Detroit mother shares her experience with eating disorders after 20 years of struggling

An eating disorder could look like "nothing and everything," said Jennifer Stallings-Dewey.

Stallings-Dewey is a Detroit mother and an attorney for General Motors – but she is also one of the millions of Americans who have grappled with disordered eating.

Feb. 26 through March 3 is recognized as national Eating Disorders Awareness Week.

"An estimated 9% of the U.S. population, or 28.8 million Americans, will have an eating disorder in their lifetime," according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders.

When Stallings-Dewey speaks about eating disorders, she does so passionately, as she has struggled with one for about 20 years. 

"It’s easy to have an idea of what someone with an eating disorder might look like: Someone young, probably female, Caucasian," she said. "But really it could be anyone."

Stallings-Dewey wrote about her journey in a recent post on the blog "Detroit Mom." Writing has been therapeutic for her, she said, and it can be for others too.

"Especially with all the changes your body is going through – hormones, weight changes, just life changes – I think those things can spur eating disorder behavior," she said. "I think what’s really scary now too is so much of what we think of as normal, like dieting and detoxing and tracking, all those things can so easily tip into disordered eating or full-blown eating disorders." 

According to National Eating Disorders Association, a person dies from complications of an eating disorder every 52 minutes.

But Stallings-Dewey wants people to know that there is a way out; healing is possible. 

"I think being open and talking about it is really helpful," the mother said. "I think it’s an issue that can really grow in shame and secrecy."

For those who are currently in the battle, she says openness is the path forward. 

For those who do not deal with an eating disorder, Stallings-Dewey recommends watching your words.

"Be mindful of how you talk about bodies, how you talk about food to other people," she said. "But also to yourself, because someone might be struggling with this and not even really realize it."