"It's not about how you look, but how you feel." I look at this statement a few dozen times a day. I especially know it to be true, inthe past 8 years I have weighed 95 pounds and 195 pounds, sizes 2 to12. Believe it or not, I felt worse about myself when I was 95 pounds.See, when you have an eating disorder, every mirror becomes like a fun house mirror and the distortion begins. An eating disorder is marked by extremes. It is present when a person experiences severe disturbances in eating behavior, such as extreme reduction of foodintake or extreme overeating, or feelings of extreme distress or concern about body weight or shape. My name is Cori Magnotta, I am 24 years old and I have spent more than half my life struggling with anorexia, bulimia and body image issues.My eating disorder began in my preteen years; a perfect storm of sorts for anorexia. At the age of 10 years old, I was already 5'10'' a freak of nature among other 5th graders. In my bright green catholic school uniform, the other kids named me The Jolly Green Giant. I was less than jolly about my new nickname. This new found awkwardness, combined with childhood sexual abuse and 2 morbidly obese parents made for a child that longed for control. When I was 11, I was 'discovered' by a modeling scout in New York City and signed with the Elite Modeling Agency, constantly struggling to meet someone else's standards of perfection. At the 'old age' of 15, I lost my modeling contract- I no longer had the look that anyone wanted, plus I was now fat by modeling standards; 113 pounds and weighed daily. Back in high school, I longed for the extreme thinness I once had. I felt like a failure for not being able keep my weight down. I became further dependent on the tricks of the trade: laxatives, diet pills,and a new one: purging. By the time I was in the twelfth grade, I had become dependant on up to 100 laxatives a day and fistfuls of diet pills. I was sick all the time. I had become a master of covering it up. I had an excuse for everything. "I already ate." "I don't feel well." As if I needed help hiding my eating disorder, I found pro anorexic websites, which provided me with even more tips and a dangerous group of people that promoted eating disorders as a lifestyle. My first glimpse of hope came from talking to my crisis intervention counselor in High School. It never really occurred to me that getting better or not having an eating disorder was an option. After telling her the ways I had come accustom to abusing myself, for the first time I said "I think I might have an eating disorder." I can remember her saying "Ya think!?" I knew I needed and wanted help, but unfortunately, my mother was unwilling to admit that there was anything wrong with this behavior and I had no means of a support system. That was about to drastically change. Not too many college students move into the dorms and go to the counseling center on the same day- I did. I was determined to fix myself, I thought it would be easy- I was wrong. I was about to go on a 6 year journey that continues with me standing before you today.What I did not realize then is that recovery is a process, not an event. For the first time in my life, I had a support system. I had the most amazing nurse practitioner who would not then and still does not let me give up on myself. I can remember telling her that I was taking 100laxatives a night and she told me "We're going to fix this" without batting an eye. I had a therapist, group therapy, nutritionist, and psychiatrist. To top it all off, I was a Social Work major. I now realize that I was trying to fix myself- it didn't work. My entire life- I had been a perfectionist and I resigned myself to a 'perfect recovery.' Well, that didn't work either. I made up my food journals,went to therapy completely uninterested in making actual progress and convinced myself there wasn't anything wrong with me. I spent the next two years in a confused, chaotic, disorganized state of mind. I dropped in and out of school more times than I can count. Years of hurt and abuse were surfacing and I didn't know how to handle myself.I did not want to hear about coping skills or self help- I became determined to destroy myself and I was pretty darn successful. I purchased diet pills online- amphetamines to be exact- I blamed everything on my weight and became certain that everything would be okay if I could just stop eating and lose weight. On March 15th 2005,I was rushed to the hospital, my electrolytes were unbalanced, my heart was racing and I couldn't breath. I hadn't eaten in days and Ihad been overdosing on mystery pills and forcing myself to purge the only liquids I had been consuming. Being in the hospital was not fun,I don't recommend it. Doctors are not so nice when you've put yourself in the hospital. I eventually ended up in the psych ward, something Iam less than proud of. After 2 days, I was released with the condition that I report to Unity Mental Health Center the next day. I worked with an amazing therapist twice a week for almost 2 years. She gave me homework and I actually did it. I was finally ready to start healing and move on with my life.Over those two years, I began taking pride in myself again. Following one of her suggestions, I obtained a position in a hotel, one of my best decisions to date, as I stand before you today as the Director of Sales for a Marriott Hotel. The road to recovery is long and bumpy. I do not claim to be recovered. In fact, I don't think I ever will be recovered, but always recovering. It is estimated that as many as seven million women and one million men suffer from some form of an eating disorder. The good news is that there is hope and there is help. Organizations such as the National Association for Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, or ANAD for short are critical in supporting research and education in the field of self acceptance and eating disorder prevention and recovery. Over the past 2 years, I have had the honor and privilege of being a resource person and volunteer for ANAD. I think it very is important to reflect on ANAD's Pledge, also great words to live by: I will accept myself as I am. My uniqueness is a badge of honor, something to be proud of. There is no one in the world quite like me and I will strive to develop my special skills and abilities I will accept others as they are. Each person is special and different. I will to try to learn from these differences rather than be critical of them. Eating disorders are preventable and they are treatable, myself and so many others are living proof. Together, through education and understanding, I know we can make a difference in so many lives and stop many of our loved ones from becoming a statistic, because eating disorders do not discriminate they can effect anyone, of any age and any social/economic status. There is hope and help, you are not alone,all you have to do is reach out.
***Thank you so much Cori!