Life in Balance

Through this online art blog/gallery we can encourage, inspire and share hope with one another…We invite who you to share your “NAPS” (News, Art ,Poetry, Songs) or inspirations. Email if you would like to share inspirations. Please note we can not post advice with regards to nutrition and exercise.

Leave a comment

Repost: Eating Disorders and Fasting

I broke the fast – and have never been happier

Last Yom Kippur, I ate more than I had eaten in a very long time. While friends and relatives endured parched mouths and grumbling bellies, I shovelled heaped forkfuls of food down my throat at breakfast, lunch and dinner — plus at three separate snack times that garnished my day’s platter.

Why? I had to, despite all my aversions. Willed, on the Day of Atonement, by a hunger for health, if nothing else.

You see, that 25-hour stretch that prohibits Jews from eating and drinking every year also happened to be my first day as an in-patient at an eating disorders unit. And, no, the irony was not lost on me either.

A year later and, difficult as it is to admit, the onset of Yom Kippur sparked strange and conflicting emotions. Although I am now in recovery, fasting was out of the question — mandated by my doctor, but supported wholeheartedly by my “healthy” side. The side that encourages me to stick to food plans and ignore misleading feelings of fullness. The side that guarantees a future.

But then, that niggling voice of menace. The one that whispers through my ear and down my gut, promising mercy, delivering anything but. As friends and colleagues fast around me, she challenges me to join them.

I struggle to explain the notion of sobriety when it comes to eating disorders, even to myself

“One day won’t hurt,” she bluffs and barters. I refuse to listen.

According to the Jewish Association for Mental Illness (Jami), people who are in recovery or are still suffering from eating disorders should follow their doctor’s guidelines when it comes to ritual fasting. Yet there is little specific support provided for those who may grapple with the dilemma, even if given the medical green-light.

For some, it may challenge their traditional observance or make them feel less pious. For others, it may trigger the addiction that they fight against three times a day, especially when others around them are “indulging” in the one thing they are denied.

Anorexia or bulimia, on their darkest days, can be the only friend their victim knows. While relatives beg them to “just eat normally”, their captor tightens the noose around their stomach. Anxiety turns to indigestion and they promise a way out, down the rabbit hole of starvation or bingeing.

Of course, by the time their prey cottons on to the scheme at hand and frantically looks for an exit, it is too late. They are inch-long insects and the doors are 10-storeys high.

I struggle to explain the notion of sobriety when it comes to eating disorders, even to myself. Unlike an alcohol or drug addiction, you must not abstain. Indeed, if anything, you are abstaining from abstinence, redefining food so that it is no longer your weapon or coping tool against anxiety and depression, but your habitual means of sustenance. Habit, therefore, is essential. And just one day of fasting can obliterate years of hard work.

But challenges abound when faced with a day when “normal” is reset. When synagogues are full of empty stomachs and, even on the secular side, talk among Jews focuses on food, or lack thereof.

I tend to avoid social media on the day, as status updates from hungry friends are confronting and can provoke unwelcome responses. Jealousy, no. But frustration — both over my ill past, and the fact that, even now, even better, every new day can still present its challenges.

In the UK alone, 1.6 million people are affected by an eating disorder, and that’s only those who are diagnosed. Thankfully, we are slowly but surely breaking the taboo of mental health.

Celebrities including Geri Halliwell, Nicole Scherzinger, Lady Gaga and Demi Lovato have all spoken of their own struggles with eating disorders, helping to normalise the conversation.

Meanwhile, charities — both inside the community, like Jami and nationwide, like Mind and Beat — work tirelessly to remind us that mental illness is insidious and epidemic. And it does not discriminate. But more can and should be done to offer support and understanding to sufferers, especially when it comes to festivals, rituals and traditions.

I think of the alcoholic, who must pass on kiddush wine, on a weekly basis, as casually as he or she can muster. Or of the OCD-sufferer, who can never quite get their kitchen clean enough, not least for Pesach. And I truly feel for the person in recovery from an eating disorder who, on Yom Kippur, must choose whether to fast or feed. Only they can make that choice.

By the time you read this, Yom Kippur will have come and gone for another year. For most people, their spiritual growth will have been achieved through fasting and mournful contemplation. But for others, myself included, theirs will have come through just the opposite. Through fighting another day against that slowly but surely dampening voice of trickery that promises one thing, but offers quite another.

By doing something so simple, so normal, as sitting down to eat.

Leave a comment

Take Back the Night

On Wednesday, we got the opportunity to set up a booth at the Take Back the Night York Region rally and march. It was inspiring to see so many men and women come out to take a stand in ending violence against women.

Natalia was joined by Liora and our youngest volunteer yet, Emily!

We are grateful to have been able to participate in this movement, thank you to all who came to see us at our booth!


Leave a comment

“Walking Across Canada” this Sunday!

This weekend we are “Walking Across Canada”; Remembering Renata
From Coast to Coast, join with all those who will raise awareness and support for recovery

Locations Joining In:

St. John’s, NL
Toronto, ON
Thornhill, ON
Stouffville, ON
King City, ON
Montreal, QC
Spring Valley, NY
Victoria, BC

This year, each of us will join-in walking in a favorite or, other location, of our own choice. 

 If you do not have a location picked out, you are welcome to join a small group of people who will be meeting for acoustic music and a walk in King City, at Centennial Park (5855 Jane Street) from 1-3 p.m.
(please email to RSVP)

Renata’s Story

Please click here to read about Renata.

You may wish to donate to Riverwalk, or the Eating Disorder Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador.

If you would like to donate to Riverwalk,  Donate online or, send us your pledges!
Download the pledge form here. Tax receipts will be issued for donations over $10.

If you would like to donate to EDFNL, visit their website for details.

Twitter handle @EDOYR to join the walk! Use #WalkWithRiverwalk when posting your photos of support!

Walk Across Canada 2015

1 Comment

Peer Support Work Training

By: Natalie Leibowitz, Summer Outreach Student

A culture of recovery involves being able to share our stories and learn from each other. Our stories may be different, but we have all overcome challenges in our lives and have much to share in terms of strategies for wellness and recovery. It means being able to openly discuss difficult topics and feelings, without having to hold back out of fear of being judged. It involves taking the time to ask others how they are doing and genuinely listening to their response. We strive to create an environment where self-care in valued. It is also important to be aware of the kinds of resources that are available in our communities in order to be able to guide others in receiving necessary support. Creating a culture of recovery also means that we carry this supportive environment through to all areas of our lives. We allow another person to feel that they have someone to turn to when they need it, and in doing so we are reducing loneliness and creating a sense of togetherness.

Much of my learning in a recent peer support training program relates to the development of a culture of recovery/ peer support community that we strive for here at Riverwalk.  From June 23rd-August 15th, 2015 I had the opportunity to participate in the Stella’s Place Peer Support Training program held at George Brown College in Toronto. The purpose of the program was to train young adults to provide peer support services for those in the 18-29 age group. Young adults were also involved in the design and facilitation of the training program. This program was designed in response to the need for peer support services geared to the young adult population. I was joined by 26 other participants who all have lived experience of mental health challenges and are interested in entering the field as peer support workers.

The program was facilitated in a group format by 5 Peer Support Workers who are currently working in the field in various settings. There were 60 in-class session hours in addition to 40 hours of home readings and reflections. Learning in the sessions occurred through guest presentations, discussions, skills practices, and role plays. We had presenters discuss their involvement in hospital-based peer support, community mental health settings, drop-in support, online peer support, mental health services navigation, and more informal peer support settings.

Topics covered in the sessions included:

  • Engaging peers
  • Building supportive relationships
  • Active listening and intentional sharing
  • Advocacy skills (self-advocacy and system advocacy)
  • Peace building
  • Inclusion and diversity
  • Safety and responding to crises
  • Community navigation (navigating the mental health system in Ontario)

In the training program, I met quite a diverse group of people who brought so much life experience and richness to the group. Hearing each person’s story and how much they have overcome was both enlightening and inspiring. A safe and supportive environment was created amongst the group, which allowed us to be open and honest. This setting was also conducive to being able to challenge ourselves within the group and to learn from one another. In addition, I had the opportunity to meet peer support professionals working in the field in a number of different roles. These peer support workers served as mentors to all of the participants in the program, and continue to support us in achieving our goals for entry into the field and in maintaining wellness.

Through this program, I have gained a clear understanding of the role of peer support within the mental health system. I have also learned how I can most effectively utilize my experiences in recovery to assist others in developing their own recovery tools and in navigating the mental health system. I have developed a knowledge-base of mental health services and resources available in the Toronto area, many of which I was not previously aware of. The program has allowed me to understand the common challenges that young adults face in seeking support and treatment for mental health issues.

 I would say that the most important lesson that I learned about peer support is that just being there for the person (listening to their story, validating their thoughts and feelings, providing a supportive and non-judgemental space) is the most valuable asset of a peer support worker.