......Most people know my name and recognize my face. I'm a supermodel. What most people don't know is that I am recovering from an eating disorder.
......Almost all models today are very thin. Early in my career, just like most of the other models I worked with, I was on a strict diet. At some point, though, my diet turned into something else - an eating disorder. I started to allow myself less and less food, eventually eating only a salad or piece of fruit all day. I continued to exercise every day. I lost 20 pounds. And I still thought that I was too fat.
......Soon I noticed changes about my body. I stopped having my period. My hair got brittle and started to fall out. I had dark circles under my eyes. I was always exhausted. I was often dizzy and my heart beat very fast at times. These symptoms worried me, but I continued to diet and exercise because I still looked in the mirror and thought I looked fat.
......My friends and family members started to get worried about me. I denied having a problem; after all, it is not uncommon for models to diet and exercise. I found myself lying to my friends and family members about how much I ate. I told myself that they just did not understand that it was something I needed to do to be a good model. I pretended that I was happy and healthy.
......In reality, I was depressed and starting to get scared about my health. Finally, my mother and sister did something that saved my life. They confronted me about my eating disorder and told me I had to go see a doctor.
......When I first went to my doctor, she explained to me how sick I was, that I could even die if I continued to limit my eating. She referred me to a psychiatrist who specializes in eating disorders. Since then, I have been working with the psychiatrist, my doctor and a nutritionist.
.....Recovery has been a long process. I still have a long way to go, but I have gotten better about seeing my body in a realistic way and eating a healthy diet. Admitting that I have an eating disorder and seeking treatment has been the biggest challenge I have ever faced.
> WHAT IS AN EATING DISORDER?
......People with eating disorders are obsessed and struggle daily with their weight and the way their bodies look. There are two main types of eating disorders: anorexia and bulimia.
......People with anorexia have fear of gaining weight, even though they are actually underweight. Some people with anorexia limit the food they allow themselves to eat. Others force themselves to vomit or use laxatives, enemas or diuretics (pills or other preparations that cause fluid weight to be lost through excessive urination).
......People with bulimia binge eat (eating more in a certain time period than most people would eat in that period) and then use some method to try to prevent themselves from gaining weight. Binge eaters feel a lack of control over what they eat or how much they eat.
> WHO GETS EATING DISORDERS?
......In the United States, eating disorders are more common among young Caucasian, Hispanic and Native American women, and less common among African American and Asian women.Most often, people develop eating disorders while they are in their teens or early 20s. Women and girls are more likely to have an eating disorder than men and boys.
.....Certain groups of competitive athletes (such as female long distance runners and gymnasts and male bodybuilders) are more likely to develop eating disorders.
.....Many individuals with eating disorders also suffer from another psychiatric illness, such as depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, substance abuse, anxiety or personality problems. People with eating disorders often report a history of psychological, physical and/or sexual abuse.
> HOW ARE EATING DISORDERS TREATED?
......Recovering from an eating disorder is difficult and takes time. Needs to work with a psychiatrist for many years to develop a healthy body image and eating habits. Without treatment, eating disorders can cause permanent damage to your body, impair your work and social life, and they can even lead to death.
......Family therapy or couples therapy might be used to help heal and improve relationships with family members. Support groups and 12-step programs can help prevent a person who is recovering from an eating disorder from relapsing into unhealthy behaviors.
......Studies show antidepressant medications can help reduce binge eating and purging for people with bulimia. These medications should be part of a comprehensive treatment plan. Antidepressants generally are not used for people with anorexia during nutritional rehabilitation.
......People with eating disorders are obsessed with their weight and the way their bodies look. Both their eating habits and the way they try to control their weight are unhealthy. Without treatment, eating disorders are dangerous and can even be deadly. With treatment and the help of a psychiatrist, however, person with eating disorders can change their unhealthy behaviors, understand and change the thoughts and attitudes that led to their eating disorders, regain their lost lives, and prevent relapses in the future.
The American Psychiatric Association is a national medical specialty society whose more than 38,000 physician members specialize in diagnosis, treatment, prevention and research of mental illnesses including substance use disorders. Visit the APA at www.psych.org and www.HealthyMinds.org.