Did you know that eating disorders are more common than Alzheimer's disease in the United States? According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), four out of 10 Americans have either suffered or have known someone who has suffered from an eating disorder.
One of those people is Candace Cameron Bure, known to millions as D.J. Tanner on Full House and current co-host on The View. She struggled with bulimia about 20 years ago during a transitional time in her life — no longer a working actress, she had moved to Montreal after marrying then-NHL star Valeri Bure.
"I really kind of lost a sense of who I was because I put so much value in myself as not only a friend and a daughter but as an actress, having worked for so many years, and I couldn't quite find my place," she explains.
Bure, now 40, says her "destructive relationship with food" caught her completely off guard: "I got into a cycle of binge eating and feeling such guilt and shame for that, then I would start purging. And without even knowing, it soon just took over to a point where you feel such a loss of control and yet the very thing you're trying to do is control."
She regained her control through recovery and has since become a recovery ambassador for the Eating Recovery Center (ERC), an international center that provides comprehensive eating disorder treatment for adults, adolescents, and children. As part of the ERC's first-annual Eating Recovery Day on May 3, Bure shared her story and emphasized three things she wants all people struggling with eating disorders to know:
To bring lasting change, I hope we can not only celebrate stories of recovery, but also shed light on the myths and begin to remove any stigma that stands in the way of those who need it from getting help.
1. Listen to people who try to help you.
Bure recalls the difficult moment when her father discovered that she was suffering from an eating disorder: "I was so saddened to see the tears streaming down my dad's face, that he was sad for me," she says. She didn't seek recovery right away after her dad found out, but it was one of the first nails in her eating disorder's coffin.
"I'm glad that my dad had talked to me because if it weren't for him in the first place, I may not have admitted the truth," she adds. "Even though it took me several years later to do it for myself, it was the first step in recognizing that there was a problem."
2. There is no 'typical' eating disorder sufferer.
Two out of five women – and one out of five men — would trade up to five years of their lives to achieve their weight goals, according to NEDA
"This disorder doesn't discriminate," Bure says. "It affects 30 million people in the United States alone, both men and women of all different ages. This is not a teenage girls' disease."
She's concerned that many people think eating disorder sufferers are simply "looking at magazines and want to subscribe to a specific body image. And while that may be true for some people, that's not what this disease is all about. It comes in so many different varieties, and there's more to it than I think people understand and recognize."
3. You're not alone, even when you feel like you are.
Bure describes her lowest point as "getting on a moving train that was speeding at hundreds of miles an hour — and I couldn't get off of it and I didn't know how."
When she was ready to seek help, she reached out to her pastor, who then introduced her to a family friend who'd gone through recovery. Bure credits her faith in God for making the difference in her life.
"If you don't feel you have a trusted person to tell, that's where ERC comes in," she says. "You can talk to someone who is at a master level of discussing eating disorders — and it will be confidential. Just know there's someone there to reach out to, there's help for you, and that recovery is possible."
To speak with an ERC clinician, call 877-920-2902, or call the National Eating Disorders Association's helpline at 800-931-2237. For more information about eating disorders, visit the Eating Recovery Center's website or the National Eating Disorders Association's website.