Eating disorders can be lifelong battles
Published: Thursday, March 21, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 21, 2013 02:03
Eating disorders are a challenging part of some students’ lives. For Jacqlyn Schwartz, it’s a problem she could deal with the rest of her life.
“I’m 20 years old and already have pre-osteoporosis,” said Schwartz, an undeclared sophomore, who suffered from a combination of anorexia and bulimia. “The damage it does on your body is irreversible. I can’t change that.”
Although eating disorders can be harmful to a person’s body, the mental aspect of the disorder can make it difficult for patients to function.
“The mental part of the disorder is absolutely exhausting,” Schwartz said. “It’s all you think about day and night. You can’t focus on school or anything else because that’s all that’s on your mind.”
Schwartz has now recovered from her eating disorders. She got to the healthy state she is at now by following four steps.
“First, admitting I had a problem. For five years, I didn’t think I had a problem,” Schwartz said. “It was when my mom forced me to go to Center for Change when I realized I needed help.”
The second step was therapy, she said. She went to sessions weekly for six months and then every two weeks for another six months.
“Third was being open,” she said. “I didn’t want people to know I had a problem. Fourth, telling myself I was not going to let this problem control me any longer.”
Schwartz said she is happy and healthy today but still has moments of torment from the past.
“I’m more happy than I have ever been and I am healthy,” Schwartz said. “It for sure still haunts me today. There are some days that I literally have to force myself to eat, and some days I have to tell my mom to hide the scale.”
Schwartz said she stays aware of when she starts to have obsessions so she can go to her counselor before the obsessions make her unhealthy.
“One of the biggest things is when I know I’m starting to obsess again,” Schwartz said. “I go visit my therapist at Center for Change and he helps me think logically again. Once the obsession starts, it’s hard to stop it.”
She said depriving a body of nutrients can put you be in a bad mood and can often leads to future health issues, like infertility.
“For me, I was so mean and grumpy all the time because I literally was starving myself,” Schwartz said. “My biggest fear about it is because I have done so much to my body, I won’t be able to have kids later in life.”
According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, 91 percent of women surveyed on a college campus had attempted to control their weight through dieting while 22 percent dieted “often” or “always.”
Some students believe the message “thinner is happier” is being sent out, and it isn’t good.
“I think it’s just prevalent everywhere. Social media, magazines, TV, Aggiettes,” said Mallory Sorensen, a junior majoring in communicative disorders. “Everywhere you look sends girls the message that if you’re skinnier, you’ll be happier. It’s a bunch of crap.”
Sorensen said there needs to be a switch from wanting to be skinny to wanting to be healthy.
“Obviously if you look good you feel good about yourself, but girls and everyone in general need to focus more on being healthy and not skinny,” Sorenson said. “Our society is messed up. If you’re healthy, you’re happy.”
Having people to help through the recovery process is often vital for people suffering from the disease, Schwartz said.
“I give all the credit to my recovery to my mom, my friend Jordyn, my therapist and my family,” Schwartz said. “Jordyn told on me to my mom and my mom forced me to get help. My therapist helped me through everything, and I had support from my family. If none of that happened, I would probably be dead today.”
According to the American Journal of Psychiatry, the mortality rate associated with anorexia nervosa is 12 times higher than the death rate associated with all causes of death for females 15-24 years old.
The disease can be fatal if those suffering from it do not have support from others.
“If it weren’t for the people in my life caring so much, I would probably be dead,” Schwartz said.
There are ways for people to be more helpful for the people suffering around them, Schwartz said.
“Be honest with them,” Schwartz said. “If they have a problem it should be addressed, not pushed under the rug,”
Some feel when speaking to a person with an eating disorder, people should be aware of what they say.
“Something as little as, ‘You look skinny today,’ can actually hurt a person,” Schwartz said. “Instead, say something like, ‘What a cute outfit you have on,’ or, ‘I love your makeup today,’” she said.
Schwartz is open about telling her story because she feels like it helps people.