When and How Did You Learn about Eating Disorders?


The Story Book LACMA 40.12.40What's your story? When did you learn that the way you related to food meant you had an eating disorder? How old were you? How did you find out?


I read a fabulous list of eating disorder education opportunities in Robyn Hussa's blog post: 20+ Ideas for Re-Shaping Eating Disorder Programming in Schools and Universities.  

I wonder how your life and mine might have played out differently if, when we were children, we or the adults in our lives had access to the information on Robyn's list.

Robyn is a tireless advocate for eating disorder prevention through education and focuses on bringing information to schools. 

Your current age plays a role in your answers to my questions because only in the past ten years has
true momentum built in our society to educate adults and children about the many forms of eating disorders and eating disorder recovery options. 

Some of my older patients didn't know that what they had been doing for 15 or 20 years indicated an eating disorder until they were in their thirties. No information was available or accessible to them.  In many cases the information wasn't known.

Bulimia was "discovered"  and described in 1976 by researchers,  Boskind-Lodahl and Gerald Russell, working at the Royal Free Hospital in London. It has since been recognized as an eating disorder, with a DSM IV description, by the American Psychiatric Association as of 1980.

You might appreciate some of the opportunities Robyn offers on her list.  Perhaps you can fill in some information gaps you still have about the nature of eating disorders, what it takes to recover and how you can help bring eating disorder education to other.

Back to my original question:  What was it like for you before you knew you had an eating disorder?  When and how did you find out you did have an eating disorder?  And how did you feel when you found out?


NORMAL:  National Organization to build Resilience and Mindfulness through Arts Learning, founded by Robyn Hussa, MFA, RYT

Robyn's latest film is SPEAKING OUT ABOUT ED.

*pix The Story Book oil on canvas 1877, Artist William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825–1905)
Current location: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Credit line: Mary D. Keeler Bequest (40.12.40)
This file is in the public domain because it has been released by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art with its "Public Domain High Resolution Image Available" mark.


0 # Before I knew I had an ED, I thought I wPTC 2011-11-15 12:38

Before I knew I had an ED, I thought I was just on a diet. I don't know how long I believed that for, because I guess I sort of knew in the back of my mind that it was more than a diet because I kept it a secret.

I guess I'm not really clear when I realized it was more than just a diet. I knew I was obsessed with everything ED related and was very obsessive. Maybe it wasn't until college that I started to realize that it might be a problem but didn't feel like it was "that bad."

I still don't think it's that bad so I feel like I don't have a "real eating disorder."

I remember taking the EAT test at a health expo and I scored a high mark, and the woman suggested I talk to someone. I didn't, but thought that maybe I did have an ED.

I guess I don't really have an answer to your question.

0 # my mother was a "feeder" - throughout myshh 2011-11-15 13:59
my mother was a "feeder" - throughout my childhood she was always dieting and when she dieted she used to feed me all the treats that really she wanted for herself, and used to get quite upset/angry if I didn't want them so naturally, to please my mother I ate whatever it was that she had bought especially for me.
By the age of 6 or 7 I was pretty overweight and she started to put me on diets too...and so I spent my life from that point on either on a pretty restrictive diet (it was the norm for diets to
restrict to 800 cals back in those days)or being emotionally blackmailed with copious amounts of food by my mother...and so that was my norm - lose a substantial amount of weight, then regain it again twice as quickly and with a bit more on top.
By the time I was 25 I was so desperate to lose weight and keep it off that I hired a personaltrainer 3 times a week, and got fixated with the gym...

I'd go 7 days a week, for 3hrs at a time, and felt bad if anything got in the way of my going...I lost over 60lbs in 3 months, but this was quickly followed by a gain of 80lbs in the 3 months that followed!I was so cross with myself, but I started to suspect at that point that this wasn't "normal"..

.it was in the year that followed that I came across Joanna Poppink 's 'Triumphant Journey' online -
I read it and wept, so much of it was me. At the time it was the ONLY literature I could find that suggested that anything other than anorexia and bullimia could be an ED....and as a result I found it easy to remain in denial, can carry on in the only way that I knew. It was only after the birth of my first daughter, when I was 31 that I dared to suggest to my physician that I needed something more than dieting to sort out my weight issues...we still never mentioned EDs as such, but I was referred to an ED clinic, where I was assessed and told that my probs were mild and that I didn'tneed therapy, but they would let me see their dietician...
3 years later they agreed to refer me for CBT,but I ended up putting things on hold whilst I had my 2nd child... ...and it was only last November, aged 38 that I started seeing a clinical psychologist..
and at some point early in 2011, as turned 39, I forced myself to stand in front of the mirror and say "I have an eating disorder"
0 # Life was "normal" as far as eating was cJan 2011-11-16 03:45

Life was "normal" as far as eating was concerned - I was always healthy and ate well- never had any thoughts around food at all -

When I started secondary school i felt very out of place and out of my depth... i came from a small primary school to this large secondary school and the out of place started to show when i didn't feel "normal" i just couldn't fit in-

I was very shy to a point of being unable to speak i class etc -

during this first year my stepmother passed away and I felt "indifferent" about that indifferent because everyone else was upset and I had mixed feelings as she stole my dad's attention away from me and that was really hard for me to accept!

I really have no idea how my ED started only that i read somewhere that by pushing a toothbrush down my throat I could make myself vomit ?!

This must have given me a "high" on some level as I suddenly felt better about my life - i started restricting my eating and was mesmorized with my new environment how people could eat so many things and be skinny.

I remember buying my first size 12 jeans and feeling sooooooo good- I wasn't really fat so people told me just "Well built" for my size and height - the rest is history I got down to size 6 and ended up in hospital!

It took a long time before I was in any state to acknowledge I had an ED - I was just completely in "survival" mode - coping day to day with this way of living...

It's always been there and have always been "Healing it" now am doing it step by step in my own time with full awareness....and sometimes its hard without the support i would really love to have .........

0 # Thank you, PTC, Shh and Jan. These storipinkjoanna 2011-11-16 18:23
Thank you, PTC, Shh and Jan. These stories are powerful and grouped together I believe have a healing force for others.

Here's mine:

I didn't know I had an eating disorder until I was a psychology student at UCLA. I received a flyer inviting me to a lecture where the discovery of a new illness, bulimia, would be discussed.


I was terrified to go. I felt that I would have a B on my forehead and everyone would know. I didn't feel relief that what I did had a name. I only felt fear of exposure. sigh. Eating disorders create such tragedy. Sometimes I believe that getting on the recovery path is more difficult than the actual recovery work.

My first sense of hope came when I heard Jane Fonda say on television that she suffered with bulimia. I believe she was the first person to go public with the illness.

I know now that her revelation sent me into an altered state of consciousness, but some of what she said got through. I saw that at least one person could reveal her condition and remain intact. It was a start, although I didn't begin my committed recovery work for another three years.
0 # My mom was always on a diet. I would snetracy 2011-11-16 18:43

My mom was always on a diet. I would sneak her diet "candy" when she wasn't looking. I was probably 5 or 6.I didn't know what it was at the time.

I was a plump child and teen, and I remember feeling fat and out of place among my friends. Looking back now my weight was probaby within or just above what would be considered normal on weight charts.

I was a cheerleader, a good student, a perfectionist.

I remember going days without eating as a teen. I would think about losing weight all the time, but rarely did anything drastic.

My college roomate introduced me to laxatives. I also started exercising alot. 10 years later I was still using laxatives and throwing up. I lost a lot of weight.

By this time I knew the terms bulimia and anorexia, and my psychiatrist diagnosed me with bulimia. With the help of therapy and some prozac, I was able to get this obsessive thought process under "control". I was doing pretty good until the past couple of years.

My dieting has gotten really out of control the past 6 months. I rarely purge, but don't eat more than 600 calories a day. I am not underweight so I am not anorexic, I don't purge so I am not bulimic, so I guess I would say I have disordered eating.

What concerns me is the impact I fear I am having on my oldest daughter. She is very observant of my eating habits and I have to watch this around her. I do not want her to develop an eating disorder. It would break my heart.

I don't see her talking about anorexia or bulimia or eating disorders at all, nor do I hear her friends talk about weight. She is in 5th grade. However, in my 4 year old daughters gymnastics class I overheard 3 young girls who appeared to be about 7 talk about who weighed more amongst them.

This conversation shocked me a little. My four year old said to me one day that her legs were too fat.

I think as mothers we can be as big of a triggering factor to our children than their peers when we constantly demean ourselves and talk about being fat...the magazines we have laying around the house...the diet foods in our refrigerator. I would have to say that my kids are the biggest motivator in my attempts to change my view of food.

How do I feel about having an eating disorder?

I feel out of control..and I feel controlled. It's an obsession I deal with from sun up to sun down.

It's guilt at times, it's triumph at times. I am scared to get better, but I know I have to...

I tell myself I will quit if I just lose a little more weight...then that weight isnt good enough. I promised myself I would buy a watch I wanted after losing 25 more pounds...i lost it plus more...but I didn't feel I deserved I didnt buy it.

I will be ok. I am strong and have my kids to keep me above water. One day I will be better.

0 # Dear Tracy,Thank you for sharing thipinkjoanna 2011-11-18 16:03
Dear Tracy, Thank you for sharing this window into your life with an eating disorder. Are you trying to recovery on your own? I hope you are working with a therapist who understands eating disorders. You know by now that all the promises, attempts at will power, presents and vows do not stop eating disorder behavior. The issue is not about stopping. It's about healing. And for mothers, as you so movingly say, it's about stopping the legacy so your children do not develop an eating disorder. I hope you find yourself a good therapist who can help you. Until then, please look at my book, Healing Your Hungry Heart. I wrote it specifically with the adult woman in mind. So I wrote it for you. If you read it and spend at least one week on a chapter, doing the exercises every day, you will begin to find your recovery path. Please let me know how you are doing.
0 # Thank you, Joanna. Yes,I do have a wondmylifex2 2011-11-18 20:13
Thank you, Joanna. Yes,I do have a wonderful therapist who is also a psychiatrist. I see her for an hour atleast twice a month. She is very knowleageable in the area of eating disorders. I feel safe communication my issues with her. I have gotten a copy of your book this week. I am taking it to my appointment next week. I want to make sure my therapist will work with me through the book.
Tonight I was at the grocery store with my 4 year old. As I was picking out cans of cat food for my very picky cat, I glanced over at her as she was holding a can of cat food herself. She was looking at the back of the can where the nutrition label is..she cant read, keep in mind, but she said "No, I can't buy you, you have 100 calories"...and I watched her put it back. My heart broke. I didnt realize how I must sound, look ,act everyday. I am so scared to get fat. I feel like a bad mother because I feel I am putting my needs above theirs. I don't know. I think I write here too much, but I am struggling so hard and it helps just to write sometimes. I am not seeking your response. I am not borderline, seeking attention, or wanting pity from anyone. I don't self-injure, drink or use. In fact, I am also a therapist. I work with patients everyday. I think it is harder sometimes because I am afraid to let other people know how bad things have gotten. I recently did confide in a very close friend and told her that I am doing poorly again (she knows about my past history). I sometimes think I need a break from this very demanding job. I need to do something. My back hurts, my heart pounds and I often feel like the floor is going to come up and hit me in the face. I am scared to start this work yet again...but I also remember how good life can be in I scared. Thank you for your dedication to all of us with your posts and personal insight :-)

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