TAMPA, Fla. - It's a struggle many don't want to talk about and it can be deadly.
Thanks to a group in the Bay Area, help is on the way for those battling eating disorders.
"From the time I was 18 until I was 64, and very few people knew," Iris Ruth Pastor recalled of her struggle.
She kept her eating disorder a secret for 46 years.
"I binged and purged almost daily until I was 64 years old," Pastor said.
She started in college after a bad break-up with her boyfriend.
"You feel kind of out of balance and you feel bad about yourself because you're hiding a secret and it's a shameful secret," she explained.
Pastor got professional treatment eight years ago.
"I was starting to feel the effects of it. I had ruined my teeth, my throat was scratchy all the time," Pastor said. "I just had this gut feeling that if I didn't stop, it really was going to take my life."
Kourtney Gordon is a dietitian and program manager for Fairwinds Treatment Center. She says more than 300,000 people have the illness in the Tampa Bay area.
"This disease is so pervasive in taking away our joy and taking away our ability to see life for what it is and the positive things it can bring," Gordon explained.
Next month, Fairwinds Treatment Center will participate in the Eating Disorders Awareness walk at Raymond James Stadium.
The experience of therapy brought Pastor to write a book to help others change their lives.
"When I beat it, it was invigorating, it was freeing. It made me feel like I could do anything. If I can beat this. I can truly accomplish anything," she said.
The fourth annual Walk for Eating Disorders Awareness is March 1 at Raymond James Stadium. For information, visit www.alliancewalks.com.