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The Student News Site of Fresno Christian High School

The Feather

The Student News Site of Fresno Christian High School

The Feather

Letter to the Editor

Eating disorder addiction forms fad

?Oh my gosh, I?m so fat!? Whether this thought is fact or fiction, many will find reasons to rationalize the need for weight loss.

Whether the cause is low self-esteem or to have a desire to control an aspect in their lives, over 10 million teenagers develop an eating disorder and approximately 20% die of complications relating to them according to kidshealth.org.

Katie Mendenhall, 32-year-old cheer coach on campus, suffered from anorexia for about 10 years.

?I probably developed my eating disorder when I was about eight,? Mendenhall said. ?It lasted until I was a senior in high school. I was probably 5?6? and close to 100 pounds.?

Eating disorders are common in teenagers, including those on campus; friends of those who have this problem often seek help.

?My first year teaching peer counseling I got maybe one eating disorder case but the numbers have increased every year,? Molly Sargent, the peer counseling teacher, said. ?Sometimes eating disorders start as a fad. A group of friends are curious about it and will experiment. While the friends eventually get sick of it and just stop, one of the girls will develop an addiction and won?t be able to stop.?

Natalie McCallum, ?09, had a friend that was having trouble with an eating disorder.

?A group of us were worried about our friend so at lunch one day we had a mini intervention,? McCallum said. ?We let her know that she was beautiful and didn?t need to lose weight and she ended up getting help.?

Teenagers who suffer from an eating disorder often hide it from family members and friends.

?Being secretive is definitely part of the disease,? Jane Taylor, a Fresno licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), said. ?People who have an eating disorder are kind of in denial and feel embarrassed about it. They don?t want people asking questions so they start wearing baggy clothes to hide their weight loss.?

Mendenhall?s parents did not know about her eating disorder until Eunie McEntee, her cheer coach at the time, noticed that something was wrong.

?I think that my parents thought that it was just a phase because my weight would go up and down all the time,? Mendenhall said. ?When Mrs. Mac called my parents I was upset at first, but then it was like a turning point because I realized that I did have a problem.?

According to mirror-mirror.org some signs of an eating disorder may include fatigue, headaches, always being cold, an obsession with food and excuses for not eating.

?I was light-headed a lot, I had dark circles under my eyes, I felt weak all the time,? Mendenhall said, ?and my freshman year in high school I went a whole summer without my period.?

The body experiences many symptoms when it does not get the food it needs.

?If the body doesn?t get the nutrition it needs then a person will start feeling weak or faint,? Bill McGowen, biology teacher on campus, said. ?One will also experience thinning hair, dry skin and brittle nails. A girl who doesn?t eat can also lose her menstrual periods. If someone throws up for a long period of time, the acidic nature of a person?s vomit can severely decay their teeth.?

Many feel self-conscious about their weight but do not think starving themselves is the solution.

?In junior high I was very self-conscious about my weight and I lost about 13 pounds, but not necessarily the most healthy way,? McCallum said. ?Now I keep in shape by going to the gym, exercising a lot and eating more healthy.?

For Mendenhall, self-esteem was not the issue behind her anorexia.

?For me it was three major things that was the reason for my eating disorder,? Mendenhall said. ?One was because of a comment made when I was eight, another was because my mom was so thin and so I felt like I had to be really thin as well. Lastly it was because everyone in my family was so successful and I felt so controlled and that the only thing that I could control was what I put in my mouth.?

Some believe that being comfortable with yourself and others around you is key in order to prevent ever developing an eating disorder.

?Eating disorders start because of low self-esteem or being affected by a comment made about their weight,? Ani Paparigian, ?09, said. ?In junior high I just wanted to disappear but then I realized I can?t care about what people think. It takes years of practice to be comfortable with others and then, in turn, you?ll be comfortable with yourself.?

Paparigian played an anorexic girl in a video shown to the girls in a recent gender chapel.

?I was nervous about playing that part at first because I was making myself vulnerable to rumors getting started about me having an eating disorder,? Paparigian said, ?but if I helped at least one girl out of the many we showed the video to, then I?m content.?

Sharon Sharf, home economics teacher and former registered dietitian, recommends many ways to start eating in a way that will help someone who has an eating disorder feel good about themselves.

?There are some things that people can eat so that they don?t feel so guilty afterwards,? Sharf said. ?Start by following the food pyramid, making sure to eat enough fruits and vegetables. Also, be sure to exercise daily.?

People who suffer from eating disorders may need support system to begin the recovery process.

?People who have eating disorders can?t recover unless they have friends and family there to support them,? Taylor said. ?There needs to be day-to-day check ups, therapy and intervention to keep them on the right track. These diseases are life-long issues; those who start having an eating disorder when they are teenagers often suffer into their 40s and 50s.?

Mendenhall went to counseling after her parents found out and believes that it was benefitical.

?I don?t think that eating disorders ever really go away,? Mendenhall said. ?It is really a disease that effects your brain and the way you think. Even now when I get really stressed those same thoughts pop in my head, but since I talked about it I am able to recognize when those thoughts come into my head. I know that isn?t the right thing to do and I can now overcome them and not go down that path again.?

Finally, Mendenhall said the crisis point that permanently changed her perspective came when she determined that her Christian faith placed a value on her life.

“Knowing that the Lord had a plan for my life and I would not be able to fulfill that plan because I was too physically weak from the disease, was another turning point in my recovery,” Mendenhall said. “It gave me a reason to fight for my health.”

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