Emily Simone Lukaszek has lived with an eating disorder most of her life.
“It’s been well over two decades, it started when I was just around 8 years old,” Lukaszek said.
The Kelowna woman, 29, remembers how it all started.
“I remember so vividly…being in gymnastics and ballet class and comparing my body to all the other girls there and wondering why my legs were so much bigger,” she told Global news.
Lukaszek started by restricting her eating. Soon though, that led to something much more serious.
“It wasn’t long before the idea of purging by making myself throw up, was available in my head,” she said.
Lukaszek has suffered from both bulimia and anorexia with her weight fluctuating from one spectrum to another.
“When you have an eating disorder and a starved brain you can’t trust that because I never thought I looked any different,” she said. “I didn’t think I lost weight until I ended up in hospital. It turns out I lost a significant amount of weight in a small time. I was emaciated at that point but I did not see it at all.”
While open about her personal struggle, Lukaszek says she doesn’t actually like to reveal just how thin she got.
“I don’t like to talk about exact numbers,” she said. “Eating disorders by nature are something a lot of people don’t know, they tend to be very competitive.”
Experts say anorexia sufferers want to be the so-called “best” anorexic, the person who can eat the least and get down to the lowest weight.
Lukaszek said that can drive a person with anorexia to try and lose even more weight, something she doesn’t want to encourage.
Lukaszek has been hospitalized countless times and has been in and out of treatment for years.
“A lot of people are under the impression that it is a lifestyle choice, that it is just a diet, that if I wanted to recover or wanted to stop, I just could,” she said. “The reality is that it is very serious mental illness.”
Eating disorders are considered the deadliest of all mental illnesses.
In Canada, up to a million people are said to be suffering from anorexia, bulimia, purging disorder or binge eating.
Ashley Phillips is a clinical counsellor in Kelowna who specializes in helping people with eating disorders. She said almost a dozen people contact her seeking services every month.
“It’s a very hidden disease,” Phillips said. “It’s very hidden in terms of individuals thinking that what they are doing is absolutely normal and it’s ok and we really celebrate the way we can manipulate food or control food…so often times, people may not realize there is a problem, when really there is.”
And while she said the stigma surrounding eating disorders is getting better, more work needs to be done; something Lukaszek strongly agrees with.
“There is help available,” she said. “We are never alone, and it is only until we start opening up with transparency and speaking about it that we discover that we are not alone.”
You can reach out to Lukaszek by visiting her website at http://www.emilysimonelukaszek.com