In high school, Sydney McLamb was a dancer and soccer player who was unconcerned about body image. When she left home for college, McLamb began to experience severe loneliness despite being surrounded by friends in a sorority. She started questioning her self-worth, which triggered eating disorder behaviors.

As friends and family began to notice changes in her eating habits, McLamb denied she needed help. As her eating disorder behaviors intensified, so did her distress around eating. McLamb recalls eating a chocolate bar in secret and, as a result, experiencing a significant panic attack. Her parents asked her to get help at the Eating Disorder Treatment and Research Program at UC San Diego Health.

“We drove to San Diego and in our hotel room I made a deal with my parents. I said, ‘I will go for two weeks and then I’m leaving. I’ll do it for you guys, but I don’t need this.’ I didn’t to want to give up what I had. You get attached to an eating disorder,” recalls McLamb.

McLamb was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, which frequently requires prolonged treatment for weight restoration and medical stabilization. She was in the program for eight months and needed to take a one-year sabbatical from her college studies, but has since recovered and graduated.

  • At some point in their lives, nearly 28.8 million Americans will have an eating disorder, such as anorexia nervosa, the most lethal of psychiatric disorders after opioid overdose, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders.
  • More than 10,000 Americans die each year as a direct result of an eating disorder. Eating disorders — including anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, and otherwise specified feeding eating disorders — affect at least 9 percent of the population worldwide.
  • Eating disorders affect people of all genders, sexual orientations, ages, socioeconomic class, abilities, races and ethnic backgrounds.
  • When treated early and correctly, people with eating disorders have a high rate of recovery.
  • World Eating Disorders Action Day is June 2, 2021.

To address her experience and offer insight into eating disorders, McLamb and Anne Cusack, PsyD, clinical psychologist at the Eating Disorder Treatment and Research Program and co-director the adult treatment program, are available to answer questions.