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Imagine a world where you encountered your biggest fear, day in and day out, sometimes for hours on end. If you can do that, you can just start to empathize with someone living with an eating disorder. In the United States, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life. Eating disorders are real, complex, conditions that can have devastating consequences for an individual’s health and well-being.

Despite common beliefs, eating disorders don’t discriminate. They affect individuals of all walks of life. Eating disorders can be difficult to understand because no two experiences are exactly the same. While people who have anorexia may share common symptoms, and the same for bulimia and binge eating disorder, even those with shared conditions have very different stories to tell about how they started, and what helped them get to the point of reaching out for help.

Buzzfeed posted an important article highlighting the stories of seventeen eating disorder survivors. Below we captured important moments and revelations about their eating disorders and their recovery:

“Anorexia was like a light switch that lived inside my brain, turned off for most of my life. The stigma surrounding my weight is what turned it on.”

“I will never forget the first time I saw my own reflection without wanting to see less of it. It took years for me to regain control of my life and body, both of which deserved respect and love after having spent years as a battleground. Sharing my story was the first step toward total recovery and remains my personal form of resistance”

“As a transgender man, my body already caused me a great deal of discomfort and emotional pain, and it seemed almost natural to take my stress and anxiety out on my physical self.”

“When I started my recovery, I had lost so much of who I was that, in order to find myself again, I had to start with what I knew: I love the sound of rain through an open window, I love my dog’s sweet kisses, I love how the sun looks in winter.”

“We do extreme things to our bodies because of those numbers. Numbers that cannot talk with us or love us. On March 20, 2014, I threw my scale in the trash.”

“Every meal, I choose to eat and eat well. If I have to do this for the rest of my life, so be it. Recovery is not an easy path, but it is the right one, and the one that takes the most strength to walk down.”

“My eating disorder was an evil, manipulative ‘friend.’ One of those mean-girl characters you see from afar kicking others when they’re down.”

“Secrecy can seem the easier option. But the cost of trying to keep the illness hidden is that the illness is not dealt with fully and has permanent residence in the brain. To remove the stigma that causes much silent suffering, we need more people who have recovered to stand up and show this illness and the community at large that we are perfectly able to recover and live full and rewarding lives.”

“The hardest part about having had an eating disorder was not knowing I had one. As a man and a person of color, I never had the space to be vulnerable and acknowledge my problem.”

“There is nothing in my medical records to say how many years bulimia took hold of my life. Nothing to show how unhappy I was for so long and how it affected me almost every day throughout my adolescence and twenties. No medication or rehab. No family intervention. Bulimia didn’t even change my body shape. Nobody knew but me.”

If you think you or someone you care about is suffering from an eating disorder, take a free, anonymous screening at or reach out to a mental health professional for help.