National Eating Disorders Association
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Anorexia

When I began my recovery from my Eating Disorder (ED), Anorexia Nervosa (AN), I had a lot of momentum. I was sprinting towards a “recovery finish line” that I had imagined for myself within a self-imposed timeframe of a few months. This was in stark contrast to my 23 years of living with AN. At the 6 month recovery mark, I hit what I thought was a huge roadblock. For the first time in years, my weight had been restored to a point where my periods returned. I had a lot of mixed emotions surrounding this; happiness and excitement, but also distress and fear.

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This one’s to you, anorexia – 

For changing my life. 

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I want to open this with a personal share – 

The other day, I went to post a picture on my recovery Instagram account. I was by the pool – one of the first warm Spring days here in Denver, and I posed with my new swimsuit perfectly positioned – the light-infused filter chosen – and I had my caption ready to go.

“Soaking up rays – living my best recovery life." I planned to write to followers. 

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My eating disorder (”ED”), anorexia nervosa (AN), emerged when I was 12. Over time, like others, I learned to personify and separate the voice of “ED” from my own. “ED” constantly yelled at me, told me that I wasn’t enough, that I needed to count/restrict my calories, over-exercise, weigh myself, and sacrifice everything else in my life for the goal of being thin. EDs run in my family, and along with other disorders, genetically predisposed me to develop one. 

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Resolutions aren’t really my thing. I am all for “clean slates” and “fresh starts” and any other similar optimistic metaphors that apply that help put us in a positive frame of mind where we feel motivated and can make meaningful progress toward achieving a goal. The issue I have, rather, is the word that lies at the root of resolution – resolve – that takes on a particular and, too often, intensely pernicious significance, that operates as a brutal code of self-monitoring, self-denial, and self-punishment for those of us who struggle with eating disorders.  

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Not long ago, I was sitting in a hospital room by myself wondering how I had once again let myself end up in the situation I was in. It definitely wasn’t my first “rodeo” with anorexia nervosa. You see, I knew what was going to happen. I knew where restriction led me, yet somehow my pattern of behaviors kept repeating themselves. 

It was during this short admission that I started to question why I was still sick and why I wasn’t getting better. 

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Eating disorders kill. Eating disorders are a public health crisis. Considered the deadliest mental illness, an estimated 30 million Americans suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their lives.

Content note: Potentially triggering language and descriptions of eating disordered behaviors

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National Suicide Prevention Month is a time when we mourn the loss and celebrate the lives of those who have been taken from us by suicide, as well as raise awareness for the various precursors to suicide: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and other mental health issues. 

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Just like every other human emotion and experience, eating disorders are full of color, chemicals, and different combinations. No two experiences are the same.

I am a self-described overachieving perfectionist, who has cared far too much about everything my entire life. The expectations of my generation are that you’ll be brilliant at everything and it’s terribly important to look wonderful. I have always tackled numerous projects and tasks that would prove me worthy of respect and admiration amongst my family, friends, acquaintances, and society. 

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Saturday evenings were gym evenings.

The wind of the air conditioner beat down on my bare shoulders like rays of sun, the fluorescent light glaring above. Most of the time, I struggled to eat three meals, but didn’t want to miss out on going to brunch in the East Village with friends. I worked out constantly to compensate. Still, a nagging voice in my head told me it’s not enough

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Dr. Lesley Williams is a certified eating disorder specialist, family medicine physician, and positive body image advocate. She co-owns Liberation Center, an eating disorder treatment facility, in Phoenix, Arizona. Dr. Williams is dedicated to ensuring that all women and men who struggle with eating and body image issues receive the help that they need to overcome and live happy, healthy lives.

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