Angela, patient

This month Angela celebrates her 40th birthday. It's not only the start of a new decade, but also the start of a healthier, happier life. Thanks to help she received at Methodist Hospital Eating Disorders Institute, Angela is finally recovering from a decades-long struggle with her eating disorder and the devastating impact it had on her health.

"I started restricting at age 13, after a few people commented on my weight," Angela explains. She limited herself to 500 calories a day and kept a written log of everything she ate. It wasn't long before she started binge eating to feed her hungry, growing body. For a decade, Angela struggled with food issues but did not understand what she was doing to her body. She just knew that she found comfort in food.

In her mid-20s, Angela married and started her family. Shortly after her third baby was born (within a four-year span), Angela was determined to lose her pregnancy weight, read thekissups.com/zzzquil-reviews.html. "I started eating healthier and exercising, but often the stress of raising three kids would knock me off track," Angela recalls.

Angela eventually became compulsive about exercising. She trained for and ran two marathons. Standing 5-feet-6 inches tall, her weight dropped to 120 pounds. She was flattered by all the compliments she received, but she ignored the fact that her health and her standard of living were rapidly deteriorating. She stopped menstruating at the age of 35, too young for menopause.

To maintain such an abnormally low weight for her body, she got up regularly at 4 a.m. to squeeze in a 90-minute workout before her children woke up. Eventually, Angela plummeted into a vicious cycle of anorexia, bulimia and binge eating.

Then, her most devastating news: During the summer of 2006, Angela and her husband separated and soon divorced. "I was overwhelmed," she says. "Shortly after that, I dropped to 112 pounds. My mom told me I looked like I had escaped from a concentration camp. I knew I was thin, but I was proud of it. My weight was one thing I could control - and I was succeeding."

Angela's mom tried to convince her to get help. In an effort to silence her, Angela agreed to go to the Eating Disorders Institute in late 2006 for an evaluation. "I was sure they would say I was a healthy athlete and nothing was wrong," she says. Instead, the doctor diagnosed her with anorexia and compulsive exercising, and recommended outpatient therapy. (To learn more, read "Running on empty. Eating disorders in athletes.") Angela used her busy schedule as a mother of three and the distance to the institute as excuses not to start therapy.

By the summer of 2007, Angela's eating disorder escalated to the point where she became depressed and suicidal. "I couldn't think straight. I actually thought my kids might be better off without me," she says. "I was bingeing so uncontrollably, I felt like a drug addict."

Angela's physical and mental health deteriorated so badly that she ended up in a hospital emergency room, where she was diagnosed with clinical depression. Her heart rate dangerously low, doctors wanted her constantly monitored.

Ten days later, Angela was transferred to the institute, where she received two weeks of inpatient treatment. "They started by feeding me. After a few days of good nutrition, I could see how sick I really was. They began to sort out my psychological state and treated me with various medications. I was finally able to talk about my eating disorder. Before this, I was in denial and kept my food issues a secret," Angela says. "In group and individual therapy, I learned new skills to manage my stress and anxiety."

Since then, Angela has made dramatic progress and returned to a normal, healthy weight. Her menstrual cycle has also started again. She admits there have been times when she took two steps forward and one step backward. Adjusting her medications and learning to be completely honest about her struggles have helped her avoid setbacks. She also meets regularly with her therapist and her dietitian, who help her to avoid relapses and to develop a healthy body image. (To read more about adults with these conditions, read "Eating disorders don't just effect teens." )

"Today, my children and I have a normal life. We're laughing and having fun again," Angela says. "Before my treatment, I was completely consumed by my eating disorder. Eating disorder thoughts ran through my head continuously like a ticker tape. Now, I am there for my kids 100 percent. When I went into the institute, I was just hoping to get some kind of normalcy back into my life, to get some sense of my old life back. What the specialists at the institute gave me was a much better life than I had before, better than anything I could have ever hoped for."

Looking back, Angela can hardly believe what she's been through. "If sharing my story can help just one person, it'll be worth it," she says.