21 Questions is a series of interviews with people who currently have an eating disorder or have recovered from one.  The same 21 questions are asked of each person.  Each interview sketches a picture of someone who has been in the depths of the reality of an eating disorder and is either still working on blazing a path out of it or has gone on to recover. Some of the names used have been changed at the request of the interviewee.   If you would like to be interviewed for this series, please contact us.

Interview with Emily:

Q: How old are you?
A: Twenty-two.
Q: Male or female?
A: Female.
Q: How long have you had/did you have an eating disorder?
A: First diagnosed with EDNOS at age 12 (ten years ago) and struggled with the thoughts ever since, despite being “recovered” and at a healthy weight for a lot of the time in between.

Q: Which one do/did you have, or has it been more than one (anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, EDNOS, compulsive exercising)?

Q: Who in your life knows about your eating disorder?
A: Just about everyone I know knows. It’s not a secret, and I’ve written some blogs/articles about my experiences and shared them on Facebook.
Q: What person in your life was the most helpful and supportive during both sickness and recovery?

A: My mom. She’s always been my best friend, but through all of this recovery struggle, she’s been amazing and always there to talk or listen or whatever I need.

Q: What person that you might have wanted or expected more from was the least helpful and supportive?

A: I’ve been lucky – everyone I know has been very encouraging, and happy to know that I am finally taking steps to get better.

Q: Do you or have you ever sought professional help, such as a therapist, psychiatrist, nutritionist, doctor, support group or inpatient treatment?  Specify which kind of help you had.
A: At age twelve I was admitted to the hospital and spent two months there, being monitored by a doctor and seeing a dietitian regularly.  I didn’t get any psychological therapy though, so nothing really got better at that time. Now, I am in an outpatient program, which includes doctor checkups, dietitian meetings, psychologist appointments, and group therapy.
Q: What was most helpful to you about the help you got?

A: Group therapy has been incredibly helpful in my recovery.  Up until now I’d never had anyone to talk to that understood what I was going through, but I’ve met some of the most amazing people in my therapy groups, and we all are helping each other get through this.

Q: What issue(s) do you feel affected or influenced developing an eating disorder?
A: When I was younger (8/9) I was pretty overweight, and unhappy with how I looked. When I started losing weight it was the first time I received compliments and positive attention, and I wanted more of it. I kept losing weight, and kept getting compliments, until it got to be a big problem.
Q:  Besides yourself, who in your life do you think is/was most affected by how your eating disorder hurt you?
A: My parents.  I know I’ve caused them a lot of worry and stress, and put a lot of strain on our family relationship.
Q: What was the first major breakthrough you had in recovery?

A: I think it just hit me one day that there isn’t really an alternative to recovery. I can get better and get rid of my eating disorder, or I can let it kill me. Harsh, but that might have been what it took to scare me into recovery-mode.

Q: What is/was the hardest truth to accept about what you have to do in order to recover?

A: Having to gain weight. I’ve been in therapy for about four months now, and the thought of gaining weight still terrifies me.

Q: If you could be eating disorder-free for a day, what things would you do?/If you are recovered, what things do you do now that were very difficult when you were still sick?
A: I have no idea- I’ve had an eating disorder for so long I don’t know what life’s like without one, so I can’t really think of what I’d do differently.
Q: What one piece of advice would you give to someone new to admitting they have an eating disorder?

A: Recovery is really, really, really hard, but it’s worth it. I’m nowhere near fully recovered, but I’ve already had little tastes of how much better life is without an eating disorder, and it’s worth every day of fighting.

Q: What one suggestion would you give to a loved one trying to support someone with an eating disorder?
A: Don’t be the food police. Your job is not to be a dietitian and question everything they eat, and it will just cause tension and fighting!

Q:  Do/did you seek support online?  If so, what kind of support and did it help you?

A: I do. I have started writing a recovery blog, and I’ve been reading and commenting on other similar blogs. I find that the online recovery community is very supportive and positive.

Q: If you are sure you will not go back to your eating disorder, what gives you that confidence?/If you are scared you will relapse, what is your biggest trigger?

A: I think right now, where I’m still in the relatively early stage of recovery, it’d be really easy to slip into a relapse. I don’t really know whether I will definitely be healthy from now on, or if I will relapse a dozen times.  Right now I can just take it a day at a time and try my best.

Q: If you have children or plan to in the future, are you concerned about how your eating disorder may affect them?  If you recovered before you had kids, do you think your experience with the eating disorder will help you to better guide your child away from developing one?
A: When I have kids I really want to focus on things other than looks. I don’t want my future daughters to think being pretty and thin is the most important thing in life. Also, I want to make healthy eating habits something my kids grow up with.
Q: Did you read books or workbooks to help with your recovery?  If so, are there any specific ones you recommend?

A: Jenni Schaefer’s book “Life Without Ed” was the first thing I read that made me actually consider that recovery was possible. I still read it pretty often, and I find it helpful when I need to get my thinking back on track.

Q: What song, album or musical artist comes to mind when you think of good music to listen to while trying to make positive changes in your life?
A: I don’t know?

Visit Grace on the Moon, a website for eating
disorders information and recovery:

Photo at top of blog is from the Flickr account
of Mike Licht


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