By Lauren Upchurch
Carlee Monaghan enjoys writing, singing and hanging out with her friends. She also enjoys raising awareness about something she has struggled with: eating disorders.
Monaghan, a freshman psychology major, said her struggle started just before her sophomore year of high school. She was on the cross country team and put pressure on herself to look exactly like those around her. She started eating so little that she began to get more frequent injuries from running.
Monaghan said: “This developed into orthorexia, which is the obsession of eating healthy. From there it progressed because then I was sitting on the bench watching all the girls I idolized be able to do things I couldn’t. I just felt fat, frankly.”
At her lowest point, she said she was eating only half a protein bar per day.
This cycle continued until she found help through therapy, then later an intensive out-patient program at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. She said she learned a lot about her body, about how food works and about the treatments available to her.
“NEDA week, or National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, is about promoting understanding of how impactful eating disorders are to individuals. It’s one of the most common mental health illnesses, as well as one of the most devastating,” said Emily Werner, associate director of campus wellness.
Bellarmine will hold NEDA week from Feb. 24 to Feb 28.
Monaghan said dealing with her eating disorder was extremely hard for her and her family. Fear of being a burden caused her to withhold reaching out and made her keep her secret for a long time. When she eventually let family members know, she said it helped a lot.
“It’s important for families and friends to be educated on the issues that their loved one is going through because it helps them understand and it helps their loved one be able to communicate better,” Monaghan said.
“I was scared because I had turned into a different person, it’s a mental illness that really can take hold of your whole life if you give it that power.”
Werner said mental health is not something that a lot of people talk openly about, especially eating disorders. She said it’s an issue that Bellarmine and society as a whole need to be more comfortable discussing.
“It’s a very hard topic, because it is very personal, but at the end of the day, I would prefer to have my friend or family member with me than not and be happy as well,” Monaghan said.
Monaghan said she is proud Bellarmine is bringing attention to eating disorders. “It’s a very important topic, and I’m proud to go to a school that finds health, success, and well-being important enough to dedicate time to bring awareness to it,” she said.
Throughout NEDA week there will be a guest speaker, interactive events, giveaways and many educational tabling events, all promoting healthy body image and body positivity.
“There’s a stigma about eating disorders and about what people with eating disorders are supposed to be. Realizing that those assumptions are incorrect helps us help individuals with eating disorders,” said Grace Baker, a peer wellness educator and student representative on the NEDA week committee. She is also the coordinator for The Body Project program, which promotes eating disorder education and focuses on body positivity.
Monaghan said she thinks eating disorder education is important because even as someone who was dealing with the issue, she was not well-educated and was misinformed at the beginning.
“Be willing to ask questions. Be okay with asking for help. There are tons of resources on campus that are willing to help,” Werner said.
“Allow people to help you, because they wouldn’t ask if they didn’t care,” Monaghan said.
For more information on eating disorders: https://www.louisvillecenterforeatingdisorders.com/