WTOL 11 Special Report: Kelsi Conkright fights Anorexia, Bulimia - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

WTOL 11 Special Report: Local woman's silent fight with eating disorders

Kelsi Kelsi
Eating disorders have become common amongst men, too. Eating disorders have become common amongst men, too.
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(Toledo News Now) -

It's often kept a secret, but it's one that can be deadly.

The death rates for Anorexia are twice as high as seen in any other psychiatric disorder. And here in our area, a local clinic is seeing an uptick in the number of children batting their weight.

Kelsi Conkright is now 25 years old, but for the past 10 years she has battled a dark secret.

Kelsi says, "I've always been a really big perfectionist and I always thought if I could control one thing in my life that I was ok, but I don't know, weight just seemed to be the one thing I couldn't control."

Kelsi starting cutting back on what she ate and began exercising more. She started struggling with an eating disorder at 15 years old. She admits she put a lot of pressure on herself, "I grew up in a really great household, my parents are good people and so I think I just felt a lot of pressure to live up to the expectations that they set for me and that I set for myself."

Kelsi's weight was nowhere near where it should have been and the eating disorder began consuming her life. 

Kelsi says, "I was always tired, I always had headaches and was always groggy all the time. I felt weak and at work and I was tired and there were a-lot of obsessive thoughts all the time it was hard to focus."

Kelsi suffered from symptoms of both Anorexia Nervosa, defined by an inability to maintain one's body weight within 15 percent of their Ideal Body Weight and Bulimia Nervosa, eating large amounts of food and then trying to get rid of the calories in an unhealthy way, usually by purging. 

National Alliance on Mental Illness: About Anorexia Nervosa

National Alliance on Mental Illness: About Bulimia

After 10 years Kelsi finally sought treatment at the River Centre Clinic in Sylvania, a modern treatment facility committed to providing state-of-the-art treatment for those suffering from eating disorders.

The River Centre Clinic treats both adults and children and is the only adolescent residence facility in Ohio, seeing patients from all over the world.

Meggan Schneider the Director of Adolescent Residential Program says it is that younger age group struggling with increasing rates of eating disorders.

Schneider says, "It seems to be increasing each year, we see about 115 to 120 patients each year, but the portion of the adolescents we're seeing is increasing."

And there is a surge in numbers right now.

"Around the time that school lets out for the summer we usually have an increase and I believe that's because even if people are starting to decline at home often times the individual will try to get things together on their own or turn things around and there is this sort of plea or bargain like let me just finish school", says Schneider.

This continues to be a big problem with our youth. A new study released found that 50-percent of girls between the ages of 11 and 13 see themselves as overweight. In fact 80-percent of 13 year olds have attempted to lose weight. 

Read: List of celebrities who've battled eating disorders

But it's not just females dealing with body issues. Schneider says the number of males dealing with eating disorders is going up. "In this new generation there is this idea of what they're supposed to look like with the 6-pack and all.

Schneider says there are some warning signs that parents can look for including:

  • Increased rigidity around food intake
  • Preoccupation with diet
  • Leaving meals and going into the bathroom
  • Exercise intensity 
  • Secrecy around their habits and behaviors.

Social media can even play a role in encouraging negative body image and obsessive behavior. The National Eating Disorders Association says that "cultural pressures that glorify "thinness" or muscularity and place value on obtaining the "perfect body" can be a contributing factor.

Blogging network Tumblr and sharing platform Pinterest earned criticism for the prevalence of so-called "thinspiration." Blogs and pins with a "pro-ana" (shorthand for "pro-anorexia") theme, tags reading "thinspo," and endless images of thin women can serve as fuel for the fire for those struggling with weight or body image.

Pinterest now posts a message to "Thinspo" searchers, which reads:

"Eating disorders are not lifestyle choices, they are mental disorders that if left untreated can cause serious health problems or could even be life-threatening.

For treatment referrals, information, and support, you can always contact the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237 or www.nationaleatingdisorders.org"

Read more about the "Thinspo" trend (warning, some offensive content)

As for Kelsi, she continues to recover, and is now hoping to help others. She is back in school to be a social worker specializing in eating disorders.

Kelsi says, "There's so much more to life than dieting, numbers and trying to fit a perfect mold. Learn to be happy with who you are inside then the outside will shine through."

Fact sheet Anorexia

Fact sheet Bulimia

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