Poetry exhibits pain of disordered eating
By Frank Santo, The Dartmouth
Published on Friday, February 29, 2008
Struggling for liberation from an endless cycle of self-starvation, one Dartmouth student's triumph over her anorexia was short lived. "I'll see you tomorrow," her ominous disorder declared in the student's poem, titled "A Conversation Between Me and My Eating Disorder."
The anonymous submission highlights many Dartmouth students' struggles with eating disorders, explored through a number of poems at an open discussion sponsored by the Eating Disorder Peer Advisors in Collis Common Ground on Thursday night. Some accounts described obsessive calorie counting, while others documented perpetual weakness and frailty stemming from self-inflicted food deprivation.
"Appearance took precedence over flavor" Marissa Knodel '09 read aloud from her poem, "My Life Recipe." "I became a portion estimation machine."
Knodel went on to describe how she would plan full days around which foods she would deny herself, she said. She broke down in tears by the last line of the poem, apologizing to the audience before exiting the stage.
Staying thin for her commitment to swimming plagued Elizabeth Allen '06, who wrote about her struggle to balance good health with the pressure to remain slender in an untitled poem she submitted for recitation.
"While food does not dominate my life, it is always there, lurking around the corners of my mind," she wrote. Food issues are "nearly impossible to overcome," she added.
Thirty-six year-old Jen Shepherd, an administrative assistant at the College, admitted to weighing and measuring her food three times a day in her poem, "Normal."
"I could die from [my disorder]," she said. "Many have."
EDPA outlined the dangers and warning signs of eating disorders in several pamphlets distributed to audience members throughout the event. Avoiding meals with friends, calculating the number of calories and fat grams in a meal and exercising out of guilt, not enjoyment, are red flags that someone may be suffering form an eating disorder, according to the pamphlets.
"We wanted to try to raise awareness at Dartmouth and lessen the stigma associated with eating disorders and hopefully get people talking more openly about it," Maria Vishnevskiy '10, an EDPA, said.
EDPA also handed out an anthology of poems and narratives written by former Dartmouth students and dedicated to "everyone who has suffered as a result of an eating disorder." The anthology's title, "From that Absolute Darkness into this Imperfect Light," is taken Willa Rose '06's poem, which details her recovery from anorexia. Few poems mentioned the recovery process.
"It is a different world after recovery," Rose wrote.
The event was held in honor of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, which takes place annually during the last week of February and is sponsored by the National Eating Disorder Association. The forum was co-sponsored by Dartmouth Health Services.