Amy Kubal’s doctor diagnosed her with anorexia when she was too
young to understand the meaning of the word.
“It started out innocently,” said Kubal, a 24-year-old graduate
student studying food science and nutrition. “In fifth grade they
weighed me at school and I had lost one pound since the year before
and I was like ‘geez that was easy.’
“I made my goal to weigh 80 pounds, I weighed 84, so I just said
to myself, ‘OK, no more dessert and I’ll just ride my bike more and
play outside more.’ I started cutting out more stuff and I
basically stopped eating all together.”
By the November of her sixth-grade year, Kubal was hospitalized
for anorexia, a disease of which she had no knowledge.
“When the doctor said I had anorexia I didn’t understand what
that meant,” Kubal said. “I asked my mom what it was, if it was a
disease and if we could fix it.”
After leaving the hospital in January, Kubal relapsed in the
August of her seventh-grade year.
“This time I went to an outpatient program and I just sort of
got by,” she said.
Following Kubal’s eating disorder relapse, her parents enacted
consequences that would remain throughout her high school
“There were always a lot of ultimatums, they’d say, ‘If you
don’t weigh this much by this time you can’t do this.'” Kubal
At Christmas that year, Kubal’s parents resorted to
force-feeding Kubal to make her eat and while she did gain weight,
by that time her eating disorder had become an obsession.
“It was like an addiction,” Kubal said. “It was like having
power, I thought ‘you can tell me what to do, where to go and how
things should be done, but you can’t tell me what to put in my
The eating disorder that began when she was in junior high
school engulfed years of her life, leaving no room for friends or a
boyfriend throughout high school.
“I didn’t care about anything else,” Kubal said. “It takes over
your whole life: at night I would think about what I would eat for
breakfast, at breakfast I would think about lunch, at lunch I would
think about dinner and at dinner I would think about breakfast
At her lowest point Kubal reached 58 pounds, an incredibly
unhealthy weight for her 5-foot-2-inch frame.
“I was never fat when I started,” she said. “But I’d see myself
as fat. My legs – my legs were the things where I saw the most fat.
I was never really a judge of other people’s appearance, just of
“My mom and I would be walking through a store and I would see a
girl and say to my mom ‘why can’t I just look like that?’ she’d be
like ‘Amy, she’s normal.’ I didn’t see it that way.”
Leaving her small town of Scotland, S.D., to go to college at
CSU, Kubal’s father made her maintain 90 pounds during her entire
senior year of high school.
“I would work out six hours a day during my senior year and I
just ate carbs, no protein and no fat,” she said. “I lived off of
fruit and bagels.”
Having maintained 90 pounds during her senior year, Kubal came
to CSU for a new beginning, a place where no one knew her past and
she could make friends.
“I never planned to relapse any of the times that I did; I
wanted to start over, but right when I got to CSU I got sick
again,” she said.
By the end of her freshman year in college, Amy had dropped to a
weight between 72 and 74 pounds, and she decided she needed
“One day I was walking across campus by the (Hartshorn) Health
Center and said, ‘I’m going to make an appointment. I eventually
want to get better,'” Kubal said.
She started seeing a registered dietician at Hartshorn Health
Service and made gradual progress.
“It took weeks and weeks before I could even put cheese on
pizza,” she said.
Still, Kubal continued to attend her appointments and ended her
nine-year struggle with anorexia when she was 20-years-old.
“Every time my parents would put me in the hospital or make me
eat, that saved my life because I wasn’t ready to get better,” she
said. “Ultimately, if you ever want to get better you have to want
to do it yourself.”
At age 24, Kubal is proud that she has weighed more than 100
pounds for three and a half years.
“I don’t regret anything because I think I am a lot stronger of
a person for where I’ve been,” she said. “Life’s better than it’s
ever been. I’m happy with how I look and I feel good.”
Since overcoming anorexia, Kubal has experienced many firsts in
her life, including having her first boyfriend and having a solid
base of friends – firsts that were postponed by her eating
Laura Anderson became Kubal’s friend about a year after she
received help for her eating disorder. Throughout the two and a
half-year friendship Anderson has not only realized Kubal’s
strength, but also her continuous struggles.
“She’s just a great friend and she’s one of the most determined
people I’ve ever met,” said Anderson, a graduate student studying
food science and nutrition. “I think it’s a struggle for her every
day, she’s overcome so much and she’s very strong, but I still
watch out for her.”
Susan MacQuiddy, a psychologist at the University Counseling
Center, said what Kubal has experienced and continues to overcome
has made her a remarkable person.
“She worked really hard to get to the place she is today,”
MacQuiddy said. “I have great admiration and respect for her.”
Kubal speaks to groups and students at local schools, hoping her
story will prevent other people from developing eating
“If I can save one person from going through what I went
through, that’s my goal in life,” Kubal said. “It is such an awful
experience. Living with an eating disorder is not living. I
wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.”