I was flipping through a women's magazine when the headline, "Midlife Eating Disorders," caught my eye. The article mentioned – among others across the country – UNC's Eating Disorders Program and how more than half of its patients are women over 30.
I'm in that age category, and all I could think was, "Wow." I always thought that anorexia and bulimia were teenage diseases. Not anymore.
I thought about how my friends who are moms, who after a kid or two often lament the extra pounds. Even those who look fantastically fit will make self-deprecating comments about their weight. As women, we have such distorted body images and such high standards for how we look and how we should be in life. Many women watch what they eat and work out – to be healthy. But how does one end up crossing that line into a full-fledged eating disorder?
I reached out to UNC, Duke and several private treatment centers, hoping to find a woman who struggled with an eating disorder willing to share her story. Many, understandably, did not want to go on-camera with such a private issue. But we did connect with Molly Carrier of Raleigh, who had the courage to talk about her battle with anorexia. The clinic that connected us with her requested that we not ask her about specific numbers – as in, what was her lowest weight or what was her calorie limit. Molly did not want to share pictures of her kids or of when she was anorexic. We respected that. You'll find her words carry the story.
Experts tell us that women with eating disorders fall in three categories: those who had eating disorders as teens, recovered, and relapsed in adult life; those who never recovered; and those who develop an eating disorder later in life for the first time. Molly falls in that last category. What surprised me about adult eating disorders is that vanity is NOT the motivator.
I hope Molly's experience will open people's eyes to what could be happening to their loved one. Most importantly, I hope Molly's story will encourage women who are struggling with unhealthy behaviors to seek help and realize they are beautiful, just the way they are.