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  • Strength in Disorder
    by Olivia Johnston
  • Eating disorders are psychiatric conditions that are characterized by extreme emotions, attitudes, and behaviours surrounding weight and food [1].These disorders are incredibly serious, potentially life-threatening conditions that affect day-to-day life a great deal.
    According to a 2002 survey, 1.5% of Canadian women ages 15-24 had an eating disorder [2]. Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness – it is estimated that 10% of individuals with the disorder will die within 10 years of onset [2].
    When I was quite young, a woman very close to me suffered from an eating disorder. My understanding was limited at the time, and as a result, I grew up wondering about these diseases. When I began this project, I expected to learn very much from the women I photographed, and intellectually I have; I now know much more about eating disorders than ever before. However, since getting to know the beautiful, confident, captivating, intelligent women in this project, the disease makes less sense than ever. How and why does this happen to our girls and women?
    This project explores the juxtaposition between true beauty – that is, inner strength, intelligence, vitality and confidence – and indescribable suffering. Included is an audio track, comprised of interviews conducted with each woman; this audio track is not meant to reflect the individual, but instead, the experience of suffering from an eating disorder. These images, accompanied by the audio, are a complete portrait of the strength of the human in the face of incredible mental and emotional distress.


    [1] National Eating Disorders Association. National Eating Disorders Association: Information and Resources . 2005. March 2011 <>.    

    [2] The National Eating Disorder Information Centre. National Eating Disorder Information Centre: Statistics. 2008. March 2011 <>.
    A print edition of this project is available for purchase on Magcloud: