This is the story of how and why I am choosing to become a Warrior Princess.
Please read this with caution as it may be triggering to others, and I would like to disclose this post with a warning to those that may be negatively affected by the information. However, it is my hope that it might influence someone out there for the better. Not only do I ask you to take it in with caution, but I appreciate it if you read to the end with an open heart and mind.
In my bedroom, there’s a poster of quotes that I keep by my door to remind myself of the personal mantras I want to hold myself to every single day. I have always strived to live by these words, and though it has been a struggle to stay true to some of them, I want to uphold the promises I made to myself now.
Tell the truth about yourself no matter what the cost
It can be hard to tell the truth to others—which is exactly why I have been terrified to write this out—but sometimes it can be even harder to tell the truth to yourself. The thing is though, before you can do this, you have to be able to see the truth for yourself—and it is only recently that I was finally able to see the truth.
I have been struggling with an eating disorder.
Years ago, I had been approached with concerns of having an eating disorder, and while I did fight those accusations, I can honestly say that I was not wrong in refuting them at the time. I had lost a significant amount of weight from my whirlwind adventure of being a Character Performer in Walt Disney World, and it had happened as a result of not having any knowledge whatsoever about nutrition or properly fuelling myself. I can safely say that I did not have an eating disorder then because I know at that time that I was not troubled with the thoughts I’ve had now. It was the truth that I had innocently lost the weight, but the thing was I did not gain it back. Upon returning from Florida, I was sure that I would gain back all the pounds I had lost since I was no longer overwhelmed by the hectic lifestyle of both working and playing in the parks every waking moment. In fact, I even went to the effort of educating myself on proper nutrition and starting a fitness regime, determined to gain the weight back in muscle. Muscle weighs more than fat so why not put on pounds of muscle?
Feeling up Gaston’s guns because clearly I didn’t have any in 2013 😅
Having always been very athletic—playing on every single sport team back in high school—endorphins had always been a friend of mine, so after being inactive in my first few years of university, nothing felt better than to be reunited with that same familiar rush. Not only were my workouts making me feel great, but I was also looking great too. And everyone seemed to notice. So, not only was I hooked on the high of feel-good endorphins, but I was getting high off of all the compliments. I felt on top of the world—and I wanted to keep it that way.
I still wanted to gain weight—if anything, I was determined more than ever to pack on pounds and build even more muscle mass—so when I kept getting approached about having an eating disorder, the very thought of it seemed impossible to me. I thought people with eating disorders hated their bodies and purposely starved themselves to lose weight. Me, on the other hand, I felt as though I contradicted all of that: I wanted to gain weight, I was eating more than ever and I was in love with how I looked.. so how on earth could I have an eating disorder?! It offended me so much that it pushed me even further to get even more fit and muscular—which ironically pushed me to my disordered behaviour.
Knowing that eating disorders were associated with self-hate, I was
deadset into thinking that I could not have one since I very much felt like Gaston from Beauty & the Beast. Just as vain as he had been, I slowly became obsessed with improving my physique. Which led to my obsessive ways.
After learning about sports nutrition, I held the world of fitness as gospel, and I devoted myself to hitting all of my required macronutrients. It was ironic that I started counting calories to ensure that I was getting enough, but somewhere along the road, I started counting calories just so that I could be enough. As a highly competitive perfectionist, I was convinced that I could only be the best if I stuck to my fitness and nutrition perfectly. That meant I had to follow my work out schedule perfectly. I had to hit my carbohydrate, protein and fat intake perfectly. I had to weigh my food to the gram perfectly.
At this point, I had increased my weight—slowly and not by much. It took me almost a year to gain five pounds, and looking back now, I realize why: I was scared of gaining more weight than I should. Sure, I increased my calorie intake, but I made sure that it religiously followed my macros and if I was eating more, well then I had to work out more and harder too. I wasn’t scared to eat—if anything, my friends knew my intense love of food for the sheer amount I ate—and even though I ate monstrous amounts, I never once thought of purging or throwing up. While those ideas appalled me, I made sure to work it off instead. It seemed innocent enough, and being raised in a society that worships “working off” the calories I thought that I should be praised for my level of commitment. However, there is nothing praiseworthy when commitment comes to control your life. At this point, I had become a slave to my food scale and myFitnessPal. I wasn’t afraid to eat—unless I could know exactly what I was eating and I could track it into my macros.
Just as I was about to reach 100lbs, I was going back to Walt Disney World for another International Program—but this time I would be going to live in Florida for a whole year instead of just a couple months, and instead of being a Character Performer, I was going to be a Cultural Representative in the restaurant of Epcot’s Canadian Pavilion. Armed with my new knowledge of fitness and nutrition—and assuming that my job would not be as physically exhausting as my former role—I was certain that I would not make the same mistake. I didn’t make that same mistake, but I think I made one much
Travelling across the continent, I was forced to not be able to exercise or track my food, and while I did do this for some time, it stressed me out immensely, and as soon as I could, I fell back into my old ways. As pixie-dusted as a year at the Happiest Place on Earth might seem, it ended up being so much more chaotic and overwhelming than I ever imagined. If you read this post, you’ll know that this new role stressed me out a million times more than the one I had in Entertainment, and it wrecked even more havoc on my physical, mental and emotional health. I had lost all of the weight I had spent the last couple of years working so hard to gain, and my whole life felt out of control. Except for eating and exercise. Those felt like the only things I could control. Which was why I clung onto my compulsive ways more than ever.
I got to be so obsessed with having perfect control that I would not only weigh the amount of maple syrup I used, but then I would go to the trouble of calculating how many milliliters of maple syrup converted into grams just so that I could perfectly log my food entries into myFitnessPal. There was one time that the batteries on my food scale died, and even though I was starving, it brought on so much panic and anxiety that—without thinking—I raced to the grocery store just so that I could buy batteries because I refused to eat my breakfast unless I could perfectly measure it out. I realize how
absolutely ludicrous I was, and you have no idea how much shame it brings me to admit these things now but, I say it now because I know that there are other people out there who do this, and it was finding out that I was not the only one who engaged in this kind of crazy behaviour that helped me realize that I had a problem. However, at this point, I thought that I was the only crazy soul who would go to such extremes, so I kept quiet and fought the war inside of me on my own, terrified of what others might think of me.
When I got back to Canada, I knew things had to change and I knew I had to gain weight so I stayed at home with my family to recuperate from one of the most stressful years ever. It took a long time, but I eventually waned myself away from tracking my calories, put away my food scale and deleted myFitnessPal from my phone. Just when I thought I had finally put an end to my obsessive ways, the obsession just took on a new form as orthorexia. If I couldn’t track my calories, then at least I could make sure that I was only eating the “healthiest” foods. I knew I needed to eat more—but again, still obsessed with maintaining my physique and athleticism—I only wanted to fuel my body on the cleanest calories. After being surrounded by so much crappy junk food in the United States, I refused to eat processed foods as much as possible, but if I did, it was absolutely essential that I exercised—otherwise I would feel super guilty. And then if I didn’t work out or if I ever missed a work out, it would bring on more anxiety and discomfort.
I sincerely wanted to gain weight so I ate massive amounts of the most nutritious foods I had researched—but I still wasn’t gaining weight, and if anything, I was starting to feel worse than ever. Not only were my energy levels down, but there were times in which I honestly could not think straight and I would feel faint, numb and lightheaded. It made absolutely no sense to me since I was eating large quantities of food that were supposed to make me feel good. This might be too much information for some, but I also had not gotten my period for a year—however, I only assumed that this was because I had stopped using hormonal drugs that had been prescribed to me to regulate my cycle. With all of these concerns, I decided to go to the doctor. I knew that I was underweight, but I wanted to see if I had other issues or perhaps I was deficient in some sort of nutrient from my diet.
The doctor’s conclusion was that my overall diet was deficient in calories. Sure, I was eating HUGE amounts of healthy food, but it wasn’t enough. At first, this baffled me, but now thinking about it, I can see why it was not enough. I had spent over three years being malnourished and I needed a massive amount of calories to make up for that deficit. I was stuffing myself with fruits, veggies and beans now, but my body needed much more calorically dense food. Not just that, but I was exercising excessively. Despite having an extremely low heart rate and blood pressure, I made my body run miles and miles and lift heavy weights as often as possible. It was at this doctor’s appointment that she pointed out that my weight was
anorexic. This immediately distressed me—since I was so sure I wasn’t anorexic—but she calmly assured me that she was not accusing me of having an eating disorder and she simply explained that my weight fell under that category. Being so underweight meant that my body had fallen into preservation mode which explained my fatigue, my amenorrhea, and my low blood pressure and heart rate. My body had learned to adapt on running off the bare minimum—but after three years of this, it was finally taking its toll.
All of my body’s symptoms pointed toward anorexia, but I could not come to grips with having an eating disorder because I did not think I fit the criteria. I recognized people with eating disorders to be individuals who suffered from a lack of self-love and intentionally hurt themselves in order to lose weight. The very thought of self-harm appalled me, so once again, I was even more convinced that could not be me.
What I’ve learned though is that you can hurt yourself without even realizing it.
I wasn’t bingeing and purging, but I was overexerting myself. I wasn’t intentionally starving myself or trying to lose weight, but I refused to give myself more than I needed. I didn’t loathe my body image, but I realize now that I was putting too much self-worth into maintaining a physique that should and could not be sustained. After being able to function and perform off of this way of living for years, I was convinced that I was just committed to a
healthy lifestyle. After all, we are raised in a culture that glorifies the thin and muscular, and encourages us to be dedicated to “working hard” and “eating clean” so how could ideals promoted by society be so wrong? That’s the thing though, our society is obsessed with unsafe ideals and it is this kind of pressure that pulled me and so many others into transforming dedication into something dangerous. In fact, it was only until I watched Jen Brett’s videos on YouTube, and identifying with all of her problems, that made me finally come to terms that I had an eating disorder.
It took me so long to accept the truth though because, knowing that eating disorders were associated with self-hate, I was
deadset into thinking that I could not fall under that category. Like I said, I felt like Gaston from Beauty & the Beast, and I was in love with my body. But, it’s only now that I could see that that was the problem. I put too much self-worth into my body, my physique, my fitness. Looking back now, it makes sense to me considering all of my past insecurities. Being the youngest in a family of overachieving athletes and academics, it was in high school that I felt so much pressure (from no fault but my own) to match up to the rest of my family and I stressed out so much about making sure that I became valedictorian just like my father, my sister and my brother. Even after earning that title, I continued to strive to be just like them, following my family into the field of science, not knowing what else to do with my life.
It was after my first year of university that I decided to break free from expectation, making the radical change of switching my Biological Sciences degree into a Bachelor of Fine Arts. It was the scariest thing I ever did, but it was also the best decision I ever made. I really truly believe that I learned to live outside of anybody’s shadow, but I don’t think I freed myself from living up to people’s expectations. In fact, I honestly don’t think anyone can—as hard as anyone might try, I believe that it is inherently impossible for any human to live their whole life without comparing themselves to others. I had no reason to compare myself to anyone anymore, but since I became known for my fitness, I felt as though that was what made me special. After being told over and over again what a huge role model I was, motivating others to lead healthy lifestyles, I took on the title of “Disney Fitness Princess”. The fact that all of my peers—including people I didn’t even know—looked up to me made me feel like I had to live up to this standard that I had created for myself. I felt the need to live up to this name and the only way I could do that was by eating as healthy as possible and being vigilant as ever with my exercises. It pushed me to pursue my certification in Personal Training, and that is why I put that endeavour on hold. I want to genuinely help others, but before I do that, I need to be honest with myself and the world.
Be wrong every once in awhile and don’t be afraid to admit it!
There is nothing wrong with being healthy. But it is unhealthy to let health take over your life. Too much of a good thing can be bad when you let your pursuit of healthiness affect your happiness and prevent you from enjoying your life. It is not right to have your everyday thoughts be consumed by
what you consume and how much you work out. You can have the perfect diet, the perfect workouts and the perfect body, but your life will NOT be perfect.
As a perfectionist, it kills me to admit that I was wrong—not just about letting a lifestyle take over my life, but about my perception of eating disorders.
I apologize for the lengthiness of this post (if you’ve read this far, I want to give you the biggest, most sincere Disney hug in the world) but I felt the need to show the unconventional history of my disorder so that people can see that these mental illnesses are not all the same. I feel as though my struggle is nowhere near as difficult as others and I feel like my case is pretty unorthodox, but in the end, it is still an eating disorder and a mental battle. Nobody wakes up one day deciding that they’re going to have an eating disorder or mental illness. To have a disorder does not mean you intentionally choose to hurt yourself. I understand that I am extremely privileged in being naturally thin and athletic, and I am very lucky that my disorder did not reap any more damage than it already has done. To some, this might be shocking news since I come off as this
perfect buoyant princess, but it just goes to show that anyone can suffer from a mental illness. I may have been wrong in so many ways, but we as humans, are wrong at one point or another. And you know what? There is nothing wrong with being wrong as long as you acknowledge it and do something about it. It is one of the hardest things to do, but I think that being able to admit that you were wrong and doing something about it is one of the rarest and bravest things a person can do.
Embrace your darkness with your light
For years, I have kept this darkness all to myself, utterly ashamed and afraid to tell anyone. But, now I want to take something away from an experience that has taken so much away from me and I am letting it out. Not only do I want to let it out, but I want to take this
terrible, debilitating, deep dark secret and turn it into a light of hope that can empower others. I want to prevent this from happening to anyone else and I want to make people aware of what health and happiness truly means. Not just that, but I want to raise awareness about mental illness—not just about eating disorders, but all sorts of inner battles—and I want to remove the stigma behind them. A stigma that has kept me suffering in silence for so long. Some of the most amazing souls I have ever met hurt from mental illness, and now that I have seen a sliver of what an inner battle can be like, my heart goes out to them even more and I commend them for their strength. Also, after having fought the war in my head on my own for so long, I do not want anyone else to feel that they are alone. And we are not alone. Did you know that, in the United States alone, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life? On a global level, 1 in 4 people will be affected by a mental disorder at some point in their lives. Mental illness does not discriminate and we should not discriminate against them—nor should we let them fight on their own. In my effort to fight—in my effort to embrace my darkness with my light—I want to become Czarina the WARRIOR Disney Princess. (I mean it only makes sense since my name sounds like Xena)
If you read this post to the end, I want to squeeze the life out of you and douse you in pixie dust, and I can only hope that you will let me know if you read this—whether in a message or a comment. I know that not many people will take the time to read this so you have no idea how much I appreciate those who did and it would mean the world to me to be able to personally thank you from the bottom of my heart. As much as this post was about me, I can only hope that maybe I can connect with and help at least one person out there the way others like Jen Brett have for me. Even if I don’t connect with anyone, I hope that this stands as a cautionary tale to
prevent anyone from falling down the hole I dug myself or I hope that it opens your mind to the idea that mental illness can exist even amongst princesses.
I’m sorry for how long this post was and I’m sorry if I have disappointed anyone, but I had to tell the truth—no matter what the cost—and although I’m sorry for a lot of things, I am NOT sorry for living up to this quote:
Own your reality without apology
I am owning my reality, coming out of the darkness and putting myself out there.
(I can’t say that I’m coming out of a closet, but can I say that I came out of a pantry? ….Sorry, just trying to end things on a LIGHTER note. 😅)
Here’s to becoming a Disney Warrior Princess and to all the other warrior princes and princesses out there!