Alison Burgess enjoyed an idyllic, all-American childhood. As the daughter of an Army Special Forces soldier, she moved quite a bit, but the rest of her life was devoid of turbulence. Her parents were happily married, she was good in school and, by age 12, had begun to enjoy success in competitive figure skating.
“Life really changed for me at 12,” she says. “In seventh grade, we watched a video in health class about a bulimic woman. I didn’t see what was wrong with it, so I started doing it to get rid of calories.” For 10 years, Burgess continued her unhealthy relationship with food, battling bulimia and anorexia in secret. But recovery came with a flourish at age 22. “Not only did I recover, but I got the best possible recovery one could imagine.”
Now a rising star on the NPC Bikini circuit, Burgess is determined to keep her eating disorder at bay and to help others by telling her story. Now the Los Angeles-based beauty, sponsored by MRI Performance, has a new addiction: winning.
What was it like growing up on military bases?
My dad was in the Army. He was in the Special Forces, so we moved every three years. I lived everywhere from Alaska to Florida. That was fantastic, but I grew up in a little family on perfect little Army bases. We’re also very Christian, so when we finally moved off base, it was a culture shock to find out people got divorced, and I still get shocked when people lie to me. My dad retired and is a district attorney in Florida now and is running for judge.
Your eating disorder started early. When did you finally begin to understand the dangers?
After high school. I graduated and, at that point, I learned that you could have a heart attack, your teeth could rot — God must love me because my teeth are perfect! I would do it eight times a day. It was chaos, but I looked normal: perfect pretty little Alison. I was eating about 700 calories a day, and I lost 20 pounds in three weeks. I was in Florida and I was freezing all the time, in the summer. Most of my hair fell out. I tried to control it on my own, until finally I realized I was too old for this. I told my parents, and they were surprised and not happy. I got into counseling and started getting a hold of it. But when you start an eating disorder at 12, you don’t know how to eat properly — you don’t know how to feed yourself. I never thought I was “fine.”
Going into physique competition seems like a dangerous place for a recovering bulimic.
I thought it’d be a good way to challenge myself with the food and all those things. It was hard to compete, then force myself to get my body fat back up. It was dangerous because I love the striations and vascularity. Now I’m doing so well at it. And I won’t pretend that I don’t like winning.
How do MRI products fit into your prep?
First of all, they’re great. They’re such a good company and so thorough, and I’m so grateful for them. I feel like I’ve talked with everyone at the company. But MRI Black Powder is my favorite. I’m small and caffeine sensitive. I don’t do thermogenics. I don’t do anything crazy because I’ll be jittery and awake for three days. This just helps me focus, and I don’t pay for it later in the day.
- Birth Date: November 4, 1981
- Birthplace: Concord, Mass.
- Residence: Los Angeles
- Height: 5’3”
- Weight: 113 pounds (contest); 118 pounds (offseason)
- Bikini Competition: 2012: NPC California State Championships, Class C, 1st.
- 2011: NPC Titans Grand Prix Championships, 2nd, Class C; NPC Los Angeles Bodybuilding and Figure Championships, Class C, 1st.