Dying to Be Thin

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One Michigan State University student struggling with an eating disorder is trying to save others with the same battle.

She’s more than 40 pounds below the minimum weight for a 5'4" woman, and MSU graduate student, Holly, has been in and out of therapy for anorexia and bulimia for 12 years.

"It doesn't magically go away. You start because you think it gives you a sense of control. But without realizing it, it starts to control you," Holly said.

Holly has turned to university administrators, health experts and state legislators to form a program on campus to help other students with eating disorders, since most health insurance does not cover treatment.

According to Ronda Bokram with the MSU Olin Health Center, a multi-team approach with therapists, dietitians, medical providers and counselors should make up the program, but it also needs funding.

"The university recognizes it as an issue that needs to be addressed. It’s a matter of prioritizing and addressing the issue with minimum expense," Bokram,.

A recent study found 3 to 5 percent of all MSU students have been clinically diagnosed with an eating disorder, but even more shocking: 5 to 15 percent of students at MSU are at risk for developing an eating disorder. Those pushing for the program hope to not only treat those who are sick, but to prevent those numbers from going up.

"My story can help people understand what happens when there isn't good programming," Holly said.

As she continues her personal battle, Holly works to raise awareness and funds to save her life and others who struggle with the silent disease.

Holly contacted U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers’ office. According to his staff, Rogers earmarked $122 million into the National institute for Mental Health budget this year, particularly for the treatment of eating disorders. The budget for next year is still being debated.

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Eating disorders afflict millions of people, thousands of which will die from them yearly.

There is good news though, eating disorders can be beaten. Recovery takes a lot of time and hard work, but in the end it is all worth it

Physical Problems and Warning Signs

Anorexia Nervosa

  • Fatigue and lack of energy
  • Skin problems, pale complexion
  • Dizziness, fainting spells, and headaches
  • Noticeable weight loss, possibly wearing baggy clothes to hide weight loss
  • Amenorrhea (loss of menstruation)
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Bloating
  • Lanugo (fine downy hair) or loss of hair
  • Constipation, stomach pains
  • Loss of bone mass
  • Cathartic colon (caused from laxative abuse)
  • Low potassium (most common cause of nocturnal cardiac arrest)
  • Obsession with food, calories, and recipes
  • Excuses for not eating meals (ate earlier, or not feeling well)
  • Unusual eating habits (cutting food into tiny pieces, picking at food)
  • Complaining about being "too fat", even when thin
  • No known physical illness that would explain weight loss

Bulimia Nervosa

  • Fatigue and lack of energy
  • Dizziness and headaches
  • Constipation and diarrhea
  • Shortness of breath, irregular heartbeats
  • Binge eating, and secretive eating
  • Bathroom visits after eating
  • Vomiting
  • Depression
  • Tears of the esophagus
  • Hair loss
  • Stomach pain and bloating
  • Harsh exercise regimes
  • Mood swings and depression
  • Erosion of teeth enamel
  • Chronic sore throat and swollen glands
  • Weight fluctuations (usually with 10-15 lb range)
  • Kidney and liver damage
  • Amenorrhea (loss of menstruation) and irregular menstruation
  • Edema (swelling of hands and feet)
  • Abrasions on back of hands and knuckles
  • Development of peptic ulcers and pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)

Compulsive Overeating

  • Weight gain
  • Hypertension or fatigue
  • Heart ailments
  • Binge eating
  • Withdrawing from activities because of embarrassment about weight
  • Going on many different diets
  • eating little in public, while maintaining a high weight
  • Mobility problems
  • Diabetes
  • Arthritis
  • Varicose veins
  • Hiatal hernia
  • Embolism
  • Sleep deprivation
  • High blood pressure
  • Shortness of breath
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Social and professional failures attributed to weight
  • Weight is focus of life

Source: http://www.mirror-mirror.org/eatdis.htm (Eating Disorders "Mirror Mirror" Web Site)