Eating Disorders: The Ugly Truth of the Skinny Fixation

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I know.

This topic is a bit more serious than a lot of other things I share on this blog, but I feel very strongly that it needs to be discussed. If you feel like you might be struggling with an eating disorder, please don?t think I am here to shame you. Nope ? I have been there in my own life. For many years I struggled with a combination of eating disorders, and I know this is something I will forever need to keep in mind to help my recovery for the rest of my life.

So, if you are reading this, and you are struggling, please understand I simply don?t want you to hurt like I hurt. I?m here to help you identify if you might need help, or if someone you know does. I?m here to help save you from the painful battle that I endured.

Here are a couple of staggering statistics:

? Up to 24 million people (male and female) of all ages suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S.
? Only 1 in 10 people suffering from an eating disorder receive treatment.

That last statistic is pretty scary, especially since eating disorders can cause major health problems and even death. Maybe you?re one of the millions who needs help, or maybe you know someone who suffers from an eating disorder. Hopefully this discussion will give you some helpful tools in either case.

An eating disorder, to put it plainly, is an illness that stems from unhealthy behaviors associated with food and weight. These unhealthy habits could include overeating, starving, vomiting, and others.

Let?s face it. There?s tremendous pressure in today?s society to be magazine-cover thin. Even though we realize many of these photos are altered and airbrushed, we still see the thin person on the cover, who looks soooo happy, and we want to be that person. And some people are willing to do anything to become that person, including behaviors that lead to eating disorders.

Eating disorders are categorized into three types:

  • Anorexia Nervosa: With this illness, a person has a fear of gaining weight and usually becomes dangerously thin. It mostly affects teen and young adult girls. Those who suffer from anorexia are very critical of themselves, obsess over food, exercise excessively, take diet pills, eat too little, and/or see themselves as fat.
  • Bulimia Nervosa: This disease is characterized by bingeing, followed by purging (through vomiting and/or laxative abuse), and also affects mostly teen and young adult girls. Those suffering from this disorder are often a normal weight or slightly overweight, feel out of control, exercise excessively, are afraid of gaining weight, experience depression and anxiety, are more susceptible to substance abuse, and/or have a somewhat distorted body image.
  • Binge-eating disorder: Unlike anorexia and bulimia, people suffering from this disorder don?t try to exercise or purge to compensate for the excessive amounts of food they eat. Their body weight ranges from normal to obese, and they often eat alone, feel out of control, and/or can experience feelings of guilt, shame, and depression. This disorder affects mostly middle-aged men and women, and can be triggered by stress, anxiety, and/or boredom. Most of the individuals we work with on Extreme Weight Loss struggle with this disorder.

The most common treatment for an eating disorder is therapy ? learning about yourself and how to find balance and control with food. However, other treatments can involve medication, and sometimes even hospitalization.

If you or someone you know is affected by an eating disorder, here are some important things to remember:

  • Never compare yourself to others. We all have different bone structures, genes, and cultures. What is a healthy weight for one person is not necessarily a healthy weight for another. I?m quite petite, so a healthy weight for me is not a healthy weight for a person who?s much taller with a not-quite-so-petite bone structure. But I must admit, this was very difficult for me in my teen years, and even into early adulthood. PS ? this is one of the reasons I CrossFit and train for performance. The feeling of ?Skinny? doesn?t hold a candle to the feeling of ?Strong?. I?m hooked ?
  • Don?t let the number on the scale define you. It?s just a number that?s affected by all the things listed above. Instead of working toward a certain number on the scale, make being healthy your main goal. I know. Sometimes that number we see on the scale can either make our day or send us into a mini-meltdown. As women, our weight can fluctuate by a few pounds?overnight?depending on what time of the month it is, and also on the types of foods we ate yesterday. Depend, instead, on how your clothes fit and how you truly feel. Once again, strength training and Crossfit helped me get over this number and focus on health.
  • Find balance in your life between getting healthy and living life. Fixating too much on one thing is not healthy and in no way leads to a balanced and happy life. While Chris and I love to work out, we also know there are many other things in life that are just as, or more, important. We work together to make sure we create room in our jam-packed schedules for those things we feel passionate about. Let?s face it?you never find time. You must create a time for balance. Allowing ourselves to focus on these other more important things allows us to see fulfillment and happiness in areas outside of ourselves.
  • Realize that falling is not failing. Failure happens when we don?t get back up and try again after we fall. Learn from your falls and you?ll become a much stronger person. If you?ve watched our show, you?ve seen our contestants experience this over and over again. How are we supposed to learn how to succeed if we never fall?! Anyone (including myself) that has been down (or is going down) the road to recovery from an eating disorder knows that it isn?t easy. We fall. We mess up. Sometimes we relapse. We are human. For anyone that doesn?t struggle during recovery?all I can say is you must be super-human ?. But remember that falling is okay. It doesn?t mean we fail. Like I said, we only fail when we choose not to get back up.
  • Build a support system. Find those whose opinions matter to you and who love you for the person you are right now. They will bend over backwards to help you through this struggle?I promise! My biggest supporters were my late father and my mom (in addition to therapists). Find your supporters ? maybe a best friend, a co-worker, a sibling?
  • Get help. There is nothing weak about getting help when you need it. In fact, asking for help is a definite sign of strength! This is such a hard step for most people. There are many organizations that specialize in helping those with eating disorders, and one we?ve featured on our show is Shades of Hope in Dallas, Texas. You can also go to the National Eating Disorders Association?s website for more helpful information.

While eating disorders are very serious illnesses, they can be overcome, and those who suffer from them can go on to lead normal, healthy, and happy lives. It?s all about finding and becoming the best?and healthiest?person you can be!

And please check out this other post on my blog for more information on my journey to overcome my own eating disorder.

*Source of basic information about eating disorders:

64 Responses

  1. Hello Heidi,
    My name is Tanya. I’m still in the process of actually taking control. Most of the time I don’t know what to do. I was better when I was seeing a therapist about half a year ago but that crashed and burned for a family reason. Now I’m back where I started and I can’t actually open up even more to anyone. The body image, yes, I had that all my life. I know it’s wrong but not feeling good about myself is how I feel all the time. Healthcare in Ireland is not great(that’s where I live) and I just feel like I’m all alone in this. Anxiety, yes, I feel it all the time, every single minute of the day. Maybe I should try meditation or Pilates, Yoga is not for me, I tried. And also it seems that right when I’m on the right path with fitness, stuff just gets thrown on top of me which interferes and then I don’t have time for what I enjoy and bad habits come back. It’s just a never ending circle.

  2. Heidi,

    Thank youfor this post and for opening up about your struggles with eating disorders and bulimia. As someone who has suffered from bulimia for 8 years and hated her body for even longer than that, it is honestly comforting to see that someone I look up to so much (and wish I could look like and be on a daily basis) has struggled with the same issues, though I hate that you
    vedealt with that and that anyone deals with it. I would say I’m improving, but it’s a constant battle, especially when I hate everything I see when I look in the mirror. It’s also amazing to me that you were able to overcome these issues and have 4 beautiful children, as I can honestly (and I’m sure selfishly to most people) say that my number one fear of pregnancy is getting fat and not being able to handle it emotionally as I can barely handle eating sweet potato casserole or a cookie at Christmas. It’s something I’m trying to overcome, but it’s very hard as it is such a dificult topic to discuss with anyone. It is comforting to know I’m not alone and that it is beatable in a healthy way. Thank you again. You and Chris are such inspirations.

  3. hi! my name is ilaria, i’m 28 and i come from italy. i write here today ’cause i don’t know what else i can do. I’m always so strict with myself. i let myself eat only those things i think i can eat. like chicken or fish, vegetables. and i weight everything before cooking. but yesterday was one of my best friend’s birthday and she arranged a buffet in a club.. and i tried not to ate but she pressed me and i.. ate.. now i can’t think about anything else.. i just see non-stop in my mind what i ate.. every single piece of food that i put in my mouth and i feel so bad.. so guilty.. i shouldn’t have done.. i shouldn’ t have done.. i shouldn’t have done.. i can’t think about anything else.. i’m just going crazy and i hate myself so much.. i just feel so bad.. i wanna cry.. and i feel so stupid ’cause i understand that i feel so bad about something that shouldn’t be so important.. i mean.. i went through really worst things in my life.. and i thought that all that i went through made me strong.. and this.. how can something so stupid makes me so weak? but i can’t help it.. i feel like i’m losing control.. i wish i could come back in time and didn’t go to the party.. i wish i stayed home.. ate my food.. and felt fine..

    1. Hi Ilaria: Please don’t be so hard on yourself! It’s totally okay to eat treat-type foods from time to time. In fact, in Chris and Heidi’s carb cycling program (part of their total weight loss program), you either have a reward day once a week or reward meals throughout the week, where you get to eat those treat-type foods. Check out this other post on this blog: Try to think of food as fuel for your body, like your car needs fuel to run, and yesterday your body just got a little extra fuel. πŸ˜‰ It really won’t make a difference in the scheme of things. You’re doing great!

  4. Thank you Heidi, I also am a recovering anorexic (I am currently 48 and my anorexia started mid 30’s). Your husband just sent me to this page, because of my question to him on Facebook. I just started bawling reading it. I am realizing that i need to get back into therapy. I am currently 130lbs (my doctors say this). But my fear of falling back has kept me from losing weight. Your article allowed me to see that I still work off of black and white thinking . I am not as recovered as I thought and my key to being healthy will have to come from working on my thought process not how many work outs I do in a week. Thank you so much. If you have anymore thoughts, i would live to hear them.
    Thank you

  5. Heidi,
    Thank you so much for opening up about this.I, too, struggled with this for many years and still find myself falling into the trap from time to time. I admire you and Chris so much. Your lifestyle and family is something my husband and I aspire to be. Keep up the awesome work!

  6. My 16 yr old autistic daughter has night time binge eating disorder. She is currently on topamax for it. She has more than just the autism and binge eating going on as well. She sees a psychiatrist, psychologist, family therapist, dietician and eating disorder doctor. She had lost 65 lbs over a year ago to only gain it all back in less than a year. She is fixated on being skinny she uses those words exactly.I told her no you need to be healthy not skinny. Its not all about how much you weigh its how healthy you can be. I told her its not easy I myself have binge usually stress related. Well after talking with her doctor the other day. They are writing a letter to the school and I will bring it to her IEP next Thursday they are requesting and advising that they find a new placement. Due to all the issues is related to school stress. She already been suspended twice this year. No one believes her side of the story they only believe the other person which is why she never reports the bullying or issues she is having outside of the classroom she don’t trust the staff and she comes and tells us I report it via email because time she gets home no one at school. So obviously they don’t listen I was told that I isolate my daughter from her peers well if they are not being a good friend to her and bullying her and taking her things, scribble out her name on them and claiming it is there. She also been pulling out her hair or constantly rubbing the bald spot she created by time school ends she wont have any hair left. She also had some other issues she also has a mood disorder, adhd and ocd. So she has alot going on and being a teenager and hormones its alot to deal with. I just don’t know how to help her even the doctors seem puzzled. I keep saying she is this complicated puzzle with pieces of this complicated puzzle are missing. Which if we can find the triggers and why she does feel the need to do it. She also says she cant control the eating or the pulling her hair. She did saying the rubbing or pulling her hair helps her calm down so it is soothing to her helps her when she is anxious. It hasn’t been to bad upped the zoloft and being on spring break she isn’t doing it so much but she is bingeing at night and she will drink a half gallon of silk almond milk even though it is 60 calories that is alot of calories at one time. So need to find to reach her and help her before she gets over 200 lbs which she is only a few pounds away and that scares me as I use to weigh almost 320 lbs myself.

  7. Thank you. I know this is an old post but I have thought a lot lately about overcoming my eating disorder. I was bulimic in high school and no longer actively vomit. However, I do have a hard time still eating regularly. This gives me hope that I can overcome the eating disorder once and for all.

  8. I seen your blog and was hoping to get some help with my daughter. Is this the right place to turn to? I am desperately needing help

  9. I am 16 and I definitely have problems with food , but I’m trying to train for a spartan race and I’m so afraid that I’m going to totally fail! I have been doing crossfit and cardio and eating clean , but the last part of the week I always ruin my hard work and progress! It’s inevitable. I am a compulsive eater sometimes and sometimes I have other problems , but I want to finally win! I have 40 days left. That’s all.

  10. I started my weightloss journey in december 2013. I haven’t been in it very long but I’m slowly getting there. I lost almost 20 pounds so far and I’m still going. Babystepts!

  11. Thank you for sharing. I am certain to be in the catagory of having an eating disorder. I began at 306 pounds when I began seriously dieting in June of 2013. I had always been a compulsive eater with addiction to sugar and to salty snacks. Also an emotional eater. At first I began in the healthy way but as my weight decreased I was not happy with the results so I eat less and less, obsess more and more about food I can’t eat, and my self esteem is in the gutter. I have lost 125 pounds now and have more to go. I just wanted to share with you. Blessings<3

  12. Hi, I’m 40 and have come to realize that my reasons for yo-yo weight loss always come back to my bad association with food. It’s a taboo subject in my home, my family wants me to loose weight but when I try to open up and explain how I am struggling it is clear how uncomfortable the topic is. So I try to hold it all in and I feel like I can only share when I am successful or having a “good day”. I have read and read how to deal with it but it hasn’t clicked yet for me, I feel like when I have “that moment” when you can triumph over a challenge I keep falling. I know falling isn’t failing, but what do you do when you can’t get back up or as soon as you do your are back down again. I’m almost ready to throw in the towel but that makes me even more mad at myself. So do I just keep struggling and be mad at failing all the time?

  13. I have struggled with an eating disorder almost all my life. I am a survivor of incest and many other things. If it weren’t for my strong relationship to God through Jesus Christ I would be dead of suicide over and over. I stil struggle with wanting to die at times because it seems so hopeless. I am 63 years old and continually struggle with binge eating. It goes in such a cycle, and always has. There have been times I have been thin and seemingly in control,but it always ended with periods of binge eating and hopelessness. In the last 15 years I have gained 200 lbs and and have tried and tried to lose it….but always ended in failure. And I constantly feel like a failure and hate myself. I know God loves me unconditionally and I have a husband who does too. If not for that I’m not sure I would be here. The hopelessness, the despair, the endless trying and failing. Food makes me feel better but only for a short period, then I feel worse and self hatred sets in fully. I am in therapy but even that hasn’t helped me get over this strong obsession and addiction. I haven’t given up. I’m told I’m a very young looking woman for 63, almost 64. And I am believing for a miracle. Thanks for the blog and article, Heidi and for letting me express myself. Much love to you and Chris and Merry Christmas!

  14. Hey,
    I’m 15, a freshman in high school, but have been affected by multiple eating disorders since I was in 6th grade. Over the course of one summer I had lost 62lbs and was continuing starving and purging. It got to the point where I had a hard time waking up and my mother had to take me to the doctor…..I told her that I would stop… Though I still do it now, I know there is help. And I hope that some day I will be happy and healthy with my body. But if I never get to that point, then I just hope that I can help others.

    Thank you, Heidi and Chris, I’ve been watching your show and getting tips on how to be healthier. Especially Heidi, I consider you one of my role models. You are fit, a mother, and GORGEOUS! I hope I can be just like you when I grow up <3 πŸ™‚

  15. Hi Heidi,
    I too suffer from multiple eating disorders and struggle with them. I wanted to thank you for your courage to talk about it. I understand the pain and frustration about it. When I am financially able, I will be getting help. Thank you again.

  16. Hello… Thanks for posting this article and the work you and your husband do on counseling people that have weight problems and eating disorders…..I have been struggling with the bulimia nervosa all of my life….you can accept the problem but it’s hard and it’s an everyday working..some times it’s easy some time it’s not…but it’s not impossible! it takes some failings to learn how to rise and
    be strong enough to fight…thanks for the support and the info..

  17. Thanks for the info Heidi. It would be helpful for those of us w/ little or no support system to be able to access additional reading materials. My community doesn’t have groups like Overeaters Anonymous, or many therapists specializing in eating disorders. Perhaps in future blogs or on the Facebook pages, you and Chris could recommend some good books or other websites that cover the various eating disorders. Thanks you so much for what you two are doing!

  18. Great article. As someone who is recovering from Anorexia- and I think of it like alcoholism, I’ll be recovering the rest of my life. I’ve been recovering for 7 years, but it’s still a part of my life and while it doesn’t affect me every day, I definitely find myself having to think more carefully about food and, specifically, how I relate to food and my own body image than someone who’s never struggled with an eating disorder before. Thank you for sharing this. One thing I would have added would have been about Disordered Eating- a more mild form of an eating disorder but still hard to heal from.

  19. Good article, but what about EDNOS? EDNOS is just as serious as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder.

  20. I am a binge eater for sure. I have food addictions. I am a self sabotager and I have no clue as to why. I know all the tricks. I don’t drink a lot of soda if any. I have cut out salt. I don’t eat a lot of pasta and breads. I am a sugar addict.

    I just lost 10 pounds and I am finding myself creeping backwards with the mindless hand to mouth exercise. I know what I need to do and I love to exercise although right now it is difficult due to some complications with legs and feet. I have no insurance so I can not go to a doctor to really find out what is going on.

    I keep trying, so I know I am not a failure just a faller!!! I have the support system. I don’t have the sob story that so many have. Finding the professional help in my area is difficult. The morons that I have come in contact with I wonder where they got their degrees.

    I have tried OA and to me that was full of whiners who didn’t want to work out or anything else. I know, that was harsh but that is what it seemed like. ARGH!

    Just my 2 cents….

  21. Hi my name is abbie and im a binge eater I dont know where to start I want a change but I always fall back in to old habits with stress I panic and dont know what to do the stress of being adopted and my husband being in the military and the crazy life we live!!! I m hoping for change.

  22. Although this was a nice article to read, most peoe relate eating disorders with people who are anorexic and who are bulimic. I rarley see people focus on overweight as an eating disorder. I myself never concidered that my being overweight was an eating disorder. I always felt that only if i could be bulimic or anorexic then id loose all the weight and be healthy. I know that sounds ridiculous but that just how i felt. I am 160lbs over weight. Ive tried the lap band twice which both times gave me erosions on my stomach which i was told that the second time i could of died if i waited any longer. That was scary. But now im stuck in my mind i know what i should be doing and how i should be eating, but something always happens and my mind gets triggered to think well if i eat this it wont affect me or if i lost some weight ill think oh i can have that and i wont gain it back and then when its too late i feel guilty when i see the numbers on the scale. I can go on and on, but i know i need help but what stops me is the fact that eating healthy cost money and right now i dont work we only have one income so we do what we can. Hopefully ill get help one day!

  23. I have read this page 3 times everytime I get off the page I find myself right back on thepage reading the article. I admitt that I am a binge eater and I am struggling everydayto do better. My weight is steady going up and my determination is going down.

  24. Ever since I can remember I have struggled with my weight. I too would be influenced by ads and marketing to be skinny. I have dieted since my early teens and would gain the little I lost back plus more. The plus more was in defiance to the fact that my genetic makeup would never allow me to be that classy, sleek, sexy, petite person I so desired. I am 63 and still struggle with self image. I am an emotional eater. I eat when I’m happy, sad, bored….you name it. I would reward myself with food when happy, console myself with food when sad, occupy myself with food when bored…and the list goes on. My husband of 43 has been phenomenal -he has loved me through it all.

    When I hit my heaviest at 350 lbs, I felt like gastric by pass would be my salvation. Boy was I wrong. Sure initially I lost weight even completed a half marathon after training with my sister. You would think that would have had a positive impact, it did but only for a short while. It has been about six years since my bypass and I am distressed to tell you I have gained back half of what I lost. Benjamin Franklin said you should eat to live not live to eat. That was my failing … I lived to eat!

    Last August I very unexpectedly lost my younger brother. An amazing man with an equally amazing wife and three loving boys. It hit me then that life was too short and we never know what day might be our last. I needed to make some changes.

    We recently made a big change. I retired from my job and we moved across country. You see I have five children, seven grand kids ..soon to be eight, and all of them were far away. I now have daily reminders of why I need to get healthy and the start of getting healthy is loosing weight. Not to be the ideal image but to be there when my grand kids give me great grand kids…and I am the only one that can do it! Not some drug or surgery.

    I still battle with my love for food but I find myself asking the question.. Will that food you desire today keep you around to see those great grand children? If the answer is no I make every attempt to walk away. I am not always success but the successes are beginning to win. I have lost about 30 lbs. I have ups and downs but keep reminding myself it took me 63 years to gain it; why should I expect to loose it all in a few months?

    I have diabetes, have had two pulmonary embolisms, high blood pressure, and now due to by pass stomach problems. For me it has to be a permanent lifestyle change. I found my focus. I began a sensible way to loose weight with health in mind. Just since loosing 30 lbs, I am off my cholesterol meds, am in healthy blood pressure range, and off my insulin shots. We never know when it is our time to join the Lord but I want to make the time remaining here with my husband and family the best and longest I can. The beginning to longer life is good health…that is my goal. Keep me in your prayers as I know it will no be easy. I however am going to chose not to be self destructive. I know it can be done and if I lead from the front, my family, some of whom have the same struggles with there weight, my follow.

  25. I like this article and I would like to add something that is not being mentioned: While several eating disorders affect “mostly young/teenage girls” women over 35 tend to go undiagnosed. Women over 35 have to deal with body image issues when re-entering the work place, by choice or difficulties, plus the media and magazines don’t help. Just because we’re older doesn’t mean we’re not at risk.

  26. I just wanted to post to Lori, I was a single mom of a one year old when I decided to get help for my bulimia, most hospitals have a financial help program, I used it when I was pregnant and it pays for the copays and visits! At my hospital it as called medical financial assistance… You just fill out an application in the billing dept normally and once you qualify you’re able to get the help and medical attention you need at little or no cost to you! I hope this helps you start to get the help you deserve! Just know that you’re the only one that can help yourself and you deserve to be happy! There’s plenty of people with eating disorder (including myself) that are there to support you along the way πŸ™‚

  27. This article really opened my eyes. Before reading the comments, I thought anorexia and bulimia only affected teens and young adults. I’m a sophomore in high school and I’ve been struggling with anorexia for the past two or three years. My biggest fear is that when I grow up I’ll still be like this.

  28. Thank you so much for giving me hope that one day I’ll have a normal, happy life without ED. I hope I’ll be able to have children and stop worrying about my weight. The road to recovery is a long, hard one, but I know I deserve to recover. To all people suffering, keep strong and believe you can recover <3 xxxx

  29. I still to this day suffer with Bulimia Nervosa. It actually started in my late 20’s as I am in the US Army and the pressure to stay fit is overwhelming. Being told you can get kicked out or be told your not a good leader because one is 1-3% over their BMI allowed is tough and I developed anxiety and I know it’s not healthy and I try to stop but I just don’t know how. I’ve always struggled with weight. I’m short and hispanic and I’ve never been real thin. Thinnest being 134 and heaviest 198 over the last 12 years. It’s something I badly want to get control of.

  30. Thanks for the informative article…..I’ve dealt with all but Anorexia for the past 40 years. I have a great support group but only a few know of my eating disorders. I’ve never even told my sister. Still feel like a failure at age 57. πŸ™

  31. Thanks Holly. I’ve always thought I was way overweight. Even at 5’3″ and 105. I have been a part of a study group at University of Alabama in Birmingham. The study is to see if accountability helps maintain weightloss. I have successfully lost 12 lbs. I tend to sabbatoge myself. When I lose a few pounds I tend to eat a little more. I won’t give up though. I haven’t been successful at losing weight in a year until now. I have been working on lifestyle changes and feel like I’m making progress toward getting in the most healthy place. I love you and Chris!

  32. Binge Eating disorder… At least I now have a name for what I’ve suffered with and lost to every year of my life… But is there really hope? I live believing there is; but am beginning that’s just part of a fantasy life.

  33. I wanted to say one more thing to everyone who is still struggling with food/weight/eating disorders…please do not give up fighting. Do not lose faith that you ARE strong enough to overcome this. NEVER lose hope. I just read everyone’s comments, and I want everyone to know that I too felt the hopelessness and the exhaustion. The main source of hopelessness for me came from the thought that the very thing I was struggling with (food) was something I actually needed to survive. I couldn’t just ‘quit’ and go ‘cold turkey’. Instead, I had to confront food every single day, and every time I thought about it, and every single meal ahead of me in my life, I felt such a profound emptiness and exhaustion. I didn’t want to confront these issues, these struggles every single day for the rest of my life. It’s so easy to feel defeated, alone, overwhelmed.

    Hope for me came from wanting a different way of living, and having the faith to turn off the inner voices telling me to not eat or to throw up. I wish I could better explain it, but I literally feel like I put my eating disordered mind into a box, locked it up, muffled it, and turned my back on it. My desire to be skinny had finally been ‘outweighed’ by my anger at myself for how much of my life I has lost to my eating disorder. I remember thinking that if eating made me gain weight, so be it. I remember actually making a decision that I would rather be heavier than have my head in the toilet, the bathroom door locked, and hear my kids on the other side of the door needing my help.

    That anger, that determination started me down a new path & a new way of living and eating. It has not been easy nor has it been a straight line. I had set backs and slips, but I didn’t let these slips change my goal of wanting to live a life without an eating disorder. I lost 22 years to my eating disorder, and at the end of the day, I wasn’t willing to let one slip turn that number to 23.

    Here’s what my anger & determination looked like in the beginning: I would slip and binge, but not let myself go into the bathroom. I set my meal schedule when I was feeling strong, and would then force myself to stick to it when I was feeling weak. I made my life as busy as possible, both with kid activities but also activities for me (karate/yoga). I stopped isolating myself. The first year or so of this was more uncomfortable than I can ever explain, because I felt as if I was being pulled between two ways of living.

    Gradually, though, everything became easier, and that’s what I want people to know. It DOES get easier. I had successes, finally, that had nothing to do with being thin or my eating at all. I moved up in karate and eventually got my black belt. I started a business (I’m a pastry chef). I bought a bike and started riding in the PMC (Pan Mass Challenge) which raises money for cancer research and treatment. None of this would have been possible had I stayed locked in my bathroom.

    We are all worth fighting for…we all deserve the time to truly live, experience life, and to give back to others who need our help.

    I hope that Heidi and Chris are able to help spread this message…I completely admire what you do, but what I admire most is that you give the people the gift of hope. xo

  34. I have been treatment for EDNOS (Binge Eating) extensively for the last 6 months. Working with a Eating Disorder Nutritionist for a year. I’m still over 400 lbs! Facing residential treatment. It has been determined that I have had the disorder for 50 years. I’m 57. A long time and lots to work through and lots of diet mentality to un-do but progress is being made. I’m so glad that you wrote about this. We need people like you and Chris to help be advocates to get insurance to cover this type of treatment than pay for gastric surgery!!!! I did that too, lived with it for 13 years, had it reversed. I’m paying $1,500.00 a month for my treatment. Our retirement fund is going down but if I want to live the $$ has to be spent. Please continue to speak out about this!

  35. This is such a good post and yet a hard topic since it hits home. I will be 45 this month and STILL struggle with anorexia/bulimia. Never in my mind would i have thought it would be me. I have found that it’s my “coping” mechanism.I have been hurt so badly in this world and have so much self hate towards myself. kind of embarrassing at my age to go for help. Sad thing is I have faith in the Lord and yet I continue on…just nice knowing i’m not alone.

  36. It’s very true that being “skinny” is not the be all and end all x I have spent 26 of my 34 years suffering in varying degrees with bulimia and anorexia resulting in a very long stay in an eating disorder unit here in the UK x I am thankfully now in recovery although I have done some serious damage to the rest of my body x at 34 I have the bone density of a 70 yr old and suffer with multiple health issues but the excellent thing is , they can disappear once I’m back to healthy which I WILL be x basically I want people to understand the actual seriousness of the “thin is in” culture. We are not all meant to be waifs. Society tells us we will all be happier thinner but it has brought me nothing but wasted years and plenty of pain and misery x embrace who you are, be healthy and most of all be happy being you x thank you so much for highlighting this topic x

  37. Hi Heidi!

    I suffered from Anorexia Nervosa and today marks my 1 year anniversary of starting my ED. Today I am stronger and getting better at controlling my ED thoughts but like most I still strugle everyday fighting back urges and past habits. Its hard because I am now a freshman and college and I got through treatment because I wanted to go to my dream school. The main problem I see with ED is finding the motivation to overcome the thoughts, to stay away from the vicious cycle. If you could email me on tips I would love it! You’re a hge inspiration to me! I recently wrote my ED story for my writing class and she wants me to figure out a way to publish it! Maybe a blog ike yours or in a magazine! Time will tell! But thank you for reaching out to the ED community… an important cause that doesn’t always get enough attention even though its a huge problem in our society!

    XOXO Erin

  38. I can’t believe I’m posting this online because no one knows about me. I’m scared people will find out it’s me with (I used an old email)? But I don’t know if it is an eating disorder and I’ve never said it out loud. I always go between not eating and working out or binge and purging. I’m at my heaviest right now at 130 and am 5’8″. I hate that I can’t control myself
    on Thanksgiving like other people I know can. It is a total obsession and I would never wish it upon anyone. My old roommate used to too but mine now doesn’t and I think that’s why I’m gaining because it’s hard to get away with it. I feel for you all who have posted here. I have no hope for myself because I know the body I want and my competitive nature will take me there. Thank you Heidi for posting <3

  39. I love this article. I myself have been fighting this since I was 12. I am now 35 with two children. I am vegan and workout everyday and am very strict about only eating healthy to an obsessive point. I fear food. I am told I am too thin and underweight but all I see is a person with imperfections. I only eat healthy, no junk but I still have to fight the urge to throw up the fruits and veggies when I fear getting fat. I have finally admitted I cannot do it alone anymore and this weekend finally talked to someone. I have a 13 and 9 year old boys that I have to live for and I have to finally get better. This article could not have come at a better time for me. I am great with my strict vegan diet but I have to finally embrace the fact that healthy one ingredient foods are not the enemy and I will be ok. I also have body dimorphic issues where what everyone else sees and what I see are two totally different things. They see too thin, I see imperfections. I wish I could just shut my mind up and make it stop.

  40. Thanks Heidi! I NEEDED to see this today. I struggled with an eating disorder throughout my teens. Once I became a mother, I stopped. Or so I thought. I haven’t been throwing up after eating “too much” but my eating habits are very much influenced by my emotions. I struggle with my weight. It is on my mind all day. I stress about it constantly. I obsessively weigh myself. That number and what I’m going to do to make it lower is the last thing I think about at night and my first thought in the morning. So clearly I’m not over this eating disorder and I had a meltdown this morning. I needed to read this today. I need to help myself. Thank you for helping me to realize that πŸ™‚

  41. My eating disorder is a roller coaster ride- or a vicious cycle. I haven’t decided yet. I consider myself to be very much like an addict in recovery. Unfortunately I have had many set backs over the last 12 years. I will “relapse” and start undereating or restricting calories in a major way. I have sustained permanent damage from anorexia nervosa. It once got so bad I developed necrotizing gingivitis because my body chemistry was so messed up from starving. (That was about 8 years ago) I have calcium and iron problems from on again off again malnutrition. I haven’t succumbed to the anorexia completely in about 6 years because I have a family including 3 young children who need me to be healthy- I rely on that to keep me in the proper mindset. I want to teach my 3 young girls to have an appropriate relationship with food. I want to teach them they should exercise to be strong instead of focusing on whatever imperfections they might ever see. I want them to love their bodies for what they’re capable of doing instead of criticizing every inch. It’s my sincere hope that all of you who posted here can recover and not feel helpless- we are here for you- you are not alone- *hugs* Chris and Heidi, you are amazing! You’ve inspired me to eat well for my body and exercise daily- it helps so much! Thank you for just being you!

  42. Thank you Heidi for this blog. Also, Alyssa’s story was amazing! It so hit home. When I was a teenager I had a severe eating disorder. I was bulimic and almost died as I threw up so much that I tore my esaphogus and almost bled to death. I was hospitalized for over 3 months and got down to only 87 lbs. Yes I did get help but now 30 some years later I am back to square one. I am over 210 lbs and am only 5 feet tall. My biggest struggle is finding that balance between the eating and exercising and putting myself first. This show today really helped me refocus!! Thank you so much.

  43. Growing up as a young adult, I often would binge eat. However, now in the last two weeks I have gone to the opposite of restricting calories. I hate how I know what it does to my body physically. However, mentally it’s so hard to stop. I feel so lost and out of control. Now with the holidays, I’m even more anxious. I’ve been ashamed if myself.

  44. I am a foodaholic I struggle daily I have a hard time stopping myself and I hate myself for it! I have always been the big funny girl when inside I cry nonstop from a broken heart that you cannot see.

  45. Thank you for sharing about this. You are very inspirational for those of us who have struggled and currently struggle with disordered eating.

  46. I have no one in my life to help me with my eating disorder. I’m 51 years old and can’t find the way out. I don’t have a lot of money to get the help that I need and I just don’t know where to turn. People talk about eating disorders but no one really gives you information on how to get the help that you need if you’re not wealthy. I don’t have a mom or dad or friends to help me with this.

  47. I have been suffering with an ED for just over a year now. I have already done inpatient at a clinic and had a few trips to the emergency room for heart troubles. It eventually lead to severe depression and attempted suicide. Despite everything, I am still suffering. Therapy just isn’t helping me so far. My support system is so limited…I am ashamed of myself. In fact, I hate myself every day. I want to be thin AND healthy. I can’t seem to find a happy medium though. Eating disorders are scary and so, so dangerous.
    I so desperately wish I could learn to be healthy and stay that way.
    Thank you though, Heidi, for shining some light on this delicate subject.

  48. Jacqui- Thank you for mentioning ED-NOS. More than half of patients diagnosed with an eating disorder have ED-NOS (in part because of the rigid DSM-IV criteria for Anorexia and Bulimia) and it can be just as dangerous.

    I have been struggling with ED-NOS for the past couple of years and I’m currently considering residential treatment to try and get this under control. It’s an extremely hard and exhausting thing to deal with and coupled with shame and the common assumption that an eating disorder is a “choice” can make one feel incredibly alone in this battle. Thank you for talking about this.

  49. I had to write as this is a topic that plagued me for close to half of my life. The good news? I got help & was finally able to get better. The reality check? It took a very long time and required more faith and patience from myself, my family & my friends than I can sometimes bare to comprehend. I was hospitalized, and it stayed with me. I was pregnant…three times…and it stayed with me. I went to therapy, took anti-depressants, worked with nutritionists, threw out my scale, bought a new one, and so it went…on & on. In the middle of the summer when everyone was wearing shorts & bikinis, I wore long pants & long sleeve shirts, ashamed because I was not a twig.

    It took a small village to help me get better. One solid therapist. A very patient husband. Two anxious parents. Many true friends. And most importantly, three young children who needed a mother who was present and able to be there for them. I am thankful every single day that these struggles are things of the past for me. I echo what you wrote, and encourage anyone struggling with food to reach out to someone…anyone…for help.

    Never give up.

  50. I am one of those that ate base on how I feel..sometime big appetite and small… or just over eat. but I know what it like to have all those feelings to. I am trying to eat a variety my problem is i dont have enough of everything. I need to eat vegetables. I get what i can afford.

  51. This is why I LOVE the book! Chris has you go through a whole lot of self-evaluation before even thinking about food and exercise. I think a big part of fighting a disorder is looking at the emotional aspect. I also think the steps of fulfilling a small promise helps. That way you don’t try to do too much at once. I also like the way he challenges conventional thinking – that we overeat because we feel bad about ourselves, not feel bad about ourselves for overeating.

  52. I have beat other addictions like I quit smoking over three years ago after smoking for most of my life. This is one I just feel is so hard for me. I live in a town that is over 70 miles from a “normal” store. Getting fresh food is difficult. We can only afford to go shopping once a month which makes choosing food difficult. I make a ton of things from scratch. I have trouble stopping eating in the evening. The morning I can quit when I feel full but something changes in the middle of the day. I need help but I don’t have any resources out here. I feel trapped most of the time. I rely on God a lot to help me get through the day but I fail continually. I just want to be healthy. I have two kiddos and an amazing husband and would like to be around for a while longer. You and Chris have been giving me great tools to keep trying, and I thank you for that.

  53. I am so glad you opened up about your own issues Heidi. This is my second time going through recovery. I think it is a topic that should be discussed more! Thanks for opening up!

  54. It’s kind of a longer story than what I’m posting. But…I’ve been struggling with eating disorders for probably 10 years now. It’s kind of a long story with lots of it including me being in denial about having an ED. I’ve had some super low points – weighing 75lbs about 5 years ago. My parents threatened me with an in house treatment facility but I was so petrified about having to go to 1 that I started eating anything and everything just to gain weight. Unfortunately, that didn’t work and just turned to bulimia. I went through my sophomore year at college with bulimia (while anorexia during my freshman year), lost all my friends (except for two, who have both helped me through some of this), got kicked off my floor at school, and so much more. I basically refused any help I got from professionals because I thought the things they said were stupid. I mean, I’m not stupid and I know WHAT to do…but I needed that someone to MAKE me do the things to help.

    People think I’m better. I don’t think I’m 100%. Mentally, I still have stupid habits regarding my food (eating at certain times of the day, having the same thing at every meal because they’re “safe” to eat in my mind, etc…). Sometimes, when I feel too full, I take laxatives. But really, I’m too embarrassed to buy them at the store…so I stole them.

    It wasn’t really until I read this blog that I realized that what I’m doing to myself isn’t really safe/healthy/whatever.

    I kind of think that I’m a lost cause. But that’s for another day.

  55. Important note, although those three types are the main types of eating disorders a lot of people fall into a category of EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified) like I do. So you may be struggling with an ED even if you don’t fit into any those categories exactly. πŸ™‚ Love you Heidi! Such an important topic. You openness is amazing and you are helping people!

  56. I have tried many times asking for help from family and friends. All I get told is that “you’re a strong person, you can do it” but when it comes to binge eating, I’m not a strong person and anytime time something happens or I start feeling like “what does it matter nobody cares” I find cookies or cakes or something to shove in my face. I just wish someone would take me by the hand

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