Lori Price knows battling an eating disorder can be an isolating and traumatic experience.

Now, on the road to full recovery, Price also knows that she has the power to help others in her position. She went to a national organization and is responsible for bringing the inaugural Phoenix NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association) Walk to the Valley this Sunday.

The Phoenix resident said she isn’t totally out of the woods yet and the voice that influences her to go back to her bad habits is still there, but she knows that recovery is a struggle and continues to work at it through therapy.

“People who are farther along than I am (in recovery) they say it is possible to be completely over it,” Price said. “Eating disorders are very misunderstood. They are not really about the food, like alcoholics deal with things with alcohol, it’s dealing with ways to cope with issues and therapy helps you get to those issues.”

She said the foundation for her eating disorder was laid when she was 14 years old. It really began to take hold in college when she joined the swim team and her strict workout regiment and dedication made it worse.

“I started dieting because I thought I needed to and then it just gradually became more and more obsessive,” Price said. “Almost the whole team was right there with me.”

It continued further after she graduated, got married, and had children.

“After having kids, I wanted to get the weight off so I went back into different patterns to get it off,” Price said. “There are certain triggers that get you back to that coping mechanism.”

When she finally went in for treatment, about three years ago, Price was told that she exhibited symptoms that did not fit one specific disorder and her case was classified as EDNOS or and “eating disorder not otherwise specified.”

“I was completely isolated, I didn’t see any of my friends and I couldn’t eat around people,” Price said. “A friend convinced me that (trying to treat myself) on my own, it wasn’t working. I finally confided in somebody and she had me go to my husband. Then we just decided it was time to get help.”

According to a local doctor, and keynote speaker of the NEDA Walk, time is of the essence when it comes to treating a person with an eating disorder like bulimia, anorexia, binge eating, or any other.

“They can kill you,” Ahwatukee Foothills resident Dr. Michelle May, said. “They are one of the most deadly psychiatric disorders out there.”

There are many reasons for this, May, who worked with eating disorder patients in the past, said. What makes them so serious is that in some instances people will suffer malnourishment because they are not eating one of the main food groups.

Depending on the disorder, people can experience fluid loss and electrolyte abnormalities. What makes them even worse is that people who lose weight rapidly are praised because of the results, no matter how they are reaching them.

“Sometimes you have people commenting in positive ways who are not recognizing that the behaviors that are doing it are unhealthy,” May said. “Anorexia and bulimia can cause serious medical problems such as extreme weight loss and malnourishment.”

One local doctor offers a holistic approach to healing and rehabilitation. Dr. Lori Haas is a psychotherapist and certified eating disorder specialist (CEDS) who runs Haas Counseling in Tempe.

One program she has for those who are in recovery revolves around yoga and strengthening the mind, which can make all the difference in the world, she said.

“When people are in an eating disorder they develop eating disorder logic that is really quite irrational,” Haas said. “Using mediation and yoga therapy, we are challenging that mindset through yoga poses. They have the body experience and the direct experience of challenging their mind.”

There are many reasons why a person develops an eating disorder, she said, but it comes down to putting up a barrier between underlying issues.

“It’s people not wanting to feel and numbing out,” Haas said. “An eating disorder is a way to disconnect and treatment is about a way to connect with those feelings.”

The Phoenix walk has brought in $22,000 already for the National Eating Disorders Association, which provides support for families and brings awareness about eating disorders to the public.

The inaugural NEDA Walk takes place Feb. 26 at the Phoenix Zoo, 455 N. Galvin Parkway, and is open to the public. Registration begins at 6 a.m. and the walk begins at 7 a.m.

To find out more, visit www.nationaleatingdisorders.org and click on “Find a NEDA Walk.”

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or troemhild@ahwatukee.com

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