Just two years ago, Amalie Lee was wasting away from anorexia. The Norwegian student had so many rules about food that the eating disorder caused her to nearly disappear.
Lee, 20, who has since recovered and become a role model for recovery, spoke with TODAY about her experience with anorexia.
“I was really depressed and I tried to control my feelings by not eating and restricting myself,” Lee told TODAY for a segment that aired Wednesday. “It was a coping mechanism and also a way to punish myself and deal with my depression by creating another problem.”
But it made everything worse. “My eating disorder was triggered by depression but then I started to eat less and lose weight and I just ended up in a spiral that just went downwards,” she added.
Lee was tired, always cold and isolating herself as she became completely obsessed with food and her weight. “I would just live in my own little bubble,” she said. “I lost a lot of friends and the friends that I kept, I didn't want to talk to.”
Her condition got so bad that her body wasn’t working properly, and even riding a bicycle could be dangerous if she fell. She finally realized she had to make a change. “The thought of being sick all my life suddenly got really scary,” she said.
She entered treatment in the fall of 2013. She began her yearlong recovery first by eating 3,000 calories a day to gain weight and then to therapy to address the cause of her anorexia and learn how to cope with triggers. But it wasn’t easy.
“It was really hard, really hard, because we live in a society when dieting has become something normal,” she said. “Everyone is on a diet and it's so rationalized that I was feeling like, it's normal to diet and here I am eating 3,000 calories.”
She began to find some enjoyment in food, and experimenting and making herself nice meals with food she really liked. And instead of hiding her disease, she shared it with the world, revealing every stage and angle of her recovery, no matter how unflattering the pictures looked.
“I've decided not to Photoshop myself thinner or Photoshopping my skin, because I feel like that creates an unrealistic image,” she said. “I post photos of my bloated stomach after a meal.”
Her story went viral, with more than 100,000 followers and a popular recovery blog.
“When I was recovered, I wanted to give something back to the community and help people and share my knowledge,” she said.
“I also answered thousands of questions from people in recovery, given answers both based on science, based on my experience and showing them that I am there,” she added.
These days, she eats what she wants, when she wants, and listens to her hunger cues. She will even have chocolate for breakfast. “It’s all about balance,” she said with a smile.
She’s hoping to help others with eating disorders learn how to rediscover the love of food — and body.
Lisa A. Flam, a regular contributor to TODAY.com, is a news and lifestyles reporter in New York. Follow her on Twitter.