People recovering from eating disorders say treatment is hard but there is hope

    Marybeth Saunders talks about recovering from an eating disorder. // WSBT 22 photo

    "Come as you are." That's the message during National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

    We're in the middle of that week right now.

    Eating disorders are pretty common. Millions of Americans will struggle with an eating disorder at some point in their lives.

    It doesn't discriminate; eating disorders affect every age, gender and ethnicity.

    People recovering say treatment is hard, but there's hope.

    Marybeth Saunders is recovering from an eating disorder. Her struggle started when she was just five or six.

    "I would hide in the pantry and eat as many Oreos as I could," said Saunders.

    Binging was a way for Saunders to cope. She says she and her sisters -- who also developed eating disorders -- were sexually abused by their babysitter's husband.

    "We had a very troubling childhood. On the outside, we looked perfect," said Saunders.

    That was a facade Saunders wanted to keep

    "It was my job to make everybody OK. So, I was the clown, I joked around,” said Saunders.

    But she comforted herself by eating.

    Dr. Michelle Mannia, a certified eating disorder specialist, says that's pretty common.

    "Usually there’s some sort of underlying concern, whether that’s anxiety, depression, self-worth, trauma,” said Mannia.

    Mannia says treating those underlying causes is key to treating an eating disorder.

    Saunders says she reached a point where she knew her eating habits were a problem. But she didn't ask for help.

    "I was going to, as my dad said, pull myself up by my bootstraps and just get this thing licked by myself and I really thought I had,” said Saunders.

    Then, her sister Rebecca died of complications from anorexia. Saunders started writing her show "GUTS: The Story of BooBoo & Me."

    Not long after, Saunders' sister Havron also died from an eating disorder, which inspired Saunders to actually perform the show just months later.

    "That was a start, that was a beginning,” said Saunders.

    It was a start toward recovery. Saunders surrounded herself with support and love, but even that wasn't enough.

    "After all of this intelligent work that I did, self-knowledge and all of this stuff, anorexia took me down," said Saunders.

    Now, Saunders is fighting again.

    Mannia says there are lots of resources.

    "Whether that’s through therapy or a dietician or physician. They can connect you with the treatment team that you need," said Mannia.

    If you're seeking help, Saunders says don't go alone.

    "There is hope," said Saunders.

    30 million Americans will struggle with an eating disorder at some point in their lives, so you really aren't alone.

    If you think you need help, click here for more information.

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