By: Elizabeth Pace
Updated: February 12, 2020 – 1:41 PM

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — For Anna Kagiliery, each meal used to be a battle between her want and her needs. For year, the Jacksonville teenager picked apart her meals, only eating no-carb food.

She said it all started when her family and friends decide to participate in a diet for a month. But Kagiliery said she couldn’t stop.

“After those 30 days, I didn’t stop the diet,” Kagiliery said. “It was no carbs, it was no unhealthy foods, nothing packaged, just clean eating. I fell in love with it.”

The teen said she continued to lose weight, and compliments from her peers became another motivator.

“I fell in love with the weight loss, I feel in love with how I felt, which was tired and hungry. I loved everything about it,” Kagiliery said.

Then the no-carb meals started to be nonexistent as well. Some days, she said she would only eat breakfast. Now, she was a freshman in high school.

“By this time I was thinking, ‘OK, I have a problem but I like it, I like my problem,’” Kagiliery said. “It’s an addiction. Eating disorder is an addiction that you can’t just get over.”

Her parents took her to four different physicians and several nutritionists in Jacksonville, but they said none of the treatment had long-term effects.

“Seeing the spark leave is when you kind of go, something’s not right,” her mother, Aronson Kagiliery said. “Most eating disorders, families don’t realize there’s a problem they say on average three years. We were fortunate to catch it early.”

By June 2019, Kagiliery was diagnosed with an eating disorder, anorexia nervosa. Her parents found a treatment facility in North Carolina. Kagiliery said she was resistant at first, went in kicking and screaming, but then the treatment started to help.

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“They joke at treatment that if we do our job, you will get a teenager back,” Aronson Kagiliery said. “So what’s really kind of fun is being able to experience those typical teenage things where the eating disorder had taken that from us.”

Kagiliery completed eight weeks of treatment, four in-patient and four out-patient. She still continues to check in with her physician and nutritionist today, but said she is on the other side of her illness. Now, she is empowered to help others battling an eating disorder.

Part of her treatment was discovering NEDA, the National Eating Disorder Association. This organization helps any men or women battling an eating disorder. They choose to empower and spread awareness partly with an annual walk in different cities. Kagiliery is working to bring it to Jacksonville for the first time.

“I struggle every day but it’s not the struggle that defines me, it’s what I’ve overcome,” Kagiliery said. “I want to break this stigma because it’s something that a lot of people don’t talk about. And it’s nothing to be embarrassed about.”

Her NEDA walk is scheduled for Feb. 22 at Riverside Park. They are asking for volunteers, participants, and donations. Find more here: https://www.nedawalk.org/jacksonville2020