Dublin mother shares her multi-year battle with anorexia and bulimia

DUBLIN, Ga. -- Ally Maree of Dublin is one of many eating disorder survivors to battle with both anorexia nervosa and bulimia.

"I had two kids. They were eight and the baby was one. And my life just spiraled so much out of control that I didn't even know I was dying," said Ally.

The anorexia started at 13. The bulimia followed two years later.

"I would run water to hide the sounds of throwing up. I would use a toothbrush. I would use anything but my fingers because I learned that using your hands, your teeth scrape, leave scars. So I would put a pen in my back pocket when I was in school," Ally said.

And the trigger for these disorders? A troubled childhood.

From there she said things took a turn for the worse. For five years she struggled with bulimia and anorexia over a decade.

"It took me almost to die to learn," Ally said.

We spoke with licensed therapist and eating disorder specialist, Mary-Catherine Riner of Macon, about what symptoms characterize bulimia.

She said it starts with a binge, often followed by some form of ridding yourself of that binge.

"It could be purging, meaning vomiting their food up. It could mean using laxatives, it could be fasting, it could be excessive exercising," Riner said.

And according to Riner while anorexia and bulimia are two separate disorders, they can often come hand in hand.

"Bulimia is more like an act of anger. So they want to expel it, or cleanse themselves of something inside that feels yucky or disgusting or gross," Riner said.

One common misconception is that people with an eating disorder have to be thin.

"People with bulimia are typically in their normal weight category or zone,” said Riner. “They typically have their normal menstrual cycle. That doesn't change. Other myths might be that it only affects people in their teenage years or college years whereas you see bulimia across ages from typically as young as ten to as old as 60.”

And according to Riner, bulimia is infecting a good portion of our population, with 15 percent of middle school and high schoolers, and 25 percent of college students in the United States impacted.

For Ally, recovery from bulimia started at the age of 20, when she became pregnant with her first child.

But the anorexia remained.

"Morning sickness took care of bulimia,” Ally said. “But the not knowing you have to eat to have a healthy child is something I could not get my, like I knew in this part of my brain that I have to eat, I have a baby. This part of your brain is like no."

It wasn't until she met her now-husband, when she was 28, that she began healing from anorexia.

She said at 5 foot 6 and only 80 pounds, he convinced her to see a doctor.

"When that doctor told me that day, ‘You have 48 hours to live. Get it together. Either by hospital or on your own but you better get it together because you're going to leave your children motherless.’ That's when. That's what woke me up. I'm going to leave my babies," Ally said.

From there, Ally said with the help of her husband, she took baby steps to recover.

"I did take a bite," Ally said. "And he was happy. And that's all I could do. Then the next time we ate, I ate a little more."

And seven years later, her anorexia and bulimia is fully in remission.

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