By Samantha Gillis
A girl who weighs 230 pounds and towers over everyone at 6 foot 3 inches wouldn’t typically be the face of anorexia nervosas—but she is. Dr. Beth McGilley, eating disorder specialist from Wichita, said the definition of eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, and bulimia is changing.
“We are looking at all aspects of the spectrum. The girl who weighed 230 pounds had lost 70 pounds in a very short period of time, and she came from a family of linebackers,” said Dr. McGilley.
Dr. McGilley spoke to students and faculty, on March 31, in Mossman 101 as part of Caitlin Smith’s, political science senior, Leadership senior project. Smith decided upon her topic because she has been directly affected by eating disorders. “Friends, family members and myself have all suffered from eating disorders,” said Smith.
She wanted to bring awareness to campus about the dangers of eating disorders, and signs of eating disorders. “This is not something to take lightly,” said Smith.
At the heart of all eating disorders is a mental road block, either a loss or self esteem issues. Also genetics play a large role in the problem. There are two types of anorexia nervosa, restrictive and binge eating.
A restrictive person may be more isolated, they are quieter and they are so afraid of spiraling out of control that they won’t put anything into their bodies that they cannot control. No alcohol, no over eating, certain foods and certain beverages. A restrictive person does not have control over their life so they only have control over their body said Dr. McGilley.
A person who has binge eating anorexia nervosa is typically more outgoing, they enjoy a rush and feeling out of control. They will binge after they get out of control. It is similar to bulimia, but it is not the same.
The mindset behind bulimia is dieting. With bulimia, patients will use methods to purge themselves. “They can use laxatives, vomit or over exercise,” said Dr. McGilley.
“Bulimics will restrict all day because it is about calorie restriction, and then after starving themselves all day they will go back to their room and have a snack of graham crackers. Well four crackers turns into a whole sleeve and a whole sleeve turns into a whole package so they say well what the heck how about we throw in some ice cream and some chips and pretty soon they have consumed 5,000 calories. So then they need to get rid of it, they don’t want that inside of them so they purge, and then after they purge, they are starving again, and the cycle starts all over again,” said Dr. McGilley.
Another problem with all eating disorders is that the patients believe they have control. “They tell themselves they can stop, but then they don’t because they cannot,” she said.
This is why Dr. McGilley believes Michelle Obama is going about tackling childhood obesity in a completely wrong fashion. “Healthy lifestyle is not about dieting it is about teaching kids and everyone good habits not telling them they should exercise all of the time and not ever eat sweets,” she said.
Dr. McGilley and the specialists she works with have written Michelle Obama and are currently working to help her with her fight against childhood obesity.
“We associate eating disorders with very frail tiny figures, however this isn’t true,” said McGilley. “Eating disorders are much more mental than what we previously thought.”
The common perception that a person with an eating disorder has a distorted view of themselves is wrong. “They don’t like what they see in the mirror because they cannot handle what is in their heart and soul they don’t like who they are on the inside,” she said.
Typically when someone has an eating disorder there is something deeper going on, a tragic loss, the need for control or low self esteem. For Dr. McGilley she developed restrictive anorexia nervosa after she lost her mother. She went off to college at University of San Diego, she grew up playing every sports. “I ate burgers and fries before a basketball game and then again afterwards,” she said.
Once she settled into USD she did not feel comfortable. “I was surrounded by girls who spent two hours getting ready in the morning and wore bathing suits to the cafeteria,” she said.
Dr. McGilley stopped going to the cafeteria because she didn’t want to be around the girls, she began losing weight and people noticed, so she continued not going to the cafeteria.
Melissa Osborne, English freshman does not think that the pressure to primp yourself is as high as a larger campus. “Most students are athletes. However it’s an invisible disorder her speech made me realize the signs of eating disorders,” she said.
For Smith she didn’t think it was a big deal. “I did not want to admit it, until I started having heart problems,” she said.
Smith knows that eating disorders are a problem for men as well. “They are pressured to have a lot of muscle and look fit,” she said.
Previously Smith hung flyers around campus in February for National eating disorder awareness as part of her project. She will also be purchasing a training seminar packet for RA’s in the Fall.
Eating disorders are a mental disorder which means if someone is suffering from an eating disorder they must receive medical help. “If genetics load the gun for an eating disorder, then society pulls the trigger,” said Dr.McGilley.