It is a mental health condition that affects some 30-million people in the United States. Eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia strike both men and women at any age in any walk of life.
39-year old Stephanie Bowling is regaining her strength after struggling with anorexia and bulimia for 28-years. "I've always looked at myself in the mirror and viewed myself as fat always," says Bowling. But Stephanie goes onto say that it started as much more than that. "There were times when I'd stay home from school so I could run up and down the stairs. I hid my not eating from my parents."
Fast forward to just a few weeks ago, when Stephanie says she relapsed very hard back into the disease. "I would throw up for hours at a time to make sure every morsel was out of my body. People don't realize it's not a choice. This is hell, and I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. It's a mental struggle."
Stephanie says for her anorexia is a never ending cycle. A mental illness that is triggered by major life stresses. "In my case, when everything is out of control, the one thing that I can control is my eating. Nobody can tell me what to do. Nobody can tell me I have to eat this, I have to eat that. It's my way of getting control."
Anorexia is a chronic brain disorder that can affect women and men. It causes an extreme fear of not gaining weight. Symptoms include not eating, binge eating and purging, also known as bulimia.
Stephanie's rock bottom came when she hovered around 100 pounds at 5'9. "Some kids were saying some things to my oldest. Is your mom dying. And I noticed people in the community were saying things so I was finally like I have to own this," says Stephanie. So she's undergoing intensive therapy and learning to eat small regular meals filled with healthy foods including protein. Medication can help some patients as well.