"This is the one thing I want - that I have ever wanted - and if it takes dying to get there, then so be it."
These powerful words were spoken by Alisa F. Williams, an anorexic and bulimic woman whose story was featured in the HBO documentary "THIN," about her relentless pursuit of weight loss. "THIN" was filmed inside the realms of the RenfrewCenter in Florida, a treatment facility specializing in eating disorder recovery.
The disturbing documentary was shown on Wednesday evening in LeBaron 1210, as part of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Patrons were warned about the graphic nature of the film, which included the habits and consequences of struggling with such deadly disorders as anorexia, bulimia and compulsive eating. Staff from Student Counseling Services were posted at the exits to check-in with students who may have had emotional reactions during the presentation.
Shelly Guillory, one of the anorexics in the documentary, went to Renfrew weighing 84.3 pounds. She had been previously hospitalized more than 10 times, and wore a feeding tube in her nose for five years before having a tube directly implanted into her stomach, which egressed through her abdomen. Guillory had admitted herself into inpatient treatment after crushing up a plethora of medications and injecting them into her feeding tube in a suicidal attempt. She would also purge through her stomach tube by flexing her abdomen muscles and withdraw the contents of her stomach with a syringe - all while remaining ardently convinced that she was too fat. Nearly every case in the documentary involved admittance because of suicide attempts.
Rachel Gevock, freshman in biology, attended the showing for extra credit, but was impacted by the sad stories weaved within the documentary.
"It's like summer camp, but everyone is really depressed," Gevock said. "It was pretty powerful."
Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, according the National Eating Disorders Association.
"Eating disorders are a negative coping mechanism of hurting yourself and numbing out what is really going on," said Michelle Roling, program coordinator for Student Counseling Services. "One good that comes out of this movie is to think about prevention."
Dr. Marc Shulman, staff physician at ThielenStudentHealthCenter, reiterated the importance of prevention to avoid a health and financial crisis.
"Prevention is so important because recovery is challenging," Shulman said.
Inpatient treatment is expensive and is often not covered by health insurance. Starting at approximately $2,300 a day, recovery facilities are few and far between, especially for the Midwest, with lengthy waiting lists that put those who suffer from life-threating eating disorders in further peril.
According to the documentary, this notion of "less is more" is a degenerative equation of restriction and expulsion, which leads to increased suicidal tendencies and jeopardizes aspects of life such as family, friends and school. The deceptions that anorexics and bulimics engage in to hide their disorders often result in severed relationships and further mental anguish. The manipulative manners of those suffering include hiding food, constant denial, lying and drug abuse in attempts to stay thin.
According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, only 50 percent of those suffering from anorexia ever report a full recovery.
"An eating disorder is something you will fight forever," said Cynthia Avalos, account specialist with IT Services. "I have a lot of sympathy for those suffering."
Avalos attended the "Be Comfortable in Your Genes" event on Tuesday at the Memorial Union and donated approximately 15 pairs of jeans.
Megan Harms, senior in dietetics, volunteered for Tuesday's event, which collected more than 30 pairs of jeans to donate to charity and allowed students to alleviate the nagging reminder of their "skinny jeans," and recognized the seeming obsession with food many of the girls in her major occupy.
According to "THIN," one in seven women suffering from anorexia will die.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, please seek immediate assistance from Student Counseling Services by calling 294-5056. The services are free.