May 8, 2023
Recovering from an eating disorder
At 15, Sloane Meyer weighed 92 pounds, and getting through each day seemed exhausting, sometimes even impossible.
“I had really low self-esteem,” Meyer, now 35, recalled “and a really low body image in general.”
An aspiring ballerina at the time, Meyer had long felt overwhelming pressure to conform to the idealized physical standards of a dancer.
And, devastatingly, her father had recently been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. She felt out of control of the most important aspects of her life.
So she tried to control her body, obsessively working out and counting calories.
Meyer had developed an eating disorder, a serious illness that researchers believe is caused by a combination of genetic, psychological, and social factors.
Watch Sloane's story here
Most common among girls and young women, eating disorders can affect people of all ages, body weights, and genders. The physical ramifications can be deadly, including infertility, damage to the heart and brain, or even multiorgan failure.
“Recovery is possible,” said Dr. Greg Harris, a practicing psychiatrist and senior medical director, behavioral health, at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, “with high-quality treatment recommended as early as possible,” including:
- Individual, group, and/or family psychotherapy
- Medical care and monitoring
- Nutritional counseling, with family support to help ensure healthy eating patterns
- Medication to help with underlying issues, such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs.
Active family support in treatment and recovery is essential
Dr. Greg Harris said.
“The stages of recovery often take place in cycles over a long period of time. And that requires not only clinicians, but also the love and strong engagement of friends and family.”
In Meyer’s case, her father was the first to notice something was wrong.
“He suggested that I start talking to somebody about body image,” Meyer said.
She took her dad’s advice and sought treatment, including a two-week outpatient program for people battling eating disorders, and long-term therapy. Eventually, her outlook on her body began to change.
I knew that the program was working when I was starting to feel more in control of myself and my eating
“I wasn’t counting calories or working out obsessively. It’s not something that just goes away. It’s something you have to continually work at. I know that it’s working because I can recognize it and deal with it when it comes back.”
Her treatment turned out to be a lifeline during painful times. Meyer’s father, a renowned radiologist, was given six months to live when he was diagnosed in 2004. He survived another five years before dying in February 2009.
When her father passed away, Meyer said, she could have easily slipped back into that dark place of wanting to control her body to the point of an eating disorder. But the lessons she had learned from seeking help for her body image issues proved vital as she coped with her grief.
“I went to therapy for my eating disorder, but it opened the doors for me to be open to therapy,” she said. “I sought help again because I was comfortable with it. Seeking out grief support wasn’t scary for me, it was something I needed.”
She hopes that others who are fighting their own internal battles know that there are resources that can ease their suffering.
“It’s really scary when you’re all by yourself in your head and dealing with these questions,” she said.
You don’t have to be alone. There are people out there who can help you and talk through whatever it is that is making you feel that way about yourself and give you the tools you need to overcome it, or least not let it overcome you
Sloane Meyer said
Today, Meyer said, she is happy when she is cooking healthy meals and comfortable in her own skin. Her body works hard for her, she said, and she’s proud of it.
“This has been a long journey for me,” she said. “I could not have done this without having someone come in to help me.”
Are you a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts member who is looking for a therapist? Call 1-888-389-7764 or use our Find a Doctor & Estimate Costs tool to find licensed therapists. Check out more resources here.
PHOTO OF DR. GREG HARRIS BY MIKE GRIMMETT