Disease & Illness

5 Incredible Women Who’ve Battled Eating Disorders, And Are Now Inspiring Others To Do The Same

Their stories are inspiring.

When your wellness journey is so extraordinary that you inspire thousands of people daily, you know you’re doing something right. But it’s a special kind of victory when the road you’ve traveled to arrive at self-love has included detours of addiction, mental illness and eating disorders.

The five women below have not only transformed their bodies from malnourished to magnificent — they’ve undergone a complete metamorphosis of mind, body, and soul.

Maris Degener

Maris Degener has packed a lot of life into her 20 years. The California native had already survived painful bouts of anxiety, depression, anorexia, and eating disorders by the time she decided to give herself the gift of yoga at 14; by 16, she’d become a certified yoga instructor.

Today, Deneger is an Instagram inspiration who radiates the strength and confidence of women twice her age. She’s even working on a documentary called “I Am Maris” about her journey toward healing. Although her body is strong, it’s her inner transformation that has truly empowered her.

“So often we hand over our happiness to other people, other things,” she writes. “Happiness is not something that can be attained … it is something that is created, harvested, and nurtured when the time is right.”

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I don't normally do this, but I want to share this photo for a different reason than most ED comparison photos are shared. The left photo is NOT from the height of my battle with anorexia. The left photo wasn't the smallest or unhealthiest I ever got: but that made it all the more dangerous. It allowed me to justify the disordered behaviors that were creeping back in my life because I wasn't "as sick as before so I must be okay." The left photo is from two years after I was hospitalized and began my recovery journey. Somewhere along the way I slipped, I tripped, and I stumbled downhill into what I now identify as a relapse that took up most of my junior year of high school. This was after yoga. This was after therapy. This was after treatment. That is to say: just because you got help once, doesn't mean you'll never need it again. Just because you relapse once doesn't mean recovery isn't possible. This journey isn't linear, and it has its ups and downs and falls and stumbles. And just because people view you as "recovered" doesn't mean you are no longer allowed to feel and deal with the symptoms of living with mental illness. I write about and serve as a "model" for recovery at this point in my life, but I STILL struggle and will battle those struggles my entire life. If you're where I was in 2015: it's okay to admit that you've taken two steps back. I know it's scary to think about "starting recovery over" again, but you can do it, and it will be worth it. You are worth health and happiness. You are more than your disorder.

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Holly Griffiths

For 15 years — and starting at age 8 — Holly Griffiths was stuck in a cycle of recovery and relapse, describing herself as “consumed by darkness” during her lowest periods, which involved sexual abuse and mental health battles. Her anorexia even led to a heart condition, arthritis, and osteoporosis.

Her turning point, as bleak as it sounds, was the realization that she didn’t want to die. So in October 2017, she joined a gym and got serious about getting healthy. Today the 27-year-old mom of one works out three days a week and eats three to four meals a day. Her message to anyone dealing with eating disorders is that everyone’s recovery journey looks different.

She writes, “Whatever works for you is what you’re supposed to do.”

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Pre recovery my weight was all over the place. If I are an extra 100 calories I’d gain scale weight and be bloated for a week. And that had a huge impact on my psychologically because if I couldn’t eat a pack of crisps if I REALLY wanted one on a rare occasion how in the hell was I going to be able to continuously increase my calories and not balloon? And I faced that again when I began working out because not only did I increase my calories by even more, but by introducing exercise I had given my body a new baseline of calories it was ‘used’ to burning. Surely if I then stopped exercising I would balloon? Turns out I’ve just been consistently wrong about what my body is capable of. I’ve taken over a month out of the gym post accident and today I weighed myself and I’ve gained exactly nothing. I’ve spent a month eating on average 2000kcal a day and moving SO MUCH less than normal and my body is just like 💁🏽‍♀️💁🏽‍♀️💁🏽‍♀️ . . So here is what I’ve learned. My body is doing what bodies are supposed to do if they’re nourished. A nourished body won’t fluctuate like crazy if you stop exercising without compensating with calorie reduction. A nourished body is a body that allows me to eat what I want and exercise when I can without painful bloating (most of the time but let’s be honest I have felt really sick after eating half the menu in @thedineruk on more than one occasion). I’ve learned that I don’t have to fight my body all the damn time and actually when I stop fighting my body and allow it to just be where it wants to be I’m so much happier. . . #transformationtuesday #recovery #recoverywarrior #mixedrace #curlyhair #happyandhealthy #screwthescale #transformation #weightgain

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Morgan Dowd

Eight years ago, Morgan Dowd was barely surviving bulimia and anorexia. By age 19, she’d had enough of fearing food and overdoing it with cardio. So she committed to a 24-day wellness and nutrition challenge — and she credits it with saving her life.

She decided to get strong instead of “skinny” by incorporating healthy doses of strength training into her workouts up to 5 days a week. Instead of counting calories, she now adheres to intuitive eating — letting her body tell her what and when to eat. Now, instead of barely surviving, the 28-year-old Dowd is a successful personal trainer. She tells her followers and clients that it takes just 66 days to break a bad habit and start a new one — like living healthy.

(Ed’s note: It looks like Dowd did her homework! A University College London study found the average time it takes to form a new habit is 66 days, though it should be noted that habit formation varied by person from 18 days all the way up to 254 days. In other words: Don’t beat yourself up if you still are working to form a new habit after Day 66.)

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m e n t a l h e a l t h // struggling vs still struggling – NOT a transformation post. Today is World Mental Health Day and I just want to remind everyone that mental illness does not have a certain “look”. there is no weight limit or amount of tears you have to cry in order to qualify for a mental illness.✨ . these 2 pictures are over 8 years apart and I promise there are still days that I struggle with body dysmorphia, anxiety, and disordered eating just as much as that 19 year old, 95lb girl did. the difference is, now i’ve learned to ask for help when I need it.✨ . Please remember to be kind to one another… you never know what someone else is going through. If you or someone you know is struggling, I urge you to reach out. There is no weakness in asking for help! #worldmentalhealthday #embracingherstrength

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Sarah Ramadan

Sarah Ramadan is a perfectionist, but in her early years she channeled that focus into an unhealthy endeavor: starving herself in pursuit of what she thought was her ideal figure. By 19, she was anorexic, anemic, wheelchair-bound, and coping with a heart condition. At one point, she was admitted to a long-term intensive care facility.

Then something changed: She acknowledged the pain at the root of her disease and decided to fight for her health instead. She began lifting weights at the encouragement of her brother and viewing food as energy instead of the enemy. She chronicles her progress on Instagram and YouTube, where the muscular 23-year-old has become an icon.

Ramadan doesn’t sugarcoat her current life, though. She often talks candidly about her setbacks and anxiety attacks — but still, she perseveres.

“I make strength my only option,” she writes.

Janelle Flanagan

Janelle Flanagan is not your typical mom of four from suburban New Jersey.

The 43-year-old survived anorexia in her 20s, only to fall into a pattern of overeating and alcohol abuse throughout most of her 30s. By 37, she’d had her fill of self-loathing and decided to flip the script. She committed herself to a healthy diet and fitness regimen that included HIIT and weight lifting. She was so empowered she even became a personal trainer.

She tells her 45,000 Instagram followers that biggest lesson she’s learned is that the human body has a miraculous ability to bounce back beautifully from years of abuse.

“Look at how capable our bodies are of change,” she writes. “Flaws? Scars? Some cellulite? Seriously? After all I’ve done to my own body? How did I ever complain about this when I’m still here?”

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Do you ever wonder: How have I lived so many years in this body HATING it? How has it survived my physical and mental abuse? I certainly do. . . I have lived MOST of my life as an unhealthy person. And today I find myself incredibly grateful that my body has proven to be stronger than I had been capable of; most of my life. The fact that it hasn’t quit on me through all the abuse and bashing that I’ve given it; is pretty amazing. That first picture, those are children’s size shorts (at 22 years old) that wouldn’t stay on. Why? Because I was anorexic and this was when I started my ed recovery. Look at what I’ve done to myself. Over and over. All while being upset and mad at my body. I’m in tears just putting all this together, because I’ve blocked it all out. How incredible that my body that I’ve ALWAYS HATED on STILL CARRIED me through all the days of malnutrition to overweight and body shaming. It must be screaming “FINALLY!!!” you appreciate me and are living healthy. 38 years travelled in this body WRONG. Yet it didn’t GIVE UP on me. Like many of us would have. We would have walked away if we could. “Can I have a new body please?” But our bodies don’t walk away. It SHOULD have. It didn’t. Part of me is ashamed and part of me KNOWS that I learned so much. I NO longer carry these feelings that are negative about my body. I just want to thank it. Over and over and over. Thank you for not giving up on me when I did. I’m so sorry. Flaws? Scars? Some cellulite? Seriously? After all I’ve done to my own body? How did I ever complain about this when I’m STILL Here? Look at how capable our bodies are of change. Of making it through so much. And BIG change. #grateful Let’s take more time to thank our bodies then we do bashing them. 💕 . . #fitmom #selfcare #bodyimage #fitjourney #cantstopwontstop #healthygirl #nevergiveup #whateverittakes #transformationtuesday #betteryourself #changes #fitover40 #throwback #edrecovery #fitmoms

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