KC eating disorder survivor raises awareness

Posted at 3:41 PM, Feb 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-26 17:58:18-05

It started as a way to gain control, to fit in.

"I was born with some physical problems and I thought this was something wrong with my brain too," said Margaret Railton, who was born with spina bifida.

But that perceived sense of power ended up leaving Railton powerless.

"It got to a point where when I was in college I would be binging and purging 25 times a day," said the former bulimic.

From the age of 7, Railton consumed herself with little more than anorexia, bulimia and binge eating.

QUIZ: Do you have an eating disorder?

"It's a disease of shame, guilt and lies," she explained. "And you typically hurt the people who love you the most."

Now, nearly 40 years after her disordered eating began, she's reinventing herself and hoping to inspire others along the way.

"I know that for myself to seek treatment at age 40 was one of the most difficult things to do because I knew that I would be in treatment with younger girls," she said. "That's really hard."

While eating disorders are commonly associated with young girls, the National Eating Disorders Association estimates that 13 percent of women 50 and older deal with anorexia, bulimia or binge eating. The toll it takes on their bodies - their hearts, teeth, bones and organs - can be heightened with age.

GET HELP: Speak to a therapist about how to help yourself or someone you love

"An eating disorder finds someone," said Kansas City therapist Carla O'Connor. "It's a solution. What flips the switch on can be very different from one person to the next."

O'Connor is an eating disorder specialist who runs the Eating Disorders Program of Kansas City with several doctors treats men and women of all ages, though many times her patients are middle-aged like Railton.

"I hope people remember that it is possible for people to get well," she said. "Sometimes I will say to someone, 'I will be in charge of the hope for a while until you start to acquire your own.'"

That was the case with Railton, who is now eight years out from the first time she went into treatment. While her fight is far from over, Railton said she's glad she took on the battle.

"Now I can actually say that I can live the life of my dreams," she said, smiling. "It's a daily process - recovery is a daily process - but you can have hope and there is life after an eating disorder."

Do you think you might have an eating disorder? Take this online quiz from the National Eating Disorder Association to find out.

If you, or someone you know, needs help with an eating disorder, there are many local and national resources available:


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