Eating disorders affect high school students


Caylea Ray

Art by Molly Sparkes
Looking for an answer found in physical beauty, wanting to have the “perfect body,” striving for an unobtainable physicality. Anorexia and bulimia destroy the lives of 24 million people in America.
Sydney Hemwall, a sophomore at RBHS, has been suffering from one of these eating disorder for a year.
“I got to the point where I only ate maybe twice a week, but only small meals, and I often threw them up. I used to cover the mirror with a blanket because I hated myself even more after eating. I wanted to die. It became even less and less of a body image and self hatred took over and my need to die,” Hemwall said. “A lot of issues caused it, a mix of anxiety, depression and my panic disorder. My eating disorder was something to escape it all. I finally told my therapist and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I had meal plans and managed to eat one meal every couple of days. I grew to understand that things weren’t my fault and there were people who loved me and wanted me to stick around. I still have issues with eating but I’m not making myself throw up anymore and I eat at least once a day.”
Sharon Brush, a therapist in Columbia, has patients dealing with anorexia and bulimia. “It begins as a diet. The normal amount of calories a person should consume daily is around 2,000 to 2,500. Anorexia and bulimia are ways people try to decrease the amount of calories they eat just to help themselves lose weight. But then this starts to becomes a potential danger, it also becomes an addiction. Soon those with the disorder, start to eat less than 1000 calories per day. Over time the calories become less and less.
And then one day, they just stop eating, going days without eating but the mind of someone with an eating disorder is still saying ‘you’re fat. You can’t eat. You don’t deserve to,’ So people with the disorder don’t eat. Or maybe they do eat, but their mind is telling them, ‘You just ate that whole cookie! You’re already fat enough, you can’t get fatter. Go throw it up.’ So they go to the bathroom, and put their fingers down their throat or a toothbrush, anything to make them gag, and throw up. They get all the food out of their body before it can be digested because their mind is telling them that they can’t gain weight.” These mind consuming disorders are known as anorexia and bulimia.
“Many people with eating disorders are aware of the side effects of their disorder like death and heart diseases, but continue to do it anyway because they cannot stop, which is something most people do not understand,” said Brush. It isn’t a choice; it’s a mind alternating illness. There is no ‘end’ to an eating disorder, it doesn’t just stop once an anorexic or bulimic reaches their goal weight, they have to get smaller and smaller.”
Anorexia is the third most common chronic illness among adolescents. Millions of people suffer every day from eating disorders, this includes students from RBHS.
“We have some kids that we know have eating disorders, usually that is something we don’t know about.” RBHS nurse Tammy Adkins, RN, said. “That’s usually something a student will keep private. Its definitely a lot more than we know about.”
Students at RBHS aren’t the only students suffering from eating disorders. Students at Battle that have them as well. Taj Butter, a junior at Battle High, has struggled with anorexia for years with binging tendencies.
“Sometimes I’ll eat everything in sight and then I’ll stop and not eat for three days,” Butter said. “It’s a never ending cycle.”
While anorexia, bulimia and binge eating does take over the mind and greatly affect the body, all of those diseases are treatable. The first step is to get help.
“When I find out a student has an eating disorder, I would refer them for help, to see a therapist and people in the community who specialize in that, such as a doctor who specializes in eating disorders,” Kelly Anderson, outreach counselor at RBHS, said.
In some cases, there are people who are so deep into their eating disorder that they may have to go into in-patient treatment. Sarah Johnson*, a 24-year-old woman has been in recovery from anorexia for almost two years.
On July 10, 2012 she weighed herself and wasn’t happy with the physicality that was 14 at the time. She was so hopeless and she needed a role model,” Johnson said. “She needed someone to show her that you could come back from an eating disorder and move on with your life and be happy. I wanted to be that person for her. That’s how I started to really recover.”
Johnson had a difficult time adjusting to the recovery life. She had to go to therapy, nine hours a day, five days a week. Along with that she had to go to group individual therapy, exposure therapy and yoga.
Days and weeks of non-stop crying because she was reliving some of her most traumatic memories because of this therapy. Two more suicide attempts and lots of hospitalizations and lots of medicine.
“I relapse a couple of times but it’s relatively rare, once every few months maybe,” Johnson said. “They usually only last a couple days and are caused by my period because I have such horrible mood swings. Recovery was the hardest thing I’ve ever done but it’s also the things I’m most proud of.”
*name withheld upon request
By Caylea Erickson