Midlife Eating Disorder

By Josephine Atluri, Dir. Business Operations

In our efforts to build a community for our members to feel safe, comfortable, and motivated, the entire BodyBurn team has made a sincere effort to show our members our real selves via our eating habits, exercise routines, and even our personal lives. It dawned on me that as I was pushing this idea of realness upon the team, I had my own real story to share that I had never dared to talk about with others. Our fearless founder, Ray Peleckas, took the bold step of sharing his personal story and it inspired so many, myself included. And so, I find myself finally ready to share a real part of my life - my story about my bout with bulimia. Now that I am in the fitness industry, I feel like it is time to own up to my personal fitness and nutrition struggles in the event that it may resonate with others. So, here goes…

Does this story begin long ago in my teenage days? Actually, no. That’s perhaps what was most surprising to me. I had managed to have a somewhat healthy relationship with food and exercise most of my life. Sure, I had the usual insecurities and body loathing that most girls seem to have here and there, but I never really let it get me down too much. Instead, I focused on my health via regular exercise. Rather, my eating disorder took me completely by surprise when I turned 34!

An extremely long story led up to the fact that I finally had given birth to twins in 2008. I lost a ton of baby weight on my own, but to motivate myself to get in even better shape, I signed up to do a Tough Mudder race in 2011. I enlisted the help of a fantastic trainer and a nutritionist to help me get in the best shape of my life. For those that don’t know me, I’m a pretty competitive person even with just myself. I had set a pretty high fitness goal and had far exceeded that goal. Just look at my back in that pull-up picture. Never in my life had I looked like that. I have to tell you that once you start to lose weight and look good it’s a pretty addictive feeling.

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After race season was over and the holidays had arrived, I had a really hard time managing how to eat “regularly” without fearing that I’d gain back all the weight I had worked so hard to lose. It was terrifying. And that’s when it happened. That’s when the eating disorder decided to rear its ugly head into my life. In my 30’s. I don’t remember the details of the first time it happened, but most times it just happened. It was never something that I planned ahead of time. I’d find myself eating something that I had not allowed myself to eat during my training/dieting time. Once I had eaten something off-limits, it almost seemed like the game was over for that day. I had lost so I may as well just keep eating the “bad” stuff. After a certain point in that bad eating cycle, you just feel so horrible about yourself that you feel compelled to throw it all up. And that’s what I did. For about six months during the holiday season and after. It was horrible, exhausting, lonely and utterly depressing. I hated every moment of it and yet I couldn’t find a way out of the vicious cycle. Perhaps the worst part of the experience was that I felt like a total failure.

On the regular, I’m a pretty optimistic person that doesn’t like to get down in the dumps for too long. Plus, I consider myself a hypochondriac. Disease freaks me out. I needed to do something about this problem. So, after half a year with an eating disorder I had decided enough was enough. Here I was trying to raise three kids under the age of four and I could barely take care of my own health.

It was insanely hard to own up to my problem for the first time to my husband. It’s one thing to live it secretly, but it’s a whole other ballgame to say it out loud to someone you love - someone who thought they knew and trusted you. I do remember that day I told my husband I was awash in guilt, shame, and failure, but honestly, I also felt a great sense of relief. It was such a heavy burden to carry around this secret and to live almost in the shadows as a different person. Knowing that someone who loved me finally knew my secret made me feel better and quite frankly made it easier for me to take the next step to get some professional help.

As I write this, I have to be honest and say that I’m freaked out over how my friends and family will react. However, my worry over sharing this truth is trumped by my need to share this experience in order to reach out to others who may also be struggling with their nutrition and weight loss. Plus, as a a mother to a little girl and the aunt of many nieces it is important for me to impart the importance of proper nutrition and a healthy self image rather than the aim of body perfection. Another piece of wisdom that I can share with others trying to lose weight is to aim for that elusive “balance” that we so desperately try to achieve in all aspects of our lives. When it comes to weight loss, it is important to allow yourself some off days and to try and eat a well rounded diet so that you don’t feel deprived. It is important to be train yourself to eat in a healthy way that is realistic and sustainable over the long term. I’m not a dietician so I’m going to leave it at that.
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I joined BodyBurn by Ray because I love fitness. I love what exercise has done for my well being over the years. I wanted to help people attain that same relationship with fitness that has turned into a lifestyle for me. I hope that my effort to be “real” and share my story will help someone out there. It is possible to overcome a great darkness in your life. And it is indeed possible to have a healthy relationship with food and exercise.

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