Ginger Zee didn’t want to keep her secret any longer.
“It’s a moment in my life that I’ve not shared with a lot of people,” the ABC meteorologist told PEOPLE at Mixology in Los Angeles on Monday after revealing her battle with anorexia on Dancing with the Stars. “It’s not something I’m proud of because it’s a disease that I chose.”
But Zee, 35, felt compelled to share her eating disorder battle – which she says was at its worst from ages 10 to 14 after her parents divorced – in order to help others.
“I know a lot of people suffer from it and I hope that this will get the conversation going in the family,” says the DWTS finalist, who has said she is “really happy” with her body while on the dance competition.
And family was a vital part of Zee’s own journey to recovery.
In addition to therapy, the on-air personality says her mother took her to visit an in-patient treatment center to show her what her future could look like if she continued to be anorexic.
“It was to scare me, basically,” the new mom told reporters. “There were girls who were on their way to death. ‘That one will die tomorrow,’ she’d say. It was shocking and it didn’t make me better right away but I knew I had the great support of my family and the fear factor was there.”
Zee also credits her step-father, who is a counselor, for helping her recover.
“My step-father is a saint. He came into our lives and he taught me about nutrition and self love and once I started to learn about taking calories in and working calories off, then I got obsessed with working out,” she says. “Everybody goes through those stages. He helped me to get out of that moment in my life.”
When asked what she would say to her teenage self know, Zee had nothing but words of encouragement.
“Just realize that there is such a bright life ahead and you don’t have to torture yourself,” she said. “You can beat this.”
The finals of DWTS season 22 airs next Monday and Tuesday at (8 p.m. ET) on ABC.