As National Eating Disorder Awareness Week comes to an end, Keene State students reflected on their experiences and struggles with eating disorders.
According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders website, up to 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from eating disorders in the U.S. The people who suffer from this disorder also have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
Staff Counselor at Keene State College Brenda McEachern explained how eating disorders affect students on campus.
“When students struggle with eating disorders, it takes up a huge amount of focus. It’s one of those things, that often times food is thought of constantly,” McEachern said.
McEachern continued, “If an eating disorder gets pretty advanced, it can absolutely impact someone physiologically in regards to brain functioning and just general health. Not feeling well, complete energy loss if you’re not getting the energy from fuel coming in then a lot of time incredible fatigue, difficulty concentrating and focusing.”
KSC senior Sydnie Kleiman said, “I started off just wanting to loose a little bit of weight and be healthier. I was always pretty active, so it just spiraled from there. I got very restrictive about what I was eating and very moody. That’s the one thing, when you’re not eating, you’re extremely moody and [don’t want to] deal with anyone.”
Kleiman continued, “I lost a good amount of weight in a short period of time. It was about two months and I had lost around thirty pounds. My parents started to get worried and I remember my dad coming into my room, and asked me if I was eating. Since I wasn’t, I got extremely defensive because the big thing about eating disorders is that you want to keep it a secret.”
According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders website, anorexia is the third most common chronic illness among adolescents.
Kleiman explained that from there, she wanted to prove to her parents that she wasn’t anorexic, which lead to developing bulimia. “That went on from senior year of high school to about first semester junior year of college,” Kleiman said.
Kleiman said that she went through intensive care through two health facilities in order to get help for her eating disorders: one inpatient and one outpatient.
Kleiman specified what inpatient treatment was like compared to outpatient treatment.
“You wake up in the morning, pee in a cup, you get weighted in your underwear, you get blood tests. It’s almost like a check-up everyday. You have to eat a certain number of meals each day and if you don’t finish the meal, they give you a supplement. I was there for a week,” Kleiman said.
Kleiman continued, “I did an outpatient about a year-and-a-half ago that my insurance covered. An outpatient is basically you go for the day, but then you come home at night. The place I went to was a lot more laid back than the other place was.”
McEachern said the counseling center on campus handles student cases of eating disorders depending on their severity.
“There is different therapeutic approaches to kind of help with various levels of awareness of eating. A lot of times there’s other issues underneath it typically that what kind of, it doesn’t just come out of nowhere it’s usually related to depression or something underneath. Trauma even,” McEachern said.
McEachern mentioned that the counseling center collaborates with other health services both on and off campus if the student’s eating disorder is at a higher level.
“In some cases, the eating disorder has become a higher risk level of severity where it’s clear that the best treatment is going to be in an eating disorder program, or intensive outpatient where services are going to be need at a higher degree than we can provide here. We will help the student find a program that will be most effective for them,” McEachern said.
McEachern revealed what type of eating disorder the counseling center has been seeing recently.
“We’re seeing more of the [binge eating] disorder, which actually just recently came out in the newest diagnostic manual as an actual eating disorder where they hadn’t had it specialized before,” McEachern said.
A KSC student disclosed their battle with eating disorders.
The student requested her name be withheld out of privacy concerns.
“My emergence into puberty and my starting of taking a medication that made me gain weight happened at the same time. That made me go from a thin child to an overweight adolescent.”
KSC student continued, “I ended up making myself throw up, basically I had bulimia. What happened was I went to my guidance counselor in middle school and he took me to the nurse because he didn’t know how to deal with a girl with an eating disorder, which is totally understandable. The nurse weighed me, and she said because I was still at a healthy weight, that I was fine. I was like okay, I guess I’m fine and I can continue to do what I’m doing.”
According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders website, over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting and taking laxatives.
The KSC student explained that it was her passion for acting and being successful motivated her to live a healthier lifestyle with eating.
“If I want to succeed, I can’t be making myself throw up. It’s not conducive to having a good life. I started eating healthier and I would exercise. I lost more weight than what I had been losing when I had bulimia which was nice. I just kept a healthy lifestyle,” she said.
The KSC student mentioned that setting a good example for her three younger sisters, one of whom also had an eating disorder, inspired her to change.
KSC junior Ally McNamee commented on her side of the story dealing with eating disorders.
“When I was a freshman in high school, that’s when it kind of first started. It started with me restricting how much I ate for a long time. There was a bit of me throwing up as well, but it was more to do with [restricting my diet],” McNamee said.
McNamee said that therapy helped during her struggle with eating disorders.
“Going to therapy is really important. I think that it what I want to do when I grow up is be a therapist for people with eating disorders. They [therapists] are really helpful and you can go without admitting or being ready to get better,” McNamee said.
According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders website, the body type portrayed in advertising as the ideal is possessed naturally by only five percent of American females.
Another KSC student whose name has also been withheld defined social media as the cause of her eating disorder.
“It started when I was a sophomore or junior in high school where I was on Instagram a lot. I came across these profiles with girls that had anorexia and I was interested in it,” she said.
This KSC student agreed that the media has a lot to do with eating disorders.
“I think it has to do with the media a lot because what you see on TV, you see all these models and all these actresses that are so thin and have nice legs, tan skin, and they’re all skinny,” they said.
KSC senior Lulu Lecraw agreed that the media can cause body image issues.
“The media I feel wants us to be skinny, not healthy, so most people go to the extreme and say ‘oh to look good is to be skinny and not eating’ and really it should be everyone has their own body type and not everyone is super skinny like models,” Lecraw said.
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