Popular video blogger opens up about anorexia and how to be truly healthy
By Agnieszka Krawczynski
Photo: Bethany Borkowski. (Agnieszka Krawczynski / The B.C. Catholic)
The hip young vegan behind the popular video blog VegBethany says faith in God helped her recover from an eating disorder.
“I seemed to try every other type of therapy and treatment, but it was only until I opened up to God that it was life-changing,” said Bethany Borkowski.
“It was the quiet, simple nights of prayer that really made a difference.”
There was a time when this 20-year-old health enthusiast had an unhealthy relationship with food.
“It started really subtly, which is how many eating disorders often begin,” she told The B.C. Catholic. Early into high school she began dieting intensely, then exercising more and more and eating less and less.
“A lot of the messages from the health industry really fed into my eating disorder at first. I think every young person wants to be healthy and when you’re getting mixed messages, personally, I didn’t know what that meant for me.”
She developed anorexia that was so severe she was hospitalized.
“I saw a dozen different therapists and tried outpatient, inpatient, and residential. I almost maxed out all of my options in the Lower Mainland in terms of the help I could receive,” Borkowski said.
The young member of Precious Blood Parish in Surrey said there was another “treatment” she had not yet tried: prayer.
“I think I was resisting it for a long time,” she said. “It’s really hard to grow in faith when you’re in a really poor mental place.”
Then, one night, when Borkowski was feeling particularly helpless, she voiced a simple plea: “Please, God: courage and strength. That’s all I need.”
She began recovering from anorexia and realizes in hindsight it was her faith in God that helped pull her through.
“Faith has made a big difference. It’s not just about my body, but it’s about my soul, too.”
Borkowski read spiritual books during her stay in the hospital and later found out that her family and community were also praying for her recovery.
Anorexia is now a thing of the past for Borkowski. In 2015, she launched a video blog, or vlog, called VegBethany to reach out to other people struggling with eating disorders and navigating a confusing world of diet and exercise trends.
“I tell people to focus on their own journey, and not what Susie down the road is doing,” Borkowski said.
VegBethany has more than 15,300 YouTube subscribers and more than 1 million views. In her videos Borkowski advocates for guilt-free eating habits and shares her favourite vegan recipes, like banana blueberry smoothies with coconut water or almond milk.
Her recovery from an eating disorder makes her story exceptional. “All the major health accounts and perspectives are very straightforward, like eat healthy and exercise,” said Borkowski.
“For me, health is a lot more than that. It’s also being able to go out and enjoy doughnuts, and to not exercise, and have a more flexible approach with health and fitness. That’s a perspective that a lot of young people don’t hear very much and it can take away some of the pressure.”
The vegan vlogger is also studying psychology at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, hoping to become a counsellor.
She said there are many reasons a person may pick up unhealthy eating or exercising habits. “There might be something deeper going on, like just wanting to be loved and accepted and maybe to fit in with the people around us. Addressing the deeper stuff can bring out a healthier relationship with ourselves and taking care of our body.”
Borkowski hopes sharing her story will help others build healthy, holistic relationships with food. “Faith takes it a step deeper,” she said. “If we want to take care of the soul, we take care of the gift that God gave us which is our body.”
Borkowski’s vlog is on YouTube. She can also be found on Tumblr, Instagram, and Twitter.