First charity walk for eating disorders coming this fall
Summerville will host its first National Eating Disorder Association Walk this October in Azalea Park.
“Our community needs to understand that eating disorders are out there, there are many types, and if you’re going through that, you’re not going through it alone,” said Renay Marsh, who is organizing the walk with her daughter Lora Marsh, 17.
The Marshes started planning the Oct. 5 walk after Lora Marsh’s recent battle with anorexia.
Anorexia nervosa is one of three common eating disorders, and consists of starving oneself. Bulimia nervosa – a disorder when a person binge eats and purges afterwards using laxatives or vomiting – and binge eating disorder – when a person binge eats uncontrollably – are the two other most common eating disorders.
“In our society, losing weight is a socially desirable goal, and sometimes people take it too far,” said Christine Hamolia, an advanced practice nurse at the Medical University of South Carolina. While all people are susceptible to eating disorders, there are certain groups that are more likely to encounter the disorders, according to Hamolia.
She said high school and college students are the largest age group affected because eating disorders are sometimes considered a developmental issue. Men and women are both at risk, although she said it “affects women 10 times more.” In addition, certain personality types are linked to different eating disorders.
For example, Hamolia said Type-A people with naturally perfectionistic traits are more at risk for anorexia; those who have bulimia have often experienced some kind of a traumatic situation that has led them to the disorder; and people who have problems expressing their emotions often channel their stress relief into food, which leads to developing binge eating disorder.
“Working with eating disorders really opens up your eyes to how people deal with certain situations,” said Renay Marsh.
For Lora Marsh, dealing with a situation was how she started her path to recovery.
“I noticed a change at the point when my grandfather passed. I was 14 years old and I finally came out [about my anorexia] to my family,” she said. “It just really made me think because here he was fighting so hard to live when I was slowly killing myself, essentially.”
Renay Marsh said the experience helping her daughter has been both challenging and rewarding.
“It was so heartbreaking because I knew no on else could really pull her out of this but herself,” she said as tears began to run down her face. “Through this whole process I’ve learned the most from Lora. I’ve learned to listen.”
Eating disorders are treatable, but there are a limited number of treatment facilities in the area. However, raising awareness about eating disorders may cause a culture shift and spur the development of more area treatment options, said Hamolia.
“Events like these help promote the idea that it’s the ‘in’ thing to be healthy and aware. It’s similar to smoking, which everybody did 20 years ago but now is no longer the ‘in’ thing. The image has shifted in the public eye,” she said. “If there’s more awareness about a problem, there’s more investment in a solution.”
The Marsh women had a similar thought.
“No one was talking about the issue and it just occurred to me that we needed to start shouting,” Renay Marsh said.
Among their goals for the event, the mother-daughter team hope to register more sponsors and participants, involve local businesses in a raffle at the walk by donating goods or services, find local performance artists to entertain guests during the event and to raise a total of $5,000, which will be donated to NEDA to fund treatments and help services for those affected.
Check-in on Oct. 5 will begin at 11 a.m. in Azalea Park, at which time speakers from the local medical community will give presentations on the disorders. The walk will begin at 11:30 a.m. and is scheduled to last one hour.
For more information, visit www.NEDAWalks.org/Summerville2013.