Brave Body 14; Alicia's Story

Alicia Putinski | Life Coach
IG Handle: @weightlessalicia


In the early days of recovering from my eating disorder, I thought it was all about food.
My battle was a case of orthorexia that transitioned into anorexic territory,
followed by a big binge that lead to yoyo dieting for quite some time.
Initially I was aware of the external factors I’d been exposed to.
I acknowledged the poor body image that I developed as a young dancer
and how that mentality became a part of me for so many years.
I acknowledged later in life I’d been provided harmful nutrition advice by an unqualified coach. There were so many external triggers, and they were very important to note in the process of healing.

However things really shifted in my recovery when I heard this truth
“eating disorders are not about food”.


A mixed bag of emotions flooded over me.
I felt resistant to this expression at first and slightly angry
because I was so confused about food!
How could this not be about food?
After working through the anger, I felt intrigued.
I had some soul searching to do and was determined to stay dedicated to my recovery.


The more I opened up to recovering on a holistic level,
the more I became comfortable with accepting all parts of myself.
In looking deeper than just food and body image,
I got to understand the nature of my ego.
When we resist the parts of ourselves that we don’t like,
we can’t grow and we can’t embrace self love.


One of the greatest lessons I learned in recovery is the value of true self love.
I had spent years being unkind to myself and dismissing my true needs.
In embracing self love I was finally allowing myself to heal.


After recovery I went on to become a life coach
and I guide others through self exploration in their recovery journeys.
I always remind my dear clients that self love is often misrepresented on social media.

True self love is not a matter of masking the complexity of our emotions
behind fake smiles, affirmations and highlight reels.

Self love is honoring the self in all it's forms.
Whether this be needing to take a break,
needing to express anger,
needing to have a big cry,
needing to set boundaries,
we must always check in with the self.


In recovery I did not only overcome food and body image issues.
I also learned how to let go of other things that I used to foster fear into
such as money, career, other people’s opinions
and where I thought I “should” be in various aspects of my life.

Freedom is a place where we live in humble acceptance of the self - mind, body and soul.

I value staying consistent with my self love rituals and I know now that we all have off days. However in developing a deeper sense of compassion for myself
I feel at peace knowing that I don’t have to take life too seriously.
I am allowed to just be me, and that is the greatest gift we can give ourselves.

Brave Body 13; Danielle's Story

Danielle Allen
IG Handle: @_dannallen

I grew up as the chubby funny kid
who always had something to say,
and always enjoyed the moment.


In high school it became apparent that
I didn't fit the mold
that society today tells us we have to fit..

In the 6 months that followed this realization,
I had lost my grandmother,
I had lost 40 pounds,
I lost my periods,
and then I started losing my hair.

In 6 months I had gone from full of light and life,
to unrecognizable by everybody that loved me
especially myself.

I was counting out 9 Cheerios a day
and that was my meal.
I was a sad, sickly, sobbing skeleton.

My entire story would take five years to tell,
because I am five years in the making.
In looking back, now 3 years in recovery,
it is so poignantly clear that
my eating disorder took so much from me,
and I let it.

I gave it my happiness,
the energy I had left,
my focus,
my fertility,
and my hair.

I am so lucky to have come this far,
and I know that there are so many people
who were not able to begin their recovery journey
and I remind myself of that every day.
I am here, I am healthy, I am blessed,
and I am stronger because of it.
In truth, it helped form me into the woman I am today,
but there is truly no need for any more people to go through
what I, and so many others like me, have gone through.

If there is one thing I can share to others like me,
and one thing that I know will help,
it's this:

When you are struggling,
go and do something that your body CAN do.

As an EMT and nursing student,
I see people whose bodies have given up on them every day,
and I refuse to take the capable body that I have for granted again. 

Now, because I know what sickness and sadness is,
I embrace the beautiful, healthy, able body that I have.
When you are bruised and broken,
and you find yourself alone and obsessing
that you ate 10 Cheerios instead of 9,
please know that you are built for better things,
and you need to be nourished for the journey.

Brave Body 12; Marissa's Story

Marissa Pommerenk


Ever since I was young I've been a little bigger than everyone else,
so you can imagine what grammar school was like.

The older kids would mock me by "waddling" and pointing at me as I walked past.
Fights with "friends" always ended with the same comeback:
"lose a few pounds and then talk."

I wanted to believe they were jealous,
and I wanted to believe they were wrong - even at 10 years old.
But the more I heard it- the more I started to believe it.
I grew more and more self conscious and soon began to hate myself.
I broke the mirrors in my room,
rearranged the furniture so I could avoid catching a glimpse of my reflection at all costs
and untagged myself in every single picture someone would post of me.
Catching a stomach virus became my favorite part of each year.
Not because it meant 2 days off from school,
but because it meant weight loss
and hoping that maybe those 5lbs would make the bullying stop.

After one of the most brutal stomach viruses in the third grade, I returned to school.
The first thing my teacher said to me was
"WOW! You lost weight! Keep doing what you're doing!"
So I that's exactly what I did.

After eating a "big meal" I would purge out of guilt and fear that I would get bigger.
Counting calories and restricting then grew to be a part of my daily lifestyle
and by sophomore year of high school, my toothbrush was my best friend.
I would cut and attempt to overdose on sleeping pills just to take the pain away and end it all. Diet and exercise consumed my entire mind every minute of everyday,
which of course didn't make sense to a lot of people
because I "looked so healthy and played varsity basketball."
I've never been a "skinny" girl, so the amount of times I've heard
"you're anorexic-bulimic? There's no way. You don't look it at all!"
Is nauseating.

I believed all of my failed relationships were based solely on the fact that I was fat.
I started blaming myself for everything that had gone wrong in my life
and by my first year of college- I had hit rock bottom.
I couldn't stomach the crippling anxiety of walking into a classroom
and feeling like everyone was staring at me because of how "fat and disgusting" I was.
I could be found sitting in the back of the classroom fighting back tears
because I felt as though I barely fit at my little desk and EVERYONE had noticed
(which was not the least bit true).

Hearing my friends talk about how "fat" they were
and discussing sized and their weight in numbers took a toll on me mentally also.
How could these girls think they're "fat" at as minuscule of 120 pounds?
The numbers went to my head and I then lost control completely.
The little things had become big things
and I could not mentally handle any more "big" things.

Finally, late summer of 2016, I was given an ultimatum.
My family decided I needed treatment or I needed to leave.
That being said,  on September 7th, 2016 I left for The Renfrew Center
and began my road to recovery after over 10 years of the same vicious cycle.
I won't lie, the first week week was hard.
I missed home, I missed my friends, I missed freedom but
most of all I missed my eating disorder..

As the weeks went on, I was exposed to a life without ED.
As difficult as it was to diminish old habits that were a crucial part of my everyday life,
I knew I didn't want to go back to my old ways.
It must have somewhere between the 4AM wake up calls for weights and vitals,
the mandated 3 meals a day that required 100% completion,
and the fact that bathroom privileges were scarce
that I realized I was here for a reason.
I knew I had to persevere or I would remain sick forever.

As a result, I grew stronger:
I had more energy, my health improved, I was able to think rationally and even better . .
 I began to learn how to myself as I was.
The bullies didn't matter, the insults didn't matter,
all the comments made in passing by friends who couldn't fully understand my disorder
Did. Not. Matter.

All that mattered was me, and getting myself better.
After a rigorous four week routine of treatment, I was ready to come home.
Don't get me wrong..
there is truly no magic cure for any eating disorder.
Only believing in yourself and loving the person you are.
The urges do not become weaker, you just become stronger.
The most important thing to understand is that
ED comes in so many different shapes and sizes.
I may have looked healthy but I was dying on the inside.
That being said, I am officially a year and a half in recovery.
ED still plays a role in my everyday life,
but I will not let him control my every thought and move.

Treatment is important, loving yourself is important
but believing in yourself enough to move forward
from these horrible obstacles in life is truly a virtue. 

Brave Body 11; Christie's Story

IG Handle:

Recovering from an Eating Disorder is so hard in itself,
but watching your body change into your greatest fear… nothing can prepare you for that.
I used to believe that I would never have a good relationship with my body,
because my therapists said it was impossible.
I cried every time I stepped on the scale and I felt so far out of control.
Everything within me wanted to turn back to my Eating Disorder;
that was until I discovered the ‘bopo’ (body positive) community on Instagram.

I saw women embracing their bodies of all sizes, shapes and colors.
I saw women supporting other women and just an abundance of love and acceptance.
I decided that I had been living with an internalized thin ideal for too long
and in order for me to accept my body for what it needed to be, I had to change.
I changed what I viewed on a daily basis.
Instead of following fitness models
and girls who were underweight and struggling with their illnesses,
I filled my feed up with women who preached body acceptance and flaunted their curves.

At the same time, I had started an Instagram account to share my art with the world.
I drew what it felt like to live with and recover from an Eating Disorder,
and found it therapeutic to talk about those experiences in public.
I was lucky enough that people started to notice me and like what I was posting.
Before I knew it, I had people coming to me for advice and looking up to me
the same way I looked up to the girls in the ‘bopo’ community.
That was incredibly humbling, but most importantly
it helped me form an identity outside of my Eating Disorder.

I’m now studying to become a Clinical Psychologist.
I have found so much peace in helping people through my art,
and all I want is to build my skills so that I can help them professionally too.
I’m lucky that I already have a Masters in Occupational Therapy,
and so I’m able to use what I’ve learnt with that to translate into my art.
I cannot be more grateful for my experiences.

Although I’ve been through hell and back,
I’ve found my purpose in life,
and my passion to see others live a happy and healthy recovery,
is what gets me out of bed in the morning.
My relationship with my body isn’t perfect,
but I don’t think it ever will be.

What I have learnt is that there is more to life than the size of my clothing,
and what matters is the strength I have within me and how I can use that to change the world.

Brave Body 10; Danielle's Words

IG Handle: @daniellaswolderella

My biggest advice for those who have or are still suffering
from some sort of body dysmorphia that has manifested itself in the form of an eating disorder
is to search for happiness deep within yourself first and foremost.


Accept yourself as you are right now.


There is certainly a recent trend of many who have had issues in the past
of re-focusing or replacing an obsession with being thin with a “fit” lifestyle.


For me personally, my journey in fitness is no longer about discipline and restriction
but rather about finding balance and offering myself grace
not being so hard on myself
offering myself forgiveness when I fall short of my own perfectionist standards.


Perhaps this may all sound very abstract and vague
or maybe it hits home for those of you who struggle with this kind of self-forgiveness.

We all need to center ourselves in a way where we find the source of that “voice”
The voice that tells us to be
thinner, prettier, smarter, more athletic, happier, funnier
. .the list goes on and on and on. .  
in order to be “more perfect”.
Attaining the perfect body or hitting your macros 100% for 800 days
won’t help any of us achieve true happiness or peace.


Love yourself now first and foremost and the rest will fall into place 😘


No one is perfect regardless of the image portrayed on outlets like social media.
We all struggle and we are sisters in that struggle.

Brave Body 9; Denise's Story

Denise Vitola
IG Handle: @deezworkoutz

I probably weighed about 135 pounds in high school. I was 5’8 or taller on a good day.
I was very muscular as I played sports all year round from cross country running to basketball to soccer. I was always in the weight room and I was always obsessed with the way I looked.
I was FAT.
In fact, I thought I was huge compared to the other girls.
The girls who looked more like the models I saw in magazines.
I never saw ones that looked like me. 

So, there it started, my downward spiral into self-hate and body shaming. 

As a very confident young lady who loved just about everything else about herself, I was determined to make some changes. I won’t eat…that’s what I will do. If I stop eating I will lose some weight and look like those other girls.

Well, the not eating didn’t last very long. I was dizzy at practice and sleepy all the time…never mind always being hungry, which I tried to curb by eating sleeves of lifesavers (no it didn’t work). I saw on TV that there were shakes I could replace my meals with and would lose weight…Slim Fast to be specific. The thought of not eating a meal upset me because I loved food so I tried the route of forcing myself to throw up. I am a baby who couldn’t do that, so I got on the Slim Fast train very quickly. Boy did I lose weight. I was the skinniest I had ever been. In fact, all you saw were my muscles since I was still playing sports so hard and hitting the gym twice as much. 

It wasn’t until college where I began seeing other girls like me that I allowed myself to eat again. However, I overdid it big time – as most binge eaters like me would do. I gained the Freshman 15 and then some. I went from being the skinniest to the fattest I’d ever been. I was still playing sports, but I was eating an insane amount of food, taking in more calories than I would burn in a day.

I never knew what my healthy weight should be. I only knew what I saw on TV so again, I hated myself for being what I perceived to be as fat, but now I look back and see a very sexy body. It is sad that I did not see it then. Instead it led to more years of feeling like a fatty all the time. Trying one diet after the next, losing weight and gaining it, my life was one constant struggle with having a negative body image. 

I lost weight, again, for my wedding in 2001, but shortly after, put on nearly 75 pounds. I got married 9/8/01 and 9/11 happened only days after my wedding. My husband, FDNY, was on his honeymoon with me, but he lost many friends that dreadful day. He went into depression and so did I. Once we came home, I gained more weight than ever. I was 225 pounds. The fattest in my life and I couldn’t even fit into normal size clothes anymore. I quickly went on Weight Watchers and lost 80 pounds, but after two years, the weight began creeping on again as I overdid it with that diet. I never had to lost 80 pounds, but according to some bullshit government guidelines for my height, I was supposed to weigh a measly 126 pounds. 

I struggled and struggled to discover me, my body and what was right for me. Today there are body positive movements and women to look at with curvier figures. There was no Ashley Graham or any others like her when I was growing up. 

After my home drowned in Super Storm Sandy, something else washed away. The desire to make tons of money. I shifted my thinking to be about me, my health, my loved ones and my happiness.  It was not an immediate thing, but a transition that took at least 4 years, but today, I am the happiest and healthiest I have ever been. I gave up the big paycheck to get my health coaching certification, personal training license and open my own business. I feel rich in life more than I ever have. At 43, I finally figured out what works for me. I am 175 pounds and very muscular. I don’t eat processed foods, I allow myself cheats here and there and I stay away from sugar and refined carbs as much as I can. My motto is if it is not raised on a farm or swims in the ocean or grown from the earth, we shouldn’t be eating it.

My plea for everyone is to stop comparing yourself to others. Not one person is like another. My problem was thinking I could ever have a small figure like those other girls. It was never in my genes. I was beautiful the way I was, and I wish I would have known that then.

Brave Body 8; Gianna's Story

IG Handle: @giannajadefit

Learning to love yourself is hard, especially when we think what we see in the media is the norm. It wasn’t until recently that I discovered the beauty in myself.
And it’s no secret that every now and then I get discouraged.
I learned the hard way that it is who you surround yourself with that encourages your feelings and actions.

Surround yourself with vain, negative, pessimistic people and that’s how you will be.
Surround yourself with positive, optimistic, hardworking, glass is half-full people
and I promise your outlook on life will be completely different.

Find the people who support your dreams, who tell you, you are beautiful on the inside
Find the people who help lift you up to your highest potential and will cheer you on
No. Matter. What.

I have set my goals high and I plan to reach them.
I know I will fail, but with a positive mindset and a positive team


Brave Body 7; Anna's Words

Anna P
IG Handle: @annapushcough

I found a strong sense of self love particularly when I began my interest in understanding the natural world. If you take the time to notice how the  physical world actually works; not in the stock market, consumerism, tv/magazines and logistical day to day kind of way, but in the way that actually enables us all to live happy healthy lives, it brings you back to what is really important in life.

The physical environment of our planet is quite actually what sustains us, so in appreciating that, I developed an appreciation for life and for myself. I was able to push myself out of my comfort zone into the unknown, up mountains, and I developed into a person I didn't think I would be. Appreciating that it is the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink, and the relationships we have are essential to life, not luxuries.

So what really matters?

Not what I look like
Not comparing myself to others
Not holding myself to a standard that was not mine,
because I am doing a damn good job at being me nobody else can do that.

What I found to be more important is how I treat others,
and in order to be good at that I must be good to myself.

Nobody is able to do that for you, except you.

I find that it is not only the physical environment that affects my ability to do this,
but my mental environment as well.
Immersing myself in a physical and mentally healthy environment
enables me to be the best me,
and in turn help others.

I was also profoundly impacted by the loss of my friend Lauren
who was taken way too soon by anorexia.
I had such a difficult time understanding why such a beautiful woman was so ill . .
consumed by such toxic, negative thoughts.

My activism for eating disorders had grown exponentially,
and my tolerance for toxic thoughts are at an absolute zero.
I try to in my own life,
and to spread to others lives,
the positive light that no matter what,
you are doing an excellent fucking job at being you.
Internal happiness is number 1 and so are you!!

Brave Body 6; Charlie's Story

I’m not unique in having struggled with comparing myself with bodies I see online. Even as a thin person I have struggled with not only my own critiques of my body, but public criticism as well. Discovering and fostering my own physical strength has helped me immensely in viewing my body more positively because I don’t judge it on its appearance but rather allow myself to enjoy and be thankful for what it can do. When you think about, even the simple act of breathing is such an exquisite process our body does automatically for us. Viewing my body as an instrument rather than an ornament was essential to me working towards loving this shell I reside in, but one of the most important things I can say about self-acceptance or self-love is that it isn’t a place to arrive at, it is a continuing process.

As much as I have grown, I have to keep working at self-love every day. Fitness for example, began as an act of self-care for me, and more specifically a replacement for more dangerous behaviors I had previously indulged in like the abuse of alcohol. At that time, it was exactly what I needed, and I dove in head first; but like my previous dangerous behaviors it began to consume me. I struggled with not only being consumed in the behavior of exercise or obsession with what I ate, but also again with what others thought of my body. Instead of just trying to be thin, now I wanted to have muscle. But again, like when I was just thin, to some people I was “too much” and others would say I wasn’t enough.

There was also of course as always, and endless supply of bodies to compare myself with online. And both negative and positive feedback to encourage by obsessive behavior. For me personally, overcoming my initial battles with alcohol and drugs taught me a lot about how to deal with my extremist tendencies in fitness. And one of the first things I learned was you have to be careful who you surround yourself both physically (in real life) or virtually (online). To this day I am constantly re-evaluating and re-shaping who I follow or friend online to ensure I’m protecting myself from sources that influence me towards negative self-talk or minimizing myself to just a body when I’m so much more.

In addition to that, I challenge my own motives often asking myself why I’m doing certain things, or why I feel like I should or shouldn’t do certain things. Yoga, for example was something I began when my heart just wasn’t in weightlifting anymore, but it soon became a competition with myself, and then everyone else I could compare myself to online! I had to really take a step back and realize I wasn’t practicing in a way that was healthy for my mind or body and that is the entire point of yoga. And that’s what I mean when I say self-love is truly a journey. Success in self-love, care, or acceptance isn’t something you achieve, it’s something you practice, and it requires some introspection and long-term dedication, but it is so worth it. The rewards will not just benefit you because when you are best cared for, you can best care for others as well.