Whether it is anorexia, bulimia or another kind, they are all considered mental diseases. And a common stereotype several of us have is it’s the rich white girl who has the problem, and it’s only because she wants to be thin ― nothing more.
On the contrary, eating disorders develop often when a person (female or male) feels at a loss of control, in combination with other factors like the media’s portrayal of what our bodies should look like. And people from all walks of life are affected every day.
“Anyone with a relationship to food can have it,” said Joey Merendino, 16, of Kennesaw, who played Ed in the Alliance Theatre’s “What’s Eating Katie?” ― the product of a two-week teen camp.
In the play, written by the Eating Disorders Information Network founder Dina Zeckhausen, a group of teenage kids capture one girl’s struggle (and survival) with an eating disorder through song and dance.
I had the pleasure of watching the play June 21 and my attention was held throughout the entire hour. Although young, every actor in the show was completely immersed in his or her role.
In my opinion, Merendino’s role was definitely the most intense and most challenging. His character, Ed, is essentially Katie’s eating disorder.
Everything he said to her contradicts his true nature, Merendino said.
“I had to tell my own inner voice to be quiet,” he said.
As I watched Ed taunt Katie with negative rants throughout the show, I knew how realistic it was. Everything he said to her was true to what goes on inside the head of a person who is battling an eating disorder.
“Don’t eat those pancakes, What are you doing?” Ed said. “You’re doing so well. Don’t give in now.”
I had a glimpse of an eating disorder in high school, in an attempt to find some kind of control during a rough patch in my family life. Luckily, my battle was short and eventually led me down a path to develop a strong, wholesome relationship to food and my body. I made a conscious effort to live as healthfully as I can for the rest of my life and encourage others to do the same. I was lucky.
But I have heard about and watched women (and men) battle for long periods of time, continuing to beat up their bodies, starve themselves and think there is no way out. I have one friend who ended up in a hospital and nearly starved herself to death. People die every year from eating disorders.
It’s real, and unfortunately, it still has a stigma attached to it. Yet, a show like “What’s Eating Katie?” provides a wonderful opportunity for people to understand eating disorders, whether they have one or know someone who does. It also helps us to become more comfortable with having a conversation about it, which I believe will help more and more people to reach out and get help when they need it.
Most importantly, “What’s Eating Katie” shows there is, indeed, a way out.
Information: visit www.whatseatingkatie.com.