Sleep therapist Olivia Arezzolo takes aim at her eating disorder as she recovers

Olivia was just 15 when anorexia nearly killed her. She won the battle, but later relapsed and contemplated suicide. Here, she tells her inspiring story of survival – and how one photo saved her life

  • Olivia Arezzolo has opened up on the eating disorder that stole years of her life
  • The 31-year-old has been suffering from anorexia since she was 25
  • She was first a slave to the condition at age 15. She recovered, but later relapsed
  • The sleep therapist said a photo of herself on a beach convinced her to change 
  • ‘I looked like a bag of bones, I couldn’t believe I looked like that,’ she said 

Olivia Arezzolo has opened up about her battle with anorexia - after struggling with the eating disorder for six years

Olivia Arezzolo has opened up about her battle with anorexia – after struggling with the eating disorder for six years

For years Olivia Arezzolo was a slave to her eating disorder – constantly wrestling her feelings of extreme hunger and ‘not being allowed to eat’.

The 31-year-old, from Sydney, said she was convinced she would be happier if she ‘just got a little thinner’ and ‘got through another day without eating’.

Speaking to FEMAIL, the sleep therapist said she was living with a ‘cyclone’ in her head – as her anxiety, eating disorder and extreme hunger wrestled for attention.

‘I would sometimes even just have alcohol, even though it has more calories, just so that I would get a little drunk and forget that I was hungry,’ she said.

Most days she would exercise intensely in an effort to get even thinner or to forget about the ever present hunger pains and thoughts about food. 

‘If I made it through a day I was allowed to eat dinner, I could order whatever I wanted on the condition I never left the restaurant or meal feeling full,’ she said. 

‘If I felt full that would be wrong. It would be really, really bad.’

Olivia didn't realise how bad things were until she saw these photos of herself at the beach in Bali, taken in September 2019

Olivia didn’t realise how bad things were until she saw these photos of herself at the beach in Bali, taken in September 2019

Olivia has revealed how far she has come in the last two years with this photo

The young woman couldn't believe how thin she was

Olivia now, pictured left, has managed to put on some weight – but more importantly has addressed her underlying mental health 

Olivia’s first brush with anorexia started when she was just 15. 

Her parents were separating and she was devastated. She was also struggling because she felt her pain was going unnoticed – so decided to stop eating.

‘I remember it clearly, I did want to be thin, I wanted to be emaciated,’ she said.

‘I thought if I was that thin then they would have to give me attention. They would have to see the pain I was in. You can’t help but see it when someone gets that unwell.’

By 19, Olivia was in hospital. She had reached her goal of complete emaciation and was so skeletal that she almost died.

The recovery was long and slow but over the years Olivia began to feel normal again.

‘I didn’t think about eating, didn’t worry about when I ate or what I ate, I had some really good years,’ she said.

Then when she was 25 things began to fall apart again.

‘I was in an unhappy relationship and I felt so stressed with work, I just thought if I could lose a bit of weight, be a bit skinner then I would be happy,’ she said.

‘I lost weight and then I would plateau and then lose weight again,’ she said.

She is currently in Turkey where she continues to focus on her mental health and is slowly putting on weight

She is currently in Turkey where she continues to focus on her mental health and is slowly putting on weight

But by the time she was 27 the situation was dire.

‘People would ask me if I was OK, my family would pull me aside and ask what was going on and I would tell them I was fine,’ she said.

This time around she didn’t want to be seen, she didn’t want to be a burden – and the idea of her family and friends having to look after her was terrifying.

‘I didn’t want my friends to be afraid of me or for people to be analysing everything I was eating,’ she said.  

She revealed she used to have a few drinks in order to forget about her extreme hunger

She revealed she used to have a few drinks in order to forget about her extreme hunger

She was also terrified of losing her credibility as a sleep therapist – a reputation she had worked tirelessly to build.

‘I was scared people would question my professionalism or me as a person… that  could be really problematic from a business perspective,’ she said. 

But it all came to a head in September, 2019, when she saw pictures of herself enjoying a day on the beach in Bali.

‘I looked like a bag of bones, I couldn’t believe I looked like that,’ she said.

‘Even though I realised things were bad I wanted to heal in my own way. I went on lots of retreats but I was mentally in a bad way.

‘It got to the point where I thought if I didn’t get help I would end my own life. I knew after a previous attempt when I was a teenager that I didn’t want that, that I was just trying to escape the intrusive thoughts.’ 

Olivia said she thought if she continued to lose weight she would be happier - but her mental health deteriorated

Olivia said she thought if she continued to lose weight she would be happier – but her mental health deteriorated

In February 2021 she sought professional help. 

‘I started therapy, because I recognised it was one of the things that helped me the first time, and we worked to slowly improve my mental health,’ she said.

That helped her understand it was normal to open up to her loved ones about her struggles, which led her to be more public about them.

‘I realised that it was OK to be able to write a book, be on television, be a leading sleep expert all while going through my own health crisis,’ she said.

‘Because my eating disorder had no impact on how successful or unsuccessful I was at work – it was irrelevant there.’ 

She also used to go to the gym and work out endlessly in an attempt to escape her thoughts

She also used to go to the gym and work out endlessly in an attempt to escape her thoughts 

She was also afraid to post about any weight gain or mental health improvements in case she went backwards. 

Once she opened up on social media she realised how important it was for her to share her ‘darkness’ so that others could feel more comfortable with their own.

‘I realised how moving my story is, I have never had such engaging content,’ she said.

In one post she takes aim at the eating disorder which has ruled the last six years of her life.

‘Hey anorexia, f**k off with these f**ked up beliefs and leave me to actually enjoy my life. Good try on trying to deceive me…. You almost had me fooled,’ she said.

‘Thinness does not equate to happiness.⁣ Just like heaviness does not equate to happiness.⁣ I unsubscribe.⁣’

'Thinness does not equate to happiness.⁣ Just like heaviness does not equate to happiness.⁣ I unsubscribe⁣'

‘Thinness does not equate to happiness.⁣ Just like heaviness does not equate to happiness.⁣ I unsubscribe⁣’

Olivia’s followers continue to ask for guidance which makes her confident to become the person to start the conversation around ‘feeling OK’.

The sleep therapist’s work can be done from anywhere in the world, something she takes advantage of.

She is currently in Turkey where she is continuing to heal.

Part of that process includes continuing to put on weight and ‘be OK with it’.

She believes she is now in a beautiful space and is a ‘completely different person’ to the one who would wake up everyday hoping for ‘it all to end’.

‘I want other people to know they can do it too, that they should get some support and that they can get through it,’ she said. 

Olivia has 37,000 followers on Instagram where she plans to continue to share about her impressive recovery. 

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