After a long and tearful look in the mirror, Leah Hodgkiss realized something needed to change. She hadn’t seen her friends in over two weeks and had only left her house to go to the gym.
She needed to seek treatment for an eating disorder.
Hodgkiss, now a junior at Belmont, was diagnosed with anorexia in her senior year of high school and spent the rest of the year in treatment.
“It’s simultaneously the hardest thing I’ve ever done and the best thing I’ve ever done,” she said.
Though she is now fully recovered, stories like hers are far more common than most people realize.
“So often it’s something that goes unnoticed and untalked about. This is a problem that kills people — that ruins people’s lives,” Hodgkiss said.
National Eating Disorder Awareness Week began on Monday to shed light on this important subject.
To kick off the week, local counselor Laura Deneen and Belmont nutritionist Kara Miller spoke to Belmont students on Friday morning.
“There’s a huge misunderstanding in our society about what eating disorders are,” Deneen said.
Deneen made sure to mention some disordered eating habits not yet mentioned in the DSM-5, a manual intended to diagnose and treat various mental disorders.
She focused on “drunk-orexia,” a condition of calorie restriction combined with alcohol abuse that hits college students the hardest.
Deneen listed some warning signs of eating disorders, including dishonesty around food, negative body-image comments and compulsive exercise.
“Eating disorders involve a lot of guilt and distress around body image, but it is not rooted in someone’s vanity,” Deneen said.
Belmont’s nutritionist and dietitian Kara Miller continued the discussion by suggesting ways for students to seek help for themselves or friends. She encouraged students to contact either health services, counseling services or her office directly.
“It doesn’t fall on you to find treatment for someone else, but to support and encourage them through it,” Miller said.
Hodgkiss emphasized the importance of an honest support system.
“I wanted someone to say, ‘I know this sucks, but I’m proud of you,’” she said.
Appointments through counseling services are private and meant to be as welcoming as possible. Students can complete their intakes electronically in the offices in about 20 minutes.
Miller encouraged bringing friends to appointments to ease some of the nerves that may come up.
“It helps to have someone familiar next to you when you share such personal issues,” she said.
To honor the awareness week in the greater Nashville area, free body-positive yoga sessions will be offered, and a community walk will be held on March 24 at Centennial Park.
More information and resources will be available at FitRec for students who have questions or concerns.Click here for more information.
This story written by Katie Knipper.