazines that promote this unrealistic concept that all women should look a certain way, and, most importantly, say NO to the multi-billion dollar diet industry that tells us that the answer to all our problems with ourselves is weight loss, which can only be achieved through restriction, food rules, and As Seen On TV exercise equipment. The key to healthy living is exactly what your blog stands for: living guiltless, which results in what Libero stands for: being free.
Why is guilt towards food and our bodies such a bad thing?
Food is meant to nourish us to keep us alive. Full stop. We were never meant to feel guilty about it. There are no 'food' rules. The minute you start placing rules on what you can and cannot eat, you begin to imprison yourself. And what happens is, over time, you become completely enslaved by all these 'rules' that hold no real meaning and then, heaven forbid, if you break any of these rules, you then are filled with guilt. The problem with the guilt factor is, it makes you feel terrible about yourself and, in turn, you typically then feel you need to be punished, which is done by either excessive restriction, over-exercise, or over-consumption. When it comes to our body, I feel the problem is that we separate ourselves from it, and in doing so it makes us feel OK about punishing, hating, and even abusing it. However, when you enter into a war against your body (which is like going into battle against yourself) you cannot win. What we need to do is accept our bodies as part of us, and see that our body is part of our team and we need to work together with it not against it. A great resource on learning how to remove guilt from food and love your body is Geneen Roth's book Women, Food, and God.
What is one thing we can do right now to increase our self compassion?
I will answer this with one of my favourite quotes, it's by Alan Cohen: "To love yourself right now, just as you are, is to give yourself heaven. Don't wait until you die. If you wait, you die now. If you love, you live now."