Do you have a family member or loved one who is currently suffering from an eating disorder? Have you been in recovery from ED? When does the real change begin for the better? In this podcast episode, Dr. Cristina Castagnini speaks about going from full-blown ED to complete recovery and life beyond with Caroline Drummond-Smith.


Caroline is a 56-year-old mother of 3 who suffered from anorexia for over 30 years. She thought recovery was impossible for someone who had lived with an eating disorder for so long, but she’s now fully recovered and is using her lived experience, along with specialist eating disorder training, to help others to live and thrive.

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  • Caroline’s experience with ED
  • ED is an illness, not a choice
  • Having an eating disorder during pregnancy
  • The prospect of recovery can feel like abandonment
  • The process of recovery

Caroline’s experience with ED

For a long time, Caroline thought that her experience with an eating disorder started when she was 16. That was when she was sent to boarding school in a new country. However, she came to discover that it actually started earlier for her, when she was younger.
At 15/ 16, I started using food and restricting as a way of, one; controlling my situation, and secondly; coping with my situation. (Caroline Drummond-Smith)
Caroline was more introverted, had a smaller group of friends, and often felt a little separate. She then found safety in restricting her food at a young age. Then, when she had her life changed by being moved abroad to attend boarding school by herself, she used her restrictive behaviors as a coping mechanism again.
It was a big change, and that was definitely about control. I remember thinking, “I do feel out of control in this situation” … everything was new and unknown, and it was a conscious decision that I could control my food. It had started already, so it just got more severe. (Caroline Drummond-Smith)
Ultimately, control and coping were the feelings that restricting food gave Caroline.

ED is an illness, not a choice

An eating disorder is an illness. It is not something that someone picks up randomly, it is a maladaptive coping mechanism that has become more extreme that, if left untreated, can be fatal. Additionally, you cannot tell whether somebody has an eating disorder or not.
Even once somebody maybe does seek treatment and they are not engaging in the behaviors anymore, it’s the thoughts, it’s other part[s] that are going on internally for people. (Caroline Drummond-Smith)
An eating disorder is not only about the obsession with the physical because it also creates a harmful, self-destructive, and endless cycle of negative thoughts in someone's mind.

Having an eating disorder during pregnancy

Caroline took fertility drugs to help her get pregnant, and she had a son and a set of twins within 20 months of each other. However, her eating disorder was present right through her pregnancies, and she had to be hospitalized twice before each birth because the babies weren’t growing properly. Luckily, they were all born healthy, except her body had suffered tremendously.
I remember being really proud of my bump, and loving it and wanting to show and to look pregnant but only from the front, anything else, absolutely not. (Caroline Drummond-Smith)
Even though Caroline and her body had suffered after her births, her anorexia loved it. Unfortunately, many doctors and people in her community complimented her on her weight loss.

The prospect of recovery can feel like abandonment

When you have been struggling with an eating disorder for many years, or it was grown to feel like another “part” of you, the idea of going to recovery, healing it, and letting the ED go can feel terrifying. It can feel like you’re cutting off and abandoning a part of yourself, especially when you’ve been using it as an attempt to feel safe and secure, even though it was never safe in the first place.
It was my identity … who on earth would I be? I had this for 35 years, who would I be without my eating disorder? I didn’t know how to live as an adult because it started when I was 15, I didn’t know how to be without it. I didn’t know who I’d be without it. (Caroline Drummond-Smith)
Although, as soon as you start taking the eating disorder apart and separating it from you, so many good things that are real and true will rush in to take its place. You have to trust that that’s what’s going to happen. You have to trust to let the eating disorder go, for the sake of your future.

The process of recovery

Caroline experienced a few bad relapses. Her husband once stood up to her, and made her seek help – which she did – and it began again the process of her recovery.
I looked in the mirror and I said to myself, “I’m done with this.” And from that moment, I decided that I wanted to recover, and that was the first time in my life that I had decided for myself … it wasn’t anybody else telling me to … and I did it on my own. (Caroline Drummond-Smith)
Because she had the right intention, of recovering with love for herself and for wanting a truly better life, she was able to recover on her own. It was difficult, and Caroline recommends that people get support for their journeys, but it will make it much more manageable. Don’t give up hope, and know this: full recovery is possible. You have to want it and you have to commit to yourself. It really is possible to recover fully from your ED.
It has to come from within you. It has to come from within you, you can have all the people around you in the world [telling you but it has to start with you]. (Caroline Drummond-Smith)



  I am a licensed Psychologist and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist. While I may have over 20 years of clinical experience, what I also have is the experience of having been a patient who had an eating disorder as well. One thing that I never had during all of my treatment was someone who could look me in the eye and honestly say to me "hey, I've been there. I understand". Going through treatment for an eating disorder is one of the hardest and scariest things to do. I remember being asked to do things that scared me. Things I now know ultimately helped me to get better. But, at the time, I had serious doubts and fears about it. If even one of my providers had been able to tell me "I know it's scary, but I had to go through that part too. Here's what will probably happen...." then perhaps I would not have gone in and out of treatment so many times. My own experience ultimately led me to specialize in treating eating disorders. I wanted to be the therapist I never had; the one who "got it". I will be giving you my perspective and information as an expert and clinician who has been treating patients for over 2 decades. But don't just take my word for it...keep listening to hear the truly informative insights and knowledge guest experts have to share. I am so happy you are here!


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