National Eating Disorders Awareness week started Monday at CSU with an event called “Breaking Free: Our Personal Stories of Recovery,” which was a panel discussion consisting of three women in various stages of recovery from eating disorders.
Forming the panel were Ashley Hunter, a graduate teaching assistant in the foreign language department, Maggie Canty a junior journalism major and Collegian editor, and 29-year-old Jennifer Bangmann
Hunter, who came to the panel last year as a member of the audience instead of as a speaker, was the first to relate her battle with ED, as it has come to be called.
“I started hating my body when I was just 4 years-old,” she said. “I grew up a gymnast and was always conscious of my body, especially my thighs. But it wasn’t until I got older, about junior high, that I started to restrict my diet.”
A combination of an already unhealthy body image and family problems led her to worsen her already unhealthy dieting.
“I started skipping meals and just generally eating as little as possible,” Hunter said. “Then in the summer of 2005, after my boyfriend left for his internship in California, it got to the point where I wasn’t eating at all. I did nothing but exercise.”
These sentiments were echoed by all the members of the panel, each making note of the fact that though they were always hungry, and always freezing cold, they would rather have suffered than given in to the urge to eat.
Canty and Bangmann, who both gave their presentations in the form of a written statement, had their own sad versions of the same story.
“I would go for hour long walks even when I barely had enough energy,” Bangmann said. “I’d drink excessive amounts of water and then when I couldn’t stand it any more, I’d allow myself a couple of grapes. And when it got really bad I’d cut, just for the pleasure, the rush.”
Suffering from osteopenia, a reduction in bone mass not as severe as osteoporosis, she spent years on disability, unable to work and struggling just to make it through the day.
Through the help of her family she was able to conquer ED as best she could, and though she still admits she wants to restrict her diet sometimes, with the support of those closest to her, she is able to resist the urge.
“It does get easier, you have other things that take the place of ED. Just in the last four months I got a job at Target, and I’m able to use that to take my mind off my body image and ED in general.”
Both Hunter and Canty sought help through therapy, dieticians and books, while Bangmann used all three and spent seven years in and out of in-patient treatment.
The road to recovery for each of them was not an easy one, and they all recognize their battle with ED as an “unfinished story”.
They recognize the media’s unhealthy portrayal of women to be a strong contributor to the widespread epidemic of eating disorders in this country and encourage anyone who feels guilty about eating to seek help immediately.
Putting things into perspective, when asked if she liked the way she looked, Bangmann said, “Depends on the day, sometimes even the hour.”
Staff writer Calvin Setar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.