Stacey’s story

Avid reader & kayaker who battled anorexia nervosa for more than 25 years, NORTH CAROLINA


Avid reader and kayaker, Stacey, 48, North Carolina, was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa at 22 years of age. She has since spent almost half of her life waging an arduous battle with this debilitating illness.

At 22 years of age, Stacey chose to go on a diet. However, her diet soon spiraled out of control. Eight months later she was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa.

Stacey’s illness has taken a heavy toll on her physical and mental health. She has surrendered countless friendships, and relationships to anorexia nervosa. 

Today however, Stacey is on a journey to recovery, armed with invaluable support from a multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals, including a physician, dietitian, and psychologist.

As a strong advocate for eating disorder prevention, and treatment, Stacey has chosen to participate in the Eating Disorders Genetics Initiative (EDGI) research study – 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 Stacey’s story.

At the age of 22, Stacey elected to go on a diet to shed some weight. Over the ensuing eight months however, she lost complete control of her eating behaviors and thoughts around food.

She was subsequently plunged into what she describes as living “hell”. She has since lived almost half of her life entangled in this enduring and highly destructive web of illness.

“Most of the decisions I’ve made in my life to date, have been based around my eating disorder. As a result of avoiding social situations where food was involved, and eventually no longer being invited to events, I’ve lost many friendships and relationships to my illness.”

“I can only imagine how different my life would have been, had I reached out for help sooner, or more importantly, had never dieted in the first place,” said Stacey.

Over the past 25 years, Stacey has received various treatments and support for her illness. While some have proven helpful short-term, most have been unsuccessful in the long-term.

Stacey has been admitted voluntarily on two occasions to partial hospitalization treatment centers, as well as to an inpatient treatment program.                                                                                               

Today, Stacey is continuing to mount her recovery from anorexia nervosa and is reportedly doing better than ever.

“I’m working with an allied healthcare professional team involving a physician, a dietitian and a psychologist, who I see several times a week, and communicate with on a regular basis. My team also communicate with each other several times a week, which I believe is crucial for successful outpatient treatment.”

“I quit a great job that I had held for 20 years to wholeheartedly dedicate myself to this treatment approach,” Stacey said.

Stacey maintains genes play a significant role in the development of an eating disorder.

“I believe genes, combined with environmental factors, can influence the development of an eating disorder,” said Stacey.

Stacey 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.

To learn more about one’s genetic predisposition to the development of an eating disorder, Stacey is urging Americans aged 18 and over, with first-hand experience of an eating disorder, to follow suit.

“If researchers can identify the genes that lead to the onset of eating disorders, then hopefully, we can prevent others from developing these devastating illnesses in the future,” Stacey said.

Long determined not to share her personal story with others until having mounted a recovery from her illness, Stacey has nonetheless, recently had a change of heart.

“Although it’s great to hear from those who have recovered from an eating disorder, I think it’s equally as important for people living with, or experiencing any form of disordered eating, to hear from, and connect with, others who are in a similar situation.”

“Importantly, anyone living with an eating disorder should seek help from a healthcare professional as soon as possible, and know that they are not alone,” said Stacey.