Ormond woman overcomes eating disorder to celebrate 1-year anniversary
Published: Monday, December 16, 2013 at 5:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, December 13, 2013 at 3:44 p.m.
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Know that light-headed feeling when you haven’t had enough to eat?
Fitness & Well-Being Spotlight is a weekly feature profiling area residents who have made healthy habits a priority in their lives, or those dedicated to helping others make healthy lifestyle changes. If you would like to nominate someone for a profile, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
NAME: Debbie Yarbrough AGE: 45 RESIDENCE: Ormond Beach OCCUPATION: former personal trainer
“Imagine feeling that all day. You’re not thinking straight. It wreaks havoc,” said Debbie Yarbrough in describing her struggle since childhood with eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia.
On Jan. 1, Debbie Yarbrough will celebrate a year of recovery.
Yarbrough, a former personal trainer and competitive runner, spoke to The News-Journal about living with the shame and why she decided to come out.
Why share something so personal with the world?
This for me is huge. I’ve only just come out. The public doesn’t know. My closest friends were only told about four months ago. This is all very new, but I felt it was necessary.
I need to do this because so many people in the community know me. If there’s a face on the issue, more people will be apt to come up say “I am or I know someone (with an eating disorder). My child is suffering. We need help.”
I have two daughters, a stepdaughter and a stepson. I don’t want this to perpetuate. If I can reach one person, then I have done my job.
Is it liberating to not keep a secret?
Yes, when you live in secrecy, it’s a burden you carry because you’re two faces all the time. I was a personal trainer since I got out of college. I quit personal training a year and a half ago mainly because of (the pressure of ) living two lives. People put me up on this pedestal that I was perfect. “Oh, you must eat really well.” I really felt like a fraud.
I am type of person who thinks I can do it myself. I am not going to let anybody help me. So I did not talk about it in fear of what people would think.
Once you’re not in hiding any more, it’s so much more easier to deal with it.
What made you get help?
I was a competitive athlete, a marathon runner and triathlete. In 2006, I was trying to qualify for the Olympic trials marathon, which is quite grueling. I ended up suffering a stress fracture in my back and a torn tendon in my ankle.
My eating disorder was also at its height because of my competitive nature and the need to be controlling. I got help. For the past five years, I have worked with Dr. Karen Samuels, (a psychologist).
What makes an eating disorder so challenging to overcome?
The hardest thing about eating disorders is that it’s a disease like alcoholism. You can take away alcohol and drugs from (an addict) and they can survive, but you can’t take away food. So every meal is a struggle, anything with food involved is a struggle.
There’s no abstinence from food, it’s learning to live with it.
What is the mindset of an eating disorder?
It’s eliminating whole food groups because “They’ll make me fat.” That’s the thinking process.
It’s silly thinking. For me, I could never fully engage (at an event with food), even at a birthday party. There was fear of the cake. Now I think the cake is not that bad. It’s not going to kill me.
It (comes from) wanting to be perfect, needing to control something. It was the way I soothed myself. I had no way of calming myself down. It was an anxiety reducer that became an anxiety producer because it set off the shame and guilt.
For women in midlife, it becomes a habit. You’re talking about a lifetime of behaviors and thought processes. So it’s a lot harder to treat for someone in their midlife than a teenager.
It’s (also) taboo because people think it’s just for young girls. No one thinks about the midlife women.
What has recovery been like?
Part of the recovery is changing how I think. I have learned how to calm my anxiety. I do yoga. I do meditation every day.
I look at food in a different way, (as in) “This is to fuel me.”
People with eating disorders have a disconnect between the head and the body. I looked at it as two totally different things. There was absolutely no connection.
You get into this mental state that my body should still look like it did when I was 20, (but) I’m a mother of two. I am 45 years old. It’s about not looking at (the body’s) flaws.
Now I (appreciate that) my body is going to change. It’s no longer looking at (the body) as the enemy.
How have you gotten involved in the community?
I am a member of COPE, Community Outreach for the Prevention of Eating Disorders.
One of the main things we do with COPE is we go into all the middle schools in Volusia County and speak to the sixth grade girls about media literacy and body image. We don’t really talk about eating disorders. It’s more on body awareness. What you see in the magazines is not real. We reached more than 700 middle school girls last year.
On Feb. 15, from 1-3:30 p.m., we are hosting a fundraising event at Renew Yoga Studio, 224 S Beach St., Suite 105, Daytona Beach.
There will be a speakers panel of people who are in recovery from an eating disorder or who have been affected by someone with an eating disorder.
The panel will be followed by an all levels gentle yoga class taught by Brenda O’Donnell.