Summary of my eating disorder history and recovery

Updated: Nov 27, 2021

I cover some of this in my Eating Disorder Recovery Story interview with therapist Kiki Attonito:

Overview of how I got an eating disorder

When I was 15 I did cross country and lost my period. I saw a nutritionist who upped my calorie intake and within a few months got my period back. I had no anorexic behaviors.

Then when I was 17 I started having bad reactions to food, which turned out to be then-undiagnosed food allergies which included wheat. I restricted food in my attempt to feel better. I lost weight and developed anorexia, the most significant symptoms being food restriction and hyperactivity. I entered a family-based eating disorder treatment program. It was a very negative experience that actually worsened my disorder.

It was only when I was 22 that I discovered Dr. Shan Guisinger’s Adapted to Famine theory. With the biological understanding it provided I finally recovered mentally and physically.

This whole time I never identified with being “anorexic” until when I was 22 and realized all my behaviors were explained by Dr. Shan Guisinger’s work, which approaches anorexia from its biological basis. I finally realized I was anorexic, and that the way most doctors define anorexia, as being marked by a desire to lose weight and look skinny, was wrong.

Dr. James Greenblatt, Chief Medical Officer of Walden Behavioral Care’s eating disorder programs, puts it very well. He describes how:

Anorexia is a biological brain-based illness, highly genetic, sustained by starvation and malnutrition. Starvation and malnutrition disrupt normal brain function in ways which trigger evolutionarily adaptive behaviors. Anorexia is not just a psychological disorder only caused by psychosocial factors. Treating it that way has lead to the many failures we now see. 50% of patients relapse a year after traditional treatment and 25% still have symptoms 10 years after treatment.

Now I’ll describe more about what it was like when I first got anorexia at 17. I was different from many females in that growing up I always wanted to appear bigger and stronger than I was. I’m naturally skinny. Starting in middle school people, like this one teacher I remember, would comment on how skinny I was. People would literally do things like grab my wrists, which made me feel extremely self-conscious.

At 17 my eating behavior changed when I started getting symptoms after eating, like brain fog and intense sleepiness. I basically felt like I’d been drugged and it was really hard to think straight.

I cut things like carbs because online reading told me that might be the cause. It was 2016 then and I went on the fad “keto diet” which I know now is the exact opposite of what one should do to be healthy. Only years later did I get allergy testing which revealed that I’m allergic to some very common things like wheat and gluten, which were the culprits.

Restricting food led to me losing weight, and suddenly I became very hyperactive. I was exercising all the time, moving constantly. I went to the gym daily and exercised before and after each meal. I did this to try to combat that constant brain fog which I was getting.

I really wished I could be in a bigger body. I didn’t do much cardio - I focused on strength-building activities. But those morphed into cardio activities which I found helped fight off those post-meal coma-like reactions.

I have more articles on my eating disorder recovery story on and in the About page.