Rye Y Story Project: Lisa

Lisa-GI’ve had an eating disorder my entire life (40+ years), including compulsive exercising, but couldn’t admit it to myself until Y members and staff helped me face it. I’ve been a Rye Y member since we moved from Chicago about 15 years ago. Over the course of a few years, my eating disorder got worse. I was starving myself, eating less than 200 calories a day and exercising 4 or 5 times a day. I was down to about 82 pounds and exercising here to feed my compulsion. And at 82 pounds I still felt like I needed to lose weight, that I was fat. I checked the scales at the gym religiously every day and night to make sure that I continued to lose weight.

Staff members at the Y – Diana Vita and Maiju Savage in particular, -and several members, like my 5:45 am spin buddies, Paola, the Italian Stallion, and Kim, who loves skiing in snowy Colorado as much as she does spinning in sunny Rye – were worried about me and confronted me about my weight loss. They all had become my friends and I trusted them to be honest with me. Diana came to me one Saturday morning, after her grueling 7:30 am boot-camp workout, and asked if we could talk. We talked on the bench in the Y circle outside. She said “I’m your friend, your friends here care about you. You look really thin and frail. We’re worried about you and we just wanted you to know.”

My first reaction was to tell her a lie; that I was taking some medicine that was making me nauseous and I couldn’t eat. I didn’t want her to know that I was starving myself. Anorexia and bulimia are addictions done in secret. But Diana was always so kind to me and became such a good friend that I couldn’t lie to her but just acknowledged my weight loss. I didn’t know quite what else to say at that moment but that was okay. Diana must have felt my anxiety and just gave me a big hug and said, We are family here at the Y and we care about you.

That night, because of all the love and support from my husband and my circle of friends at the Y, I was able to admit to myself that I had an eating disorder and was an anorexic bulimic. I said it out loud to my husband and not only did it feel like a 100 pounds was lifted off my head but I felt hopeful and strangely free for the first time in my life thinking that everything would be okay now. Later that night, I emailed Diana to tell her that I had an eating disorder and needed help, that I was out of control and had made a decision to call my doctor. She responded with the most wonderful, loving email – I saved it – it made me cry. She said, “Asking for help is not a weakness, it’s a strength, and we’re all here for you.”

I saw my doctor the next day and three days later a bed opened up at the Center for Eating Disorders at NY Presbyterian Hospital in White Plains. I was hospitalized for one month until I was up to 100 pounds. It’s an amazing behavioral modification program combined with individual and family therapy, social skills training and so much more to change things for the better. They literally taught me to eat again. A whole team works with you – a psychiatrist, a social worker to supervise your eating, a dietician and a nutritionist. I worked up to 4,000 calories a day. It was a lot of food and Ensures, but in the hospital food is medicine. And I needed a lot of medicine to get back to a healthy weight.

Afterwards, I was in an outpatient program two times a week, then one time a week for eight months. I learned to make menus, what to buy at the grocery store, to prepare meals and get comfortable eating well on my own. Now I go every two months, or more if I need it.

I am now a recovered anorexic bulimic. I’m 128 pounds and with my therapist’s approval, I exercise at the Y up to two times a day. But the truth is, is that I will always be in recovery – that never ends for anyone who has overcome an addiction. It becomes a way of life that is on the right side of that person’s history. It’s all good.
Today, I am a healthy, happy person and it is all because of the support network and caring community at the Rye Y. My friends at the Y give me hugs now and tell me I look so healthy. I love seeing people here, they are my family, the fabric of my life. I believe that the Rye Y, the staff and members here, saved my life.