"There's an entire world out there once you get through this." Read how the eating disorders program at Linden Oaks helped this teen turn her life around.
From The Naperville Sun:
Food as foe: A young woman's battle with anorexia
August 5, 2009
College sophomore Kelsie Gleason began deliberately limiting how much food she ate when she was just 11. She had endured a series of traumatic experiences that year and was looking for something to distract her from her pain. Kelsie became very demanding of herself, not only in trying to stay as thin as the celebrities in magazines, but also in her performance at school in Naperville. A test score that put her below the top 5 percent of students her age would bring Kelsie to tears.
Initially, Kelsie's parents thought her eating habits were just part of a phase she would outgrow. But they didn't see how severely she restricted food consumption when she was out of the house. When she was 15, though, she let her friends know she was feeling dizzy and weak and was even passing out. They became worried enough to call Kelsie's parents. This was followed by a call to the Gleasons from the school social worker.
Kelsie had joined one of the 8 million women, men and kids in this country who battle an eating disorder.
"People with eating disorders are fearful of food," says Dr. Maria Rago, clinical director of the Eating Disorders Program at Linden Oaks at Edward in Naperville. "They spend a large part of the day thinking about body image and how they can control their food intake. People who have been through traumas and those who feel they need to be perfect are at special risk for this type of problem."
The three most common eating disorders are:
- Anorexia nervosa, which involves starving oneself until at least 15 percent below ideal body weight. Anorexics see themselves as overweight, no matter what their size.
- Bulimia nervosa, in which people binge eat and then avoid weight gain by vomiting, using laxatives or exercising excessively.
- Binge eating involves binging but not purging to lose weight. Binging episodes are often accompanied by feelings of shame.
Because Kelsie was a minor, her parents were able to have her hospitalized for her anorexia, even though she didn't see that she had a problem. This denial persisted even though Kelsie required tube feeding and a wheelchair to get around. She only was able to attend school about two months out of her sophomore year.
With the help of several hospitalizations and outpatient treatment, Kelsie, at 17, finally admitted she had a problem. Instead of going for treatment to please her parents, she now wanted it for herself. She was ready to fully commit to getting better and entered a residential treatment program in her junior year.
Now 19, Kelsie is off medications, living on campus at Illinois Wesleyan and checks in with her therapist only a couple of times a year.
Kelsie urges other people with eating disorders to be open to treatment.
"The earlier you start, the better your chances of success," she says. "It's hard work and sometimes it feels like it's never going to get better. But if you stick with it, there's an entire world out there once you get through this. I may wish I hadn't put myself through so much punishment, but dealing with this illness and recovery has made me a much stronger person. And for that I'm grateful."
For more information about the eating disorders program at Linden Oaks at Edward, visit www.edward.org/lindenoaks or call 630-305-5000.
10 signs of an eating disorder
If your child or another family member has any of the following symptoms, it's time to sit down for a conversation about what's going on in their life. If you have concerns, seek an assessment by a behavioral health professional experienced in treating eating disorders.
1. Not eating enough
2. Thinking they're fat, no matter how much they weigh
3. A preoccupation with body image and control of food intake
4. A lot of self-criticism and perfectionism
5. Isolating themselves
6. Wearing baggy clothes to hide changes in weight
8. Frequently being cold and tired
9. Long periods of time spent in the bathroom after meals
10. Food disappearing from the kitchen, or empty food packages showing up in waste baskets
Source: Edward Hospital
Naperville, Illinois (IL) - Edward Hospital and Health Services