SPECIAL REPORT: SFA student describes battle with eating disorder

By Donna McCollum - email

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Alicia Stoker is a tall, confident, beautiful young woman sharing a secret to help others.

"I was anorexic and I have bulimia," Stoker said.

Stoker, who is an SFA graduate student, isn't alone. As many as 10 million women and one million men have eating disorders. Alicia's story begins in 8th grade.

"I was a big girl in size," Stoker said. "All of my friends were the little skinny minis."

Something Stoker strived to obtain, particularly after the trigger was fired. Innocent comments set the eating disorder off.

"Just a mean kid was like, you're the fattest girl I've ever seen," Stoker said. "It just kinda triggered things."

"That might be enough to start the cycling," said Dr. Debra Burton, a licensed professional counselor who specializes in the treatment of eating disorders.

"And when they start losing weight by restricting, then you are getting so small, you're getting so thin," Burton said. "Those are things that could possibly reinforce the negative behavior."

"So in an effort to maintain that I just started, 'Ok, I'm just not going to eat,'" Stoker said.

Holidays became her worse nightmare.

"I was just, 'please don't make them cook all this food,' because you know then I'm not going to be able to eat it," Stoker said. "I'm not going to want to eat it or if I eat it, I'm going to throw it up."

And when Stoker reached college her eating disorder only got worse.

"And I felt later, I could could feel myself gaining weight," Stoker said.

A key delusion of bulimia. She compensated by purging.

"People would see me eat, but they didn't know when I went to the bathroom that I was throwing up," Stoker said.

Bulimia set in around age 18, the typical age in developing the eating disorder.

"I remember my dad, like holding me, like literally holding me, and I burst into tears because it was one of the first times I was eating a dinner and not being able to go throw it up because my dad was literally holding me so I wouldn't go," Stoker said. "It was that uncomfortable for me to eat."

Family and friends began to intervene. A mean comment may have triggered the disorder, but a kind one put Stoker on the road to recovery.

"One of my friends, he was like the first person to just tell me, 'You're precious,'" Stoker said.

Stoker's self esteem was boosted. She recognized the problem and got the help she needed from trained professionals. Her last episode was 2008. The illness is under control and today Stoker can say with confidence, "I can eat in peace."

Eating disorder expert Dr. Deborah Michael will speak at SFA on Friday, Feb. 19 at 4 p.m., in the Kennedy Auditorium.

Eating Disorder Awareness Week is Feb. 22-26. Informational panels will be displayed from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Baker Patillo Student Center.

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