Miss Georgia reveals secret struggle with eating disorder - WRBL

Miss Georgia reveals secret struggle with eating disorder

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ATLANTA, Ga. -

Each year in the U.S. more people die from eating disorders than breast cancer. The reigning Miss Georgia is revealing details about her secret struggle with bulimia and what she's doing to recover. 

"Everything looked perfect.  Everyone thought that things were perfect but deep down I knew that things weren't and that was because I had an eating disorder and I've had one since I was 12 years old."

Leighton Jordan says she had an abundance of love and support growing up but her fast-paced ballet schedule, home-school, and living with a special needs sibling was starting to cause stress and that left Leighton looking for something she could control. "The only way I found that was through what I'd eat or what I didn't eat."

Leighton was a young tween striving for the "ideal ballerina body" by starving herself.

"You have your directors, your teachers constantly looking at you.  Constantly looking at your body.  So I knew she was preoccupied with her weight but I did not know the severity of what she was struggling with inside," said Leighton's mother.

"Most people with eating disorders are born more sensitive, they often times have an overly developed need to make everybody around them happy...which leads to perfectionism and feeling of inadequacy," said Dr. Linda Buchanan, Atlanta Center for Eating Disorders. 

At 14 years old, Leighton was treated for anorexia.  Her weight was restored for a few months but it didn't last long and at age 15 she was bulimic...binging on food then purging it to prevent weight gain.  "The eating disorder became a way to have a release, and to just not be perfect."

She tried to fight the potentially deadly disorder, bulimia on her own.  "I was in complete denial....I think I read multiple books, multiple web pages on how to overcome this and after five years of keeping it a secret I knew that I couldn't overcome this on my own," said Jordan.

Leighton first confided in a friend, then her mother....Now while undergoing treatment herself, Leighton is raising awareness about eating disorders and telling girls her story...showing them that even someone who seems to have it all isn't 'perfect'.

"I went into recovery saying I want to incorporate my faith in any way possible to get me to the freedom that I know god has in store.  and it was hard at first because I felt a little bit guilty that I was doing this to the body that god had given me and I couldn't quite come to terms that he was still okay with me even though I was harming my body and so through recovery they really tried to teach me that  I am enough just as I am and we are forgiven of all sins.  and these were things that I could tell anyone else, any day but to take it on to me and believe it for myself that was difficult," said Jordan.

She stresses the importance of a 'treatment team'- -including participation in outpatient groups and sessions with not only a psychologist or psychiatrist but also a dietician.  She sees Dietician Page Love once a week at Nutrifit in Atlanta.

"We're addressing the relationship of food and mood...fear of food and how you're reacting to food...addressing food fears," said Love.

Now that Leighton is making progress, she's looking forward to having breakfast at I-hop with love.  the outing is a form of response therapy.

"I'm eating with her.  I'm demonstrating comfort that I'm okay with eating that food and we're eating at a normal eating pace" said Love.

At her dietician's office Jordan says she uses a technique called split journaling where she writes down a negative thought she may have about food and challenges it with something positive. 

Leighton is almost home on her road to recovery.  She's thrown away her scale and when it comes to society's ideal body image she says," So what?  Who cares? As long as you're healthy that's all that matters."

Resources:

Atlanta Center for Eating Disorders - -Dr. Linda Buchanan

EDIN Eating Disorders Information Network

 Nutrifit, Sport, Therapy, Inc.- -Dietician Page Love

Miss Georgia's Blog

Brandice Hudson

Brandice Hudson is a weekend anchor and digital journalist for WRBL News 3. She comes to Columbus from sunny West Palm Beach, Fla. More>>

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