Shelly from THIN documentary five years later

Shelly Guillory from the documentary THIN 5 years after recoveryThose of you who have been around a while, know Shelly Guillory. Shelly was featured in the HBO documentary THIN, by Lauren Greenfield, and she has been a regular contributor to this blog. I am happy to post this update on Shelly and the status of her recovery. 

Other posts on this topic:

Shelly Speaks, two years after THIN.

 Polly Rests (story of her suicide)

 More from one who knows



Two years ago I started on my journey of “real” recovery, not that fake, pretend recovery, where I thought I was fooling everyone ( in reality everyone knew I was faking and everyone could see through my bullshit).

No, this time was the real deal. 

So I was off, full of giddiness and excitement because I was going to make my life right. A day later the giddiness and excitement faded. I had no idea what to do with myself.  Food was still on my mind and it seemed like battling my ED thoughts was much harder than just giving in and doing what they told me to do.  It had been one day and I was already tired.  I had THE worst anxiety of my life and felt out of control. I felt like a failure for trying to recover. I wasn’t sure I deserved recovery. I had to keep reminding myself that I had made the choice to recover and I wasn’t going to back down.

When I gave up my drugs and my ED, I was very unprepared for what crept into my life. 

I was diagnosed with OCD, panic disorder, and agoraphobia.  I have wanted to give up nearly every day the past two years.  My OCD is existential, so there are days when I am completely terrified of everyone and everything. Literally.

Things don’t look real to me.

People I know and trust seem weird.
I have days when I can’t leave the house and panic attacks come one right after the other.
I have many days when I wonder if having an ED was easier than facing all this shit.


This is what I was running from with my ED and unless I face it head on, it will always be lurking around to pop in at the most inconvenient time. I need to deal with it now or I have no chance of living the meaningful life I so desperately seek. There are days when I crumble to the floor and cry.  Crying for everything I have lost and everything I want to gain. Crying because this is way harder than I could possibly have imagined.  Crying because the thoughts are still there and I cannot run. Crying because sometimes it gets to be too much and no one understands. Crying because I want to go back to my ED so bad and I cannot.

But this is real.

When I am done crying, I stand up and keep going.

There really isn’t an outline for recovery. No clear, definitive way to beat an ED.  I am the kind of person who wants a straightforward, clearly defined plan of action. Problem is, there isn’t one. Damn, I had to figure this out for myself. The most important thing I had to do is eat. Ok, I am doing that, but was I prepared for the anxiety and the fight that my ED would put up. Um, no. So I kept going no matter how hard it got.  I kept eating and I found ways that work to battle back against my ED.So my plan of action was just to talk back to my ED. To get mad at it, to laugh at it. I distracted myself.

I reached out and asked for help.

I recited positive affirmations constantly.

I listened to relaxation tapes.
I took deep breathes. (I still do all these things)

I surrounded myself with people who have “normal” eating habits. I watched them eat (but not that crazy, obsessive let me watch people while I don’t eat a thing). I was doing research. I watched them enjoy the food and they didn’t feel guilty.  I wanted to be like that. I have had lapses where I dabbled with restricting just to see what it was like because yes, I missed it. Nothing major.  A day or two, a week.  Every time, I was reminded that I don’t miss it.  I don’t want to go there ever again.  I am trying to find out who I am and what I want from life and every time I have a major relapse I lose more and more of myself and I am farther away from living a meaningful life. I have fought everyday minute of everyday for the past two years. I am still fighting and will probably have to fight for a very long time.

The good news…My fight has been worth it. 

I am more comfortable around food and two years later, I am enjoying food and the guilt has started to subside.  I still don’t fully know who I am, what I want, what to do with my life and so on, but I feel like I am becoming an entirely different person. One that I might actually like. Many things I thought I wanted when I was sick might not be what I want now. People I avoided when I was sick are now an important part of my life. I am learning to trust people more, and relationships that I thought were beyond repair are now an
important part of who I am.  My mom told me the other day how happy she was to have me back.

Now, I laugh more than I cry.

I am venturing out more, trying to learn new things. I started a dance class that I love. I am writing
more. I go for walks and instead of thinking of how many calories I have burned, I am looking around and just taking it all in.  I have read an embarrassingly high number of self help books.  I am scared to be on this recovery journey. I know where anorexia would lead me, but the journey of recovery is different.  I don’t where I am going or how I am going to
get there. Perhaps I will never now and this question will remain unanswered, but my life is whatever I want to make it.  It is terrifying for me to not know, but every once in awhile, I find myself getting excited.
I can do what ever I want. I have a chance to start it all over. So I try to embrace the unknown, to sit with it and not run. To be ok with it.


I have found more meaning in life in two years of recovery than
I did from 11 years of being sick.


It will always be an uphill battle. I think it gets easier.  I am so much more ok than I was 2 years ago. So in four years I have to be more ok than I am now. It gets overwhelming, sometimes it seems pointless to keep moving forward, but I just have to keep going. Recovery is not easy (in fact I think it is easier to be sick, but living is much more satisfying than dying), but I will not give up. My hope is that you don’t either.
It’s worth it.
– Shelly


Other posts on this topic:

Shelly Speaks, two years after THIN.


Polly Rests (story of her suicide)


More from one who knows




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46 Responses to Shelly from THIN documentary five years later

  1. Mrs. B says:

    Shelley, You are one of those people you meet in your life whose strength touches you so much that you make a permanent change in your way of thinking. You have been a blessing to me and I am proud to think of you as a friend. I hope that your family is well. I think of you all the time. You’re going to make it. In fact, you’re amazing.

  2. Melissa says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this, Shelley and MamaV. Recovery is an uphill battle, but as you noted, it’s better than the alternative. And it yields pride … not guilt. I say that’s worth everything!

  3. Kris says:

    Shelley, thank you. I appreciate your honesty and your courage. I emailed this to my daughter in hopes that she will find some comfort and encouragement in your post. She has been in recovery for a little over a year and it is so hard – on so many levels.
    Many blessings to you and everyone out there who is fighting this battle. Keep on fighting, keep on trying! Those of us who love you are cheering you on!!

  4. Alex says:

    Great to get this update.It gives a lot of hope.
    I’m only sorry I haven’t gotten to say earlier how much admiration I have for you Shelly and that I have now for a whole year wanted to say that, ever since you came to the blog, it’s true.
    Thank You for being so honest
    Love Alex <3

  5. whatever says:

    at least u have a mom and husband. many people don’t.

  6. imaginenamaste says:

    Shelly (and mamaVISION)–
    Thank you so much for your words, it was what I needed to hear tonight….that recovery is a process, not a perfect process. One that is hard and isn’t just magic. Too often than not, I feel like that is the message I get. It is good to know that the “fear” of recovery might even be “normal”–the fear of the unknown, of what the world holds for you, how you will be, what you will be.
    Thank you

  7. S says:

    Thanks for the update, Shelley and for MamaVision for sharing it on her blog.

  8. Ella says:

    I am currently inpatient for treatment of my eating disorder. I only just got discharged from a medical ward because I tried to suicide – because I didn’t see a way out of this. Now I’m back in the psychiatric unit.
    Thank you for sharing this. It’s more stories like yours we need to hear. This illness is so raw, so painful. Thank you for making it real. Thank you for giving me hope.

  9. sar says:

    i feel the same as everyone else here. this morning i had no hope in life. i couldn’t get out of bed or stop crying. i have not yet started the recovery process, and i’m not sure the time will even come soon, but this post gave me hope (and made me cry some more).

  10. smudgeruk says:

    That’s a really inspiring read. Keep going. :o)

  11. Jerome says:

    Shelly, I just wanted to tell you how inspiring I found what you wrote. I’m also a psychiatric RN and also a partly-to-mostly recovered anorexic that struggles with it EVERY SINGLE DAY, but I keep going because the alternative (being sick) is no longer acceptable to me. It doesn’t ever become effortless, but reading stories like yours makes continuing the journey at least a little bit easier, and for that I thank and applaud you.
    P.S. I’m a 31 year old gay man…I’ve been “recovered” since my early 20’s but it’s still a constant battle.

  12. Mrs. B says:

    Jerome, take care of yourself. That was a very touching post. It must be very hard to be an anorexic man, a gay man and a nurse who works in the very emotional world of psychiatric nursing. May God continue to bless your recovery.

  13. aileb says:

    *Hugs* to everyone going through this.
    Thank-you Shelly for posting this. I really like that you didn’t sugar coat recovery.
    It’s not easy to willingly letting this go.
    The other part of me that almost seems like second skin aches.
    I just started recovery in June and each meal -no scratch that-each bite is still a struggle.
    They say that it won’t be so hard and that it will taste good soon.
    They want me to forget so badly. I want to forget too.
    I want to forget how to remember too because that terrfies me more.

  14. Heidi says:

    Thanks. I love hearing about her. I am so glad she told us it’s not all perfect. It is still a struggle but it is possible. I am having a very hard time because I can not get perfect on my eating. I feel as if 1 bad moment means the rest of my life will be bad. But that is not true. It will be tough at times but like Shelley said, it’s worth it. I want to live and let food be a part of me, not me be a part of food!

  15. Yum says:

    Does anyone know what happened to Brittany and Alisa?

  16. Sharon says:

    I heard Lauren Greenfield speak a few months ago at a museum during a Q and A session after a showing of “Thin”. I am not exactly sure what is happening with them now, but I remember her mentioning something about Alissa falling back into her habits (as also mentioned at the end of “Thin” for a short while, then getting back up and fighting, but I don’t know where she is now. I hope the same is for Brittany. I don’t want to say anything else about them because I don’t know. Maybe MamaVision knows? Maybe Lauren Greenfield knows.

  17. shelly says:

    Alisa has been in a solid recovery for years. We are very close. I have heard a few things about brittany but becasue I dont know for sure, it isnt my place to pos it here.

  18. "Julia" says:

    I’m glad you’ve been able to fight it, Shelly, in spite of everything underlying it.
    I don’t think I’ll ever be able to recover, but it means more than anything to see you and Alisa moving on.
    I really hope Brittany is going to be able to beat the monster, too. More than anyone, I can relate to her. She’s not the only one with an eating disordered mother, I’m sad to say.
    Love to you all. Keep us posted!

  19. Steph says:

    Shelly, hon, I love you. I miss you. I’m sooo proud of you.

  20. anon says:

    Shelly ~
    Thank you for your inspiring words and telling it ‘like it is,’ both the good and bad and how much more you get from living than being stuck with the ED. You are moving ahead with your life and stepping into the unknown and that takes a heck of a lot of courage. Thanks for sharing with us, and I hope to see more posts from you!

  21. Yum says:

    Shelly, thanks for letting us know! It’s great to hear that Alisa is doing well, and I really hope Brittany finds her way as well.

  22. Jessie says:

    Oh Shelly, I am so so so happy for you.

  23. Jessie says:

    Also, thank you so much for taking the time to write this honest and realistic post to let us know how you’re doing. I know your story on THIN resounded with a lot of people, myself included. I would want to hear how you were even if things weren’t going well, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. I can’t believe it’s been almost 5 years since the documentary was filmed…. I have struggled with an/bn for 8 years and first saw the documentary during my second relapse. That movie will always hit home for me because for that reason: I could relate so much to what was shown in the film because I was going through the very same thing at the time, to land my own a** in treatment shortly thereafter.
    Stay strong, I’m rooting for you. :) :) xxxooo

  24. Michelle says:

    You are beautiful. I feel blessed to have read this wonderful account of recovery. Please stay with it, never feel ashamed if you have a hard time. God bless you.

  25. ja says:

    What happened to Jen???? I’ve always wondered about her.

  26. kim says:

    hey shelly,
    i havent been around for awhile and i have missed you. it was great to read this and get updated. i am and always have been so proud of your willingness and see you as an inspiration. i love you, kim

  27. G says:

    Of course it’s easier to be sick. Finding the underlying trigger for ED, OCD, anxiety, agoraphopbia………., that is the what is hard. Could take some time.

  28. Amanda says:

    Shelly, I just wanted to tell you how inspiring you are. I have been dealing with my ED for a VERY long time and I hope someday that I will be as brave as you and stick with recovery like you said some times it is easyer just to live with ED than it is to fight it every sec. of the day. Thank you for sharing your story. I think of you offten and wonder how you are doing. Fight the good fight. :)

  29. ANONYMOUS says:

    Hi Shelly,

    You’re so brave for having put yourself out there so publicly, kudos for sure. I just wanted to let you know that it does continue to get better. I’m now over 7 years into my recovery from ED and drugs. I’d say 5 was the magic turning point for me, so whatever you do, don’t give up before the miracle happens. Because it does. And that’s not program speak, that’s hard won personal experience. (I’m not even on meds anymore for the OCD and anxiety, so that’s proof positive!) Keep it up!

  30. Anonymous says:


    I watched THIN about a couple of months ago. a few days ago I went online to see if there were any recent recovery updates about how you were doing.It made me SOOO happy when I read about how well you were doing and that you fully committed to the recovery journey. I am so happy for all of your success. You made such a brave choice to be happier, healthier and free. I know it wasn’t easy. I like that you are so realistic about your recovery experience and you didn’t beat around the bush the feelings, that were once numb, by starvation suddenly creep up in your life w/out the ED. It is very scary and not easy to deal with and the ED is knocking on the door so loudly to try to save you from it all, but you can’t go back. You are such an inspiration and give me so much hope. I have recently started recovery a bit over four months ago and was committed but not 100% (excersising too much) committed until about a month and half- 2 moths ago. Since then I have struggled a lot, cried, felt weak as anything, fought and everything else. most of the time I wanted nothing more than to go back to my ED, even try new symptoms I never have used, but that is just too too easy and I can’t do that. Reading your story is making me feel not alone and makes my recovery feel real and”normal” especially when my family thinks i am weird for just crying out of nowhere and I thank you for that! Like you said so many stories give people a false illusion of recovery and reading them I was like “I started recovery a few months ago and I don’t feel so awesome, i feel like shit, what the hell is wrong with me?” But, I must say, you are right it is slowly getting better,one day at a time and I am learning to cope with my feelings in healthier ways. It is so hard, but I pray every night I continue to STAY in recovery like you have. Every day I notice things I never in a million years would have months ago lost with my ED. Anyway, I am so proud of you, you have come SUCH a long way! You are such an inspiration and you are such a great role model. You deserve a happy and relaxing life! You are so strong! Keep Fighting! You will win! :)

  31. jessica says:

    shelly i watched thin and although i dont have ed i felt so close to you. like you were my friend and i wanted so bad that you snap into reality and get better for your self and for your friends and family! after watching thin i just had to google and see if you were ok now. and after reading this i am so glad to hear that you are doing well again. i hope the road to recovery remains something that you do and i hope that you fully recover soon. you are such a strong person. as i said i dont truely know what your going through, my mom had the peoblem but i havnt. But if you ever need a friend or someone to talk to please feel free to email me or message me on youtube i have left my website address. dont be scared lol a few simple words’hi this is shelly an i need someone to talk to’ im so very glad your doing better.

    xx jessica

  32. Pingback: Shelly is winning. | We Are the Real Deal

  33. Pania says:

    A couple of years later, and I am reading this incredible piece a year into my first attempt at recovery, which brought on such incredible depression and anxiety that I relapsed, and haven’t been able to convince myself to try again. I am so petrified of that suffering. It is easier to control my own suffering.

    My jaw stretched its hinges when I read her description of the monsters unleashed in quitting her addictions. Her poignant lines on the existential nature of her OCD have me seriously beside myself. I don’t know if anyone can understand how very hard I have been searching for someone to put a name or help me put a name to my collection of problems… It’s coincidental, but meaningful, that I have described my “block” in recovery as an existential impasse which I refuse to meet. I am so so so grateful to hear someone utter with simplicity and guts a truth that mirrors my own experience in a profound way.

    A meaningful life can be for me, too. I have been unable to do it on my own EVER. I can’t imagine waking up and choosing because I’m afraid of the repercussions… I’m afraid I won’t trust my choice. But tomorrow morning I’m going to read Shelly’s post again. And I’ll return to it again, as many times as it takes with my awful memory.

    Ever since I first viewed the film (and returned to it again and again), Shelly has struck a chord with me. This is not surprising, for Shelly, clearly the prized child of Thin, has the greatest combined quotient of intelligence and disturbance of all the girls featured as main characters, for certain. She was manipulative (they all were), but smart (some were decidedly not). Of course. But, more, she has this intelligence which is problematic. Intelligence makes people ruminate about the Big Issues, philosophy, spirituality, art, inequality… both good and bad.

    Here, I thank the gods and goddesses, the twigs and the berries, I’ve been blessed to hear something from Shelly that is both positive and REAL, gritty, meaningful, and enlightening.

  34. marsel says:

    I wish I could see you in person. Your story is a story of hope, courage, and strength.
    Thank you!

  35. Pingback: Shelly Speaks | Eating Disorder Resource Anorexia Bulimia Help

  36. Pingback: Women of the Documentary THIN HBO eating disorders | Eating Disorder Resource Anorexia Bulimia Help

  37. Pingback: Polly Rests | Eating Disorder Resource Anorexia Bulimia Help

  38. Samantha says:

    Shelly, I’ve seen the documentary on Youtube (I’m from Holland, they didn’t put it on the television here). Your story touched me so deep, I’ve searched the internet to see how you’re doing now. You’re so strong. Keep up the good work, keep fighting. I’ll never, ever forget your story. If I ever had the chance to see you in real life, I’d give you a huge hug. You’ve been trough so much, and now you’re recovering. You’re doing so great. Keep your head up girl!

    With love,

  39. Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much for writing this. I have struggled so, so much. Recovery is so unbelievably hard. I want to be better. But when I begin to slip, ‘dabble’ in restriction, shut people out, I think of the documentary I stumbled upon one day when I was so close to the edge. And now, I can think back to this piece of affirmation; there is a way out, that ‘better’ exists.
    Thank you so much.

  40. Kel says:

    Is Shelly still doing okay?

  41. Natalie Jones says:

    You are doing great. Its good to hear that you are getting better. For my own personnal issues and problems… i know you were close to Polly on the show.. How did you feel about her passing?

  42. i watched the thin documentary and was very touched. i too suffered from an eating disorder for over eight years. very glad to hear your doing so well with your recovery. god bless. much love Kathleen t

  43. Nicole says:

    I also battled anorexia and bulimia in my teens and early twenties. I was lucky enough to survive it and recover fully. But years later, I’ve discovered that I’m an empath (a highly sensitive person who can actually feel the feelings of others like they are my own) and this has led to a lot of anxiety in my life. I’ve started to be curious about whether other people with ED fall into this category too. Have you explored this topic at all?

  44. Anna says:

    I saw the documenery about a year ago and thought wow she’s so pretty! Ans she has a twin sister too! How cool is that!? I am currently battling bulimia and anna…it’s very hard to stop once you’ve started. And I am very happy that you have, maybe not beaten it as of yet but you had the courage to get well and try your hardest. And you haven’t backed down. Your an inspiration to all of us!! We all love you. Keep it up.

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