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Eating disorders focus of annual Candlelight Vigil.


Chicago Tribune/Trib Local-Naperville:

Linden Oaks vigil focuses on eating disorders
By Gary Gibula, Special to the Tribune
May 21, 2013

An eating disorder can be likened to an internal battle between two wolves, according to Julie White.

"Which one will win?" she asked. "The one you feed."

White was one of several individuals who shared stories of recovery from such disorders at a gathering Monday evening in Naperville. About 300 people gathered in a courtyard garden at the Linden Oaks at Edward treatment center for a 10th annual candlelight vigil.

"It's a very serious problem," said Trish Jones-Bendel, director of patient care. "One thing that people don't realize is that eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Ten to 15 percent of people who suffer from it will die from it."

Among several forms are anorexia, characterized by factors like the fear of gaining weight, and bulimia, which may include binge eating followed by purging.

"I was a runway model for four years, and then I had to quit that because the industry didn't want me," said Hannah Sanders, 19, of St. Charles, who is in recovery. "Events like this are important to raise awareness because a lot of people don't know about eating disorders, and those who do may not think that others understand or care."

Ethan Sudman of Gurnee said his recovery was aided by looking at his problem from a third-person perspective. The approach was echoed by keynote speaker Jenni Schaefer, who personified her eating disorder as "Ed."

"Maybe some of you saw that there was a boycott and protest this week at Abercrombie & Fitch," said Maria Rago. "The CEO took back some of his comments, and that was because of you."

Rago was referring to recent comments by Michael Jeffries that larger clothing sizes are not offered to purposely keep larger men and women out of its stores. In the face of nationwide protests, the chief executive backtracked last week with a statement that Abercrombie & Fitch is "strongly committed to diversity and inclusion."

Target stores came under fire last month and apologized for labeling a plus-size dress "manatee gray."

The candlelight vigil included interludes including Sarah Cozzi reciting original rap poems titled "I'm a Soul, Not a Size" and "Willing Versus Willful." "American Idol" contestant Mariah Pulice of Darien sang an inspirational song.

Sue Perno, who is in recovery from an eating disorder and whose father and grandfather committed suicide, said: "My eating disorder was a cry for help, and I'm very lucky to be here today. You must fight, fight for your life."

In his recovery story, Grant Forssberg said: "Today we possess the power to define our own existence and be the change we want to be."

Beauty pageant contestant Brittany Schultz said she first thought she had to lose weight to be accepted by her friends.

"I didn't understand why losing weight wouldn't fix my life like I magically thought it would," she said. "It's very much a psychological illness as well as a physical one. Some people think you can just stop eating and everything will be fine, but that's just not true."

Schultz said the most pivotal factor in her recovery was her faith in God. She quoted a Bible verse that beauty should not come from outward adornment and fine clothes but from a gentle and quiet spirit.

"You just need to be yourself, and that can be enough," she said.

Jones-Bendel said Linden Oaks has a specific approach to proper weight control.

"Our philosophy is all things in moderation," she said. "When we start labeling them as 'good foods' or 'bad foods,' we start to mess with balance."

Another important element to recovery from eating disorders, Jones-Bendel said, is for parents to recognize accomplishments.

"Give them compliments for being a good friend, for being kind or being a good student," she said. "Compliment them for their character, not just for how they look."

Jones-Bendel said some people mistakenly associate eating disorders with behavioral problems.

"The average person with an eating disorder might have it for five years before a parent can recognize it because they're otherwise great kids," she said. "They're valedictorians, gymnasts, swimmers, and parents might overlook an eating problem."

She said parents must watch their children, look for symptoms and educate themselves earlier to get people into treatment sooner.

Learn more about Linden Oaks at Edward's eating disorders program.




 

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