Shira’s story

Nurse, eating disorder mentor & avid hiker who has lived with  three eating disorders for 23 years, MINNESOTA


Nurse, eating disorder mentor, and avid hiker, Shira, 37, Minneapolis, MN has battled three different types of eating disorders for more than two decades. Although her disordered eating behaviors began at seven years of age, it took another 12 years before she was professionally diagnosed with an eating disorder.

Shira describes living with an eating disorder as a never-ending nightmare that is isolating, lonely, and shameful.

The temporary sense of gratification that Shira gleaned from her disordered eating behaviors were always followed by intense and defeating withdrawals. 

Fortunately, Shira commenced her journey toward recovery from her eating disorders seven years ago, and now considers herself fully recovered. 

Given her first-hand experience with three eating disorders, Shira has chosen to participate in the Eating Disorders Genetics Initiative (EDGI) – the world’s largest genetic research study of eating disorders ever performed. The study aims to identify the hundreds of genes that influence a person’s risk of developing anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder, to improve treatment, and ultimately, save lives.

This is Shira’s story.

Shira faced significant challenges throughout her childhood, including abuse, a strict and unforgiving home environment, and a relentless desire for perfection, all of which served as a catalyst for her disordered eating patterns from a very young age.

Although Shira’s disordered eating behaviors set in during childhood, her parents, teachers, and healthcare providers all failed to identify the associated signs and symptoms for another 12 years. During this period, Shira received no support or treatment whatsoever.

“For many years, I received no help. For most of that time, I didn’t even know I had an eating disorder. My parents, doctors, teachers and friends didn’t pick up on it.”

“After I was officially diagnosed, I visited many treatment centers, hospitals, therapists, and dietitians for more than 10 years, although most offered little help,” said Shira.

Living with eating disorders compromised every aspect of Shira’s life, including her physical and mental wellbeing. The disorders impacted her schooling and career, and weighed heavily on her personal relationships with family and friends. Although Shira managed to secure her college degrees, she was completely consumed by her eating disorder-related struggles, and missed out on many of her college experiences.

“The eating disorders affected every part of my life. Physically, I deteriorated over time. I was frail and malnourished. I was cold and weak. I lost any stamina and strength that I had.”

“Mentally, I was also a wreck. I was depressed and lonely. I was irritable and unfriendly, and was always on a short fuse,” Shira said.

“I had no problem getting jobs, but I couldn’t keep them. Either my performance was awful, or I was too unwell to continue to work.”

“Friends lost interest in me, and dropped off one by one, stating they couldn’t watch me continue to self-sabotage. Or they just grew up and moved on with their lives, while I was stuck,” said Shira.

“My family lost trust in me, and we grew apart, which caused me intense feelings of denial and embarrassment.”

“My relationships with everyone suffered, and I missed out on many family occasions and events,” Shira said.

Despite the relentless struggles, conflict and loss that Shira endured over many years, seven years ago, she commenced her journey toward recovery. She now recognizes there is much more to life than succumbing to the control and rules of an eating disorder.

Given her family history of mental illness, Shira is convinced genes play an important role in one’s predisposition to developing an eating disorder.

Today, Shira is excited to be participating in the EDGI research study, which follows the ground-breaking advances made recently through the collaborative Anorexia Nervosa Genetics Initiative (ANGI), in which UNC researchers and their partners identified both psychiatric and metabolic causes for anorexia nervosa.

“EDGI is a great endeavor, because more research is needed to gain further insights into these devastating mental illnesses.”

“I encourage everyone aged 18 and over with first-hand experience of an eating disorder, to participate in this research study, given its potential to benefit many people who require more appropriate help to fight their eating disorders,” said Shira.

“I’m also keen to share my personal experience of recovery from my eating disorders, with others.”

“You don’t have to hit rock bottom to recover. Discovering and believing in your own worth is instrumental in empowering yourself to overcome your eating disorder,” Shira said.