Windsor·Video

Windsor musician Crissi Cochrane shares story of body image struggle and unhealthy eating

A Windsor musician is speaking up about a personal battle, writing a blog post on her website called "The Music Video 'Diet'." In it, Crissi Cochrane talks about body image and how the way a person looks is so highly valued in the music industry - especially for women.

'I was really struggling to keep making music, because I felt like I was kind of destroying myself'

Windsor, Ont. Crissi Cochrane says she's been dealing with disordered eating and struggles with her body image for years. 1:59

While working on the music video for her song Sleep in the Wild during the summer of 2014, Windsor musician Crissi Cochrane would skip breakfast and have an orange and a cup of black coffee for lunch. 

Cochrane said she was inspired to stage portions of her music video in a bathtub after watching Amy Winehouse's music video for You Know I'm No Good, in which the now-deceased British singer-songwriter staged a similar performance.

"It wasn't anyone else forcing me into this situation, but all the same, there was a lot of focus put on my body," said Cochrane, adding that she was at her smallest adult weight while filming. 

At the time, she said, she was also at her most unhealthy. 

Pressures from promoting her album, as well as touring, made Cochrane feel socially isolated and incredibly stressed. 

"I was really struggling to keep making music, because I felt like I was kind of destroying myself," she said. "I wasn't sure for a while if I was going to be able to keep making music in public."

Over the course of a year, Cochrane would write songs at home — barely playing any music at all. 

Windsor, Ont. musician Crissi Cochrane published a blog post on Feb. 11, 2020 expanding on her disordered eating journey, as well as her personal struggles with her body image. (Tahmina Aziz/CBC)

Her lowest point was when she was on a train heading home from a gig that hadn't been as successful as she had hoped. 

"The train broke down in the middle of the woods beside this beautiful idyllic-looking pond, and it was absolutely heavenly," she said. "And I just felt terrible. I was crying into the window next to me, and I was stuck in this place physically and emotionally, and I felt like I was at my limit."

Before, people used to look at magazines and they would compare themselves, but know that a team of people put those people together ... now we're kind of really comparing ourselves to peers.-  Luciana Rosu-Sieza, executive director Windsor Bulimia Anorexia Nervosa Assoc.

"I was like, I can't keep doing this anymore. I can't keeping being in public, it's not healthy for me."

Lifestyle changes — including taking time away from music — helped her regain her confidence, as well as relax the dietary restrictions she had placed on herself. 

Cochrane expanded on her journey with "disordered eating" habits in a blog post published earlier this week. 

She's currently in the midst of preparing to shoot a new upcoming video for her song Hungry Love, and said she was compelled to write the post after reflecting on her current eating and exercise habits.

"I was just realizing that I was doing this in a much healthier way, that I'm exercising, but not too much," she said. "I'm using it as motivation to take care of myself and to be healthy and make healthy choices, but not being so extreme with it."

Talking it out

Luciana Rosu-Sieza, executive director of the Bulimia Anorexia Nervosa Association (BANA) in Windsor, said it's wonderful to see someone like Cochrane use their platform to hold discussions about eating disorders.

"I think it's absolutely fantastic, because I think when people start talking about it — especially when they have a celebrity status of a platform that they can express themselves to a larger group of audience," she said. "I think it's so awesome, because we end up having these discussions and it really create a comfort about talking about eating disorders and that people do suffer from eating disorders."

Rosu-Sieza said the average age of those affected by eating disorders at BANA is around 35 years old. However, it's an issue that affects people of all ages and all genders, including approximately one million Canadians. 

Luciana Rosu-Sieza is the executive director of the Bulimia Anorexia Nervosa Association in Windsor. (Tahmina Aziz/CBC)

As she sees it, the proliferation of social media is part of the reason why so many people struggle with eating disorders.

"Before, people used to look at magazines and they would compare themselves, but know that a team of people put those people together," she said. "Now, we're kind of really comparing ourselves to peers."

Still, Rosu-Sieza said there are reasons to be hopeful. She said up to 80 per cent of individuals who struggle with eating disorders are able to recover and maintain healthy habits. 

You'd be surprised how many people are going through the same thing as you, and the more you talk about it, the less power that it has over you and the more that people can hold you accountable.- Crissi Cochrane, musician

Rosu-Sieza said that the more conversations had about eating disorders — the more that individuals discuss their struggles and their journeys — the easier it becomes for individuals to seek help.

In addition to living with unhealthy eating habits, Cochrane said her biggest struggle was that she was also dealing with anxiety and depression all at once. 

"It felt like I was in a very dark place," she said.

Cochrane said she was good at hiding her experiences, explaining that the people in her life didn't quite know how to help. 

"I think that if someone could have reached out of if I had had access to someone like BANA, it might have made a really big difference for me and helped me get better a lot faster," she said. 

Cochrane said the one piece of advice she'd offer to anyone living with eating disorders would be to find some way to talk to others about it. 

"You'd be surprised how many people are going through the same thing as you," she said. "And the more that you talk about it the less power that it has over you, and the more that people can hold you accountable."

Though she acknowledged that she could still relapse, she said she's finally in a place where she feels "that I can be healthy and love my body."

Looking for help?

Call the National Eating Disorder Information Centre's toll free line: 1-866-699-4820

With files from Tahmina Aziz