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In today’s episode of our interview series, Rosianna Halse Rojas talks about her mental health journey and eating disorder, and how it continues to affect her relationship with food and exercise.

There is eating disorder discussion in the video, but very minimal details about behaviors and numbers. Please seek help if you're currently struggling:

Many, many thanks to Rosianna. She's the best:

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Rosianna: Just a quick warning that this video will include some discussion of eating disorders and other related mental health topics. If you feel like this video won't be good for you, now is a good time to click away. And for those of you who are currently struggling, please seek help. There are likely specialized health professionals in your area. We've also posted some resources in the video description.

[100 Days intro]

John: Hi, I'm John Green and this is 100 Days. So if you haven't been following along with this channel, basically my best friend Chris and I are attempting to have a healthy mid-life crisis. We're exercising, we're trying to eat well, and I'm meditating. 

Before we started this project, Chris and I decided that we didn't want to emphasize things like calories or weight. Weight tends to be the metric that everyone focuses on, but it's really not a perfect barometer of health. So we made these decisions partly because we didn't think talking about calories and weight would be right for us, but it was also a decision that we made when taking into account you, the viewers.

One thing we haven't addressed on this show yet is eating disorders. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, at least 30 million people in the United States suffer from an eating disorder. These are serious, sometimes fatal, and often misunderstood illnesses that affect people of all ages, races, and genders.

Here at 100 Days, we don't want to pretend to be experts in really anything, but we can't make this show without acknowledging those staggering statistics, or taking into account that this is likely a significant factor in many of your experiences and challenges with fitness and health. So we think it's important to talk about, and for that, my colleague and friend Rosianna has offered to talk about her journey.


Rosianna: My relationship with food has always been pretty troubled. I don't ever really remember having that kind of, like, calm connection to food at all. It always felt quite chaotic. But when I got to secondary school, that's when things got really bad. I went to quite a high-pressure all-girls secondary school, and it was like a petri dish for eating disorders. At that age, I developed anorexia, and then having been pulled aside by teachers and having them express their concerns, I started to kind of get better from that, but then it became bulimia. So that's been something that's been like a back-and-forth in my life for as long as I can remember. And I kind of feel like having that period of secondary school was the only time that it was really defined, whereas it's sort of been in my life in a constant way.

In terms of how people recover, I feel like it's different for absolutely everyone. For me, it's helpful to think of it more as managing a condition that I will have for the rest of my life, and really moving away from those habits that are most dangerous to me and the most like disordered behaviors. It's a state of accepting that I have a problem that I need to address, and finding ways to try to manage that in an ongoing fashion, which for me also includes medication and therapy and being open and honest with my doctors.

I've been pretty active from a young age, but I definitely do remember feeling, in exercise classes, — I did a lot of dance classes: I did flamenco, I did street dance. I always felt very, very aware of my body, and very, kind of, a sense of like swollen and very turned off by my own reflection. And just very self aware, and at a level that I don't think is necessarily — happens to absolutely everyone. So that's kind of always been present even though I always enjoyed being really active. And eventually that feeling sort of took over and dissuaded me from taking part as much. So a lot of what I would do was just be like, oh, my asthma's really bad today, so I definitely can't play. And that came more from a sense of not wanting to be out there, on show.

There is an element of having to come to terms with your body as an outside self in like as a visible thing. There's a great book by Anna Kessel called Eat, Sweat, Play where she talks about that, and talks about women running. And she says that women running is a feminist act, and that for me has been something very helpful to grapple with that feeling of shame and guilt.

It's saying you know I have a right to be here and it's about me just living my life as anyone else in their life. So any guilt and shame and lingering sort of judgments, most of which to be honest comes from within, comes from my eating disorder, comes from the other things I struggle with, that is second to me taking care of myself and having the right to be here.

My exercise routine now, it depends on the season really. Like I'mreally in favor of being fluid with your routines and with what works for you and just because something might work for you one month doesn't mean it has to work for you the next month. I try to do yoga with Adriene most days she's a YouTuber and her channel is brilliant and it's really, it addresses lots of different things that yoga can be useful. Whether it's for anxiety, or for period cramps or just
like a 30 day yoga, do yoga everyday thoughts series that she has which is really great.

And then I walk every single day. I walk to work so it's helpful to have that period of activity every single day. I've been really enjoying cooking and that for me has been a way to take a lot
out of the fear when it comes to food, like I find food is something that I can be very very afraid of even though I also love food. It's easier for me to feel afraid of food in the culture that is very about quick consumption, quick buying, quick consumption, quick interactions with things and always being kind of distance from like the actual reality of it, and something about sitting there with food is extremely helpful to me.

I grew up in a Mexican household and we ate avocados and tomatoes and coriander, cilantro, all sorts of other like very basic, strong vegetables. And for me that those have been something that I have really carried through my life and I've had a lot of joy rediscovering through cooking. And really being able to celebrate my culture while also finding this connection to cooking has been
really exciting to me, so as much as I go on and on about avocados like they've been a very sensual and important point in my recovery I think.

I'm very big on self-kindness and I think that self-kindness is the way through a lot of the most difficult periods that we all have
in our lives. For me it's a lot about the language I used to talk about myself and my mistakes because I'm very quick to say 'God I'm being such an idiot' or 'I'm so stupid' or like 'What a ridiculous mistake to make'. That kind of stuff I think really plays into all of the worst things I say about myself and all the worst things I think about myself and it kind of builds up as this like, you don't even think about it when you're when you talk about yourself in those ways.

So that's something that at the moment I'm trying to be really mindful of. But then I also think that the most basic things are acts of self-kindness so with my therapist, I came up with a post-it
note or four things that I do and, especially in the worst days, the only four things I have to do to have a good day. And one of them is drink a glass of water, one of them's have a shower, make a meal,
and go outside, even if it's just for five minutes.

And those are four very, very simple things but each one is an act of self-kindness, each one is an acts of like, doing something good for
yourself and nourishing to yourself. But it's also giving yourself sort of easy successes too. It's just trying to hold everything in my mind about being kind to myself and then also being generous with myself when things don't quite work out as well.

John: [narrating] Thanks Rosianna, and I do want to reiterate what she said. If you are currently struggling please seek help. I also want to acknowledge that these disorders manifest in many different
ways. We've heard one perspective but just as my perspective on obsessive compulsive disorder is only one story, this show is by no means an educational resource on mental health.

For that you will find plenty of information in the video description below so please check that out, and if you're struggling with any of this, I encourage you to see a medical professional. Thanks for watching, I'll see you next time.