Written by Jaime Filer     Photography by Dave Laus

I was very active as a kid; I always had a ball in my hand instead of a doll. When I was only four years old, my dream was to become a professional athlete. I already knew sport was in my blood, and I was born to compete.

It’s ironic that the same thing that made me feel alive almost killed me.

I remember the exact moment I decided to start my first diet. I was eleven years old, and I had just started at a new school. I knew I had to fit in and in the fifth grade, I believed becoming a size zero was the only way to do that. 

Although I was already a healthy weight, I started eating less at breakfast, giving away my lunches, and lying to my parents about going out to eat with friends, in order to shed pounds. And I did. By the time I started the eighth grade, I stopped getting my period.

“His comment shocked me into seeing the truth:
that I’d slowly been killing myself for the last eight years.”

When I got to high school, I’d perfected the art of denial. I was eating just enough calories to continue playing three different sports and keep working out, but not enough to maintain my grades. Because I wasn’t feeding my brain, it became impossible to stay focused long enough to study for tests and my grades started to slip, along with my social life. As my weight plummeted to 104 lbs, my friends wrote a letter to my mother expressing their concern. 

Between grades 10 and 11, I was hospitalized three times. After being monitored bi-monthly by Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto, Canada, I had dropped below what the doctors considered a safe weight and was considered “medically unstable.” I was forced into inpatient care for 40 days, then transferred to the outpatient program during the summer, but eventually ended up in the hospital for kidney dialysis. 

Jamie Filer standing

Today, Jaime, 31, competes in CrossFit. “I love how strong I’ve become and what my body can do.”  

Shortly after treatment, I discovered competitive bodybuilding. I was training hard in the gym, and in my mind, believed I had the physique to compete. The reality: at 5’7”, I was barely hitting 100 lbs. 

Motivated by my goal to compete in fitness, at 18 years old I whittled my body down to my lowest weight ever of 95 lbs and stepped on stage in my first show. I was confident, I thought I had rocked it. That is until after the show, one concerned judged called me personally and told me I looked like I belonged in a hospital, not on the stage.

His comment shocked me into finally seeing the truth: that I’d been slowly killing myself for the last eight years of my life. I realized then that if I didn’t recover by my 21st birthday, then I would have lived with an eating disorder longer than I had lived without one.

I believe this is what they call the “ah-ha moment.” Suddenly, I was desperate for an identity that did not involve having anorexia. In order to start the recovery process, I hired a social worker and confided in my friends about my illness. I stopped lifting temporarily in order to put on weight and reintroduced what I had deemed “scary foods” back into my diet, things like candy and fast food. 

By 21, my period returned, and all of my blood work and tests were normal again. 

It’s been 10 years since my recovery and now, I’m finally in a place where I don’t care about my weight. I no longer compete in bodybuilding and instead, I compete in CrossFit. I love how strong I’ve become, and I’m in love with what my body can do. I’m so grateful for weightlifting (and that judge from my first fitness show) for helping me take control of my illness and get a second chance at life.

Jaime Filer
Jaime is an internationally published fitness model and journalist, competitive Crossfit/Super League athlete, motivational speaker, and kinesiologist. Connect with her at @jaim91