Eating Disorders--Interviews and Facts by Leyla Khastou

Growing up I have had a number of friends who have shared their struggles with eating disorders with me. I have seen friends hide their eating disorders and I have had friends who wanted and needed to talk about their eating disorder as part of their healing process. I decided to use the wiki is a way to share some of the interesting things I have learned about eating disorders through other online sources as well as through personal stories.

Before getting into the interviews and facts, it is important to know the difference between the major types of eating disorders:


Anorexia Nervosa: A serious, potentially life threatening disorder that is most often characterized by self starvation and extreme weight loss.

Binge Eating Disorder: An eating disorder not otherwise specified that is characterized by recurrent binge eating without measures used to counter the binging (i.e. purging).

Bulimia Nervosa: A serious, potentially life threatening disorder that is characterized by a cycle of binge eating and counter actions such as induced vomiting or laxatives to undo the effects of binge eating.

Exercise Bulimia:
A subset of bulimia in which a person is compelled to exercise compulsively in an effort to burn off calories from eating to an excess level that negatively affects their health.
Eating disorders tend to be a private issue and because of this, it is sometimes shocking to realize how many people suffer from anorexia, bulimia, disordered eating and obsessive exercising. Below are some facts and numbers about eating disorders in the U.S (from nationaleatingdisorders.org & http://www.nedic.ca/knowthefacts/statistics.shtml).

  • As many as 10 million females and 1 million males are fighting an eating disorder.
However, this number does not include the many that do not report eating disorders and those that have disordered
eating attitudes and behaviors.
  • Up to 80% of women say they are unhappy with their appearance.
  • Only one third of people with anorexia nervosa receive mental health care.
  • 40% of newly identified cases of anorexia nervosa are in young women aged 15-19 years old
  • Four out of ten American’s have suffered or know someone who has suffered from an eating disorder
  • 42% if 1st-3rd graders want to be thinner. 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat.
  • The death rate for anorexia is 12 times higher than the annual death rate due to all other causes combined in women 15 to 24 years old
  • 8% of women suffer from anorexia or bulimia
  • Eating disorders are the third most common chronic illness in adolescent girls
  • 3% of women will be affected by eating disorders at some point in their life
  • Among female athletes eating disorders are reported to be between 15% and 62% (!!)
  • 52% of girls begin dieting before age 14
  • 71% of adolescent girls wish to be thinner despite only a small proportion being over a healthy weight
  • In one survey, young girls said they were more afraid of being fat than they were of developing cancer, nuclear war or losing their parents
I had two friends gracious enough to share their experiences with me and those that view this site. For both of them, writing and talking about their eating disorders was a positive experience. Below are their responses (in some cases abbreviated) to some of my questions about their struggles with an eating disorder and a compulsive exercise disorder.

ASHLEY'S* STORY

Describe when you first noticed your disordered eating? Did you know you had an ED as it was developing?


"The first thing that sticks out in my memory is when I was in 7th grade and visiting my grandparents in Florida. It was around Christmas time, and there were tons of York Peppermint Patties on a platter that my grandma had gotten from her friend. I was just munching away on them, as though I had not a care in the world. I bet I ate about 15 mints, which as you know was/now is again pretty typical. Well, for some reason I decided to look at the nutritional value on the packet. I calculated how many calories that was, and something clicked. I freaked out. I started doing sit ups and push ups right in my grandma’s living room and must have gone on doing them for about an hour, convinced I needed to burn those calories or I would somehow get fat. This was completely irrational, and nothing was really an impetus for this thought process, but nonetheless, this is what I thought…"

"[My senior year in high school] I stopped bringing a lunch to school, and would have my friend make me a PBJ – I would break off the crusts and eat only that, with a little thing of skim milk. For breakfast, I would have some cereal…I can’t remember what I did for dinners, but I am pretty sure I continued eating around my parents and family. Also, I was playing two varsity sports, plus year round basketball, so I was pretty hungry. I certainly was conscious of the food I ate at dinner – nothing fatty, nothing bad for me, no sweets, no junk food."

How did athletics fit in the picture with your eating disorder? Did it contribute to the development of your ED? How was it affected by your ED?


"My basketball coach had noticed my weight, starting my sophomore year of high school, actually. He was the only person to call me out on my weight – he told me that if I didn’t start eating more, he wouldn’t be able to play me. So I ate, because I wanted to be on the court. It still wasn’t a big problem as of yet (that wouldn’t come until senior year) but it was definitely there. I continued playing sports all through my senior year of high school, even though my weight was low and I had little energy. I managed to eat enough to be fit for basketball – it was my senior year and I recognized that if I didn’t eat, I wouldn’t have energy to play, and would be as good a player as I knew I could be. It was when basketball ended that things got bad. I felt really lost – I had played competitive basketball since I was 8 years old, and suddenly that structure, camaraderie and athleticism was out of my life. I was going far away to school. I felt like everything was out of control. I felt like no one could understand what I was thinking or feeling, so I didn’t bother to try to get them to. "

What do you think were some of the significant propagators of your ED?


"I’m not really sure. There was nothing specific that made me think “Oh my god! I am so fat! I need to stop eating!” It was really a slow process, with me eventually finding myself in a real low, and realizing “CRAP, this needs to stop now.”

Are there certain situations when your ED behavior comes back/becomes more intense? How do you stop it from becoming an issue?

"Anytime people are struggling with eating issues themselves, it’s hard for me to watch. It’s also difficult because it makes me think about my eating patterns more often. I can’t live with people who have issues with food…it’s too hard on me. The way I prevent it from becoming an issue is to step back, recognize that my thoughts are irrational, re-explain to myself the reasons that being anorexic were so horrible, and realize I definitely do not want to go down that road again."

What challenges do you currently face as a result of your ED?

"When I’m stressed, my first reaction usually has something to do with food – “Well, as punishment for x, y, z, I’m just not going to eat that. In fact, I’m just not going to eat dinner. So there.” Usually, I realize this is ridiculous and absurd and just eat anyway. But the thoughts are still there. The usual body image issues that most women have."

If you could pass along advice to someone going through the same situation, what would you say?

"I would tell them that time heals everything…which is think is both the best and worst advice one could get. Of course, no one wants to hear that getting over an eating disorder only comes with time, but that’s really the truth. My dad said something that was so profound to me when I was working through my eating disorder. I was frustrated that things weren’t getting better as fast as I wanted them to, and my Dad said, “Ashley, this isn’t something that just appeared overnight, and it’s not something that’s going to go away overnight either.” Some of the best perspective I’ve ever been given…"

KARA'S* STORY

What do you think were some of the significant propagators of your ED?

"Working at the weight loss camp was one of the biggest factors for my exercising habits. I have always had this negative body image and low self-esteem. The camp gave my confidence a boost and was the engine to manifest what I was struggling with. This gave me the motivation and drive to avidly go to the gym on a regular basis. […] I believe other big factors are all the changes I have recently endured in the past year and a half. I just moved away by myself from everything I know to a city I have never been to before or know anyone. I ended a 5-year relationship with a man I loved more than anything due to trust issues. I graduated from college without an idea of what I want to do with the rest of my life. Because of these experiences and circumstances, I have a lot of stress in my life. In order to prevent it from eating at me, I exercise. Exercise is the only outlet I know that helps lower my stress levels. It makes me feel better about myself and the issues I am dealing with. I’d much rather feel physical pain from exercising too much than emotional pain."

How did athletics fit in the picture with your eating disorder? Did they contribute to the development of your ED? How was it affected by your ED?

"Certainly athletics have contributed to my excessive exercising. I have played soccer all my life which involves a tremendous amount of running. During college, my team would work on in the gym in the morning and practice for two hours in the afternoon. I was exercising just as much as I was studying. The only difference is this excessive exercise only occurred during the fall season. During all other seasons, I would exercise once a day, five days a week. Playing sports created pressure to stay in shape. There was never any time to let myself go because I played all year round. Because I exercised consistently, I always had plenty of energy when it came to game time. I believe being disciplined when it came to exercising led me to become the successful soccer player I was throughout my college years."


What challenges do you currently face as a result of your ED?

"My legs are always in a significant amount of pain which results in extremely uncomfortable workouts. I have lost a lot of flexibility, which makes it challenging to stretch. Another challenge I constantly face is the ability to participate in all-day activities. Often times I will not participate in something that takes all day in order to fit in a workout. "

Are there certain situations when your ED behavior becomes more intense? How do you stop it from becoming an issue?

"My ED behavior becomes heightened when I eat an excess amount of food or something unhealthy. If I binge one night, the next morning I will be at the gym doing cardio until I burn the amount of calories I took in. I force myself to have an extremely intense workout which I look at as punishment for eating too much food. "


If you could pass along advice to someone going through the same situation, what would you say?

"I do not have any advice because I am still battling this. If I knew what to do, I would stop this behavior immediately."

*Names were changed to protect the privacy of the individuals

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