Episode 43: Giving Voice to Eating Disorder Stories with Kiera Russo
Kiera Russo is a student at The University of Notre Dame, studying Film, Television, and Theatre. An eating disorder survivor, she hosts the podcast Heavier Than I Look, which aims to empower other survivors, educate listeners, and foster conversation surrounding eating disorders. By finding meaning in her own suffering, Kiera hopes to fight against the silence that eating disorders demand and to liberate others from the same demand.
In this episode of Peace Meal, Kiera shares with us her eating disorder and recovery story. She traces the beginning of her illness to the time following eighth grade. During this period of transition, stress, and anxiety, Kiera started running to prepare for her school’s track team. But, she says, “it easily and quickly turned into…a mechanism for me to control not only how many calories I would allow myself that day, but also how much weight I could possibly lose.”
While Kiera’s eating disorder was taking root, people around her inadvertently reinforced it by remarking positively on her behaviors and body changes. These comments validated the disordered behaviors, all the while worsening her illness.
After years of struggling in silence, shame, and confusion, Kiera opened up about her illness in a class poetry assignment. She recited the poem in front of her classmates, uttering the words “eating disorder” for the first time and acknowledging that she had one. At this moment, Kiera gave herself her voice and revealed it to others.
While sharing her experience was an important step in Kiera’s overall story, it did not resolve her eating disorder. She continued to struggle with restricting and bingeing in secret, experiencing a taste of freedom only temporarily when she entered college. Surrounded by friends who had healthy relationships with food and their bodies, she was able to eat without concerns about weight and body. It was a “blindingly euphoric” time, she says.
Unfortunately, additional comments about her weight triggered food and body concerns again. Immense fear returned to mealtimes, and darkness encroached upon her life. At this point, Kiera revealed to herself that she needed help.
Despite the obstacles to seeking help, Kiera successfully advocated for the professional care her eating disorder required. Equipped with proper support, she pursued recovery while quarantining last year. She ditched the scale, journaled, and rethought her identity, relationship with food and body, and vocational plans. Born out of her recovery was Heavier Than I Look, her podcast which has transformed her plans for her future and kindled her sincere desire to amplify her and others’ voices.
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About the podcast:
Peace Meal is an Emily Program podcast that discusses topics related to eating disorders, body image issues, and how society may contribute to distorted thinking.
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