Life Video
By Mollie Mansfield

A teenage cheerleader who was left on deaths door due to her eating disorder – and even hid food in her SOCKS – has opened up about how she turned her life around to become a yoga teacher.

At just the tender age of 12, Jennifer Pietsch started to suffer with anorexia after comparing herself to the rest of her cheerleading team and deeming herself as ‘fat’.
As the months went by, Jennifer, from Hope, British Columbia, started avoiding anything that mentioned ‘fat’ on the nutrients, would flush her meals down the toilet and even got to the point of hiding food in her socks and clothing.
Jennifer, now 18, was then admitted to hospital seven times for five month periods due to her weight plummeting to a tiny four stone seven pounds, causing her organs to begin to fail.

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After seeking the help she needed and being motivated by the idea she could help others to beat eating disorders, Jennifer began to gain more weight and has since used yoga as a way to exercise both her mind and body.
She said: “Because I was only 12, I developed anorexia before I even knew what anorexia was – I just became obsessed with the fact that I did not want to be fat.
“Growing up I was constantly feeling pressure to be skinny and look a certain way, especially as I would compare myself to the other girls on my cheerleading team.
“From the age of 11 I noticed that weight loss was always praised, I thought being skinny was “good” and as a perfectionist I would settle for nothing less.

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“I started by avoiding anything that included the word ‘fat’ on the label, which moved on to me obsessing over calories and then trying to only eat my “safe” foods of fruits, vegetables, oats and plain chicken.
“Although I was attempting to recover, anything ‘unsafe’ that my mum would cook for me I would hide in my clothing to later flush down the toilet.
“During my multiple stays in hospital, there were times I’d hide potatoes in my draws as I thought the portions were too big compared to the day before.
“I would also hide peanut butter under plates in attempt to get rid of the easiest to hide highest source of calories.

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“This lead to needing 24/7 supervision from a care aid even while I was sleeping, and having no bathroom access expect for a portable toilet behind a curtain.
“I was on strict bed rest even having to brush my teeth from bed”
After months of refusing to eat, and only eating as little as 800 calories a day, Jennifer’s organs began to fail causing her to be admitted to hospital seven times for five month periods.

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She said: “I wanted to avoid the illness side of the eating disorder and just be skinny – but that wasn’t the case.
“From the age of 12 I had to be admitted to hospital seven different times on an average of five months at a time because my body couldn’t keep up with my unhealthy coping.
“It didn’t hit me what damage I was doing until my heart rate and blood pressure were dangerously low, my hair fell out and I was always extremely irritable, cold, anxious and faint.”
When her organs started failing and she was constantly being left on deaths door, Jennifer knew it was time to start her recovery journey and time to stop being defined by her eating disorder.

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She said: “I knew it was time to recover when I no longer wanted to be a victim or statistic to the disorder – I started finding other things that made me myself and no longer did anorexia define who I was.

“Giving up my eating disorder originally meant loosing my safety, comfort, control and strongest coping mechanism for any feelings of worthlessness or anxiety.
“It meant letting go of perfectionism and the things that once made me feel accomplished and proud – I lost my self punishment and above all the predictability of all I was doing to myself and what would lie ahead if I continued to slowly fade away.
“I am now learning what it feels like to know my worth and that is something I look forward to feeling more of – I have waisted too much of my thinking space worried about food.

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“I have much greater things to focus my energy on, I am more than capable of handling whatever comes my way, I am strong and this battle only makes a person stronger.
“What has motivated me to get better is to be able to show others that it is possible.
“To prove that you can come out better than ever from any of life’s challenges.”
Alongside having a change in her mindset, Jennifer also thanks yoga for allowing her to get back on track and is even training to become a professional instructor.

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She said: “Yoga has helped me more than anything with anxiety, self acceptance, and allowing myself to rest.

“The studio is such a warm and welcoming environment and it allows for deep connection, self expression, and the ability to calm our mind.
“It is something that allows me to focus on what my body can do rather than what it looks like; it brings me clarity, joy, pride, and self acceptance both mentally and physically.
“I hope that as my training continues, I will build on my confidence even more as a professional to be able to teach others the practice of yoga not only physically, but spiritually.
“I want to help others form strong roots of self love, presence, and connection; while sharing my story of self discovery along the way.”