Student overcomes eating disorder

In Features
Mariah Carrillo / Daily Titan
Mariah Carrillo / Daily Titan

In her eighth-grade art class, Meg Burton would impatiently watch the clock tick by.

One thing filled Burton’s mind. One thought, one thing she had to do.

“I need to get home to binge and purge,” a 13-year-old Burton would think to herself.

Burton began restricting her food, a symptom of anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder in which the sufferer restricts food intake, at the end of her sixth grade year.

In seventh grade the restriction turned into binge eating and purging, which is when a person overeats and then forces themselves to vomit the food back up.

Burton, now 21 and a psychology major, was one of the 24 million people who suffer from an eating disorder in the United State alone, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD).

In middle school, Burton was a star athlete, winning MVP for basketball two years in a row for West Sonoma County.

But once she began to binge and purge, it all went downhill from there, Burton said.

By the time she was a freshman in high school Burton had no life; it was all about Ed.

Ed, an acronym for eating disorder, was a concept that helped Burton cope with her disorder. Giving a name to her eating disorder helped Burton separate herself from the disease.

It was a concept Burton took from a book she read by Jenni Schaefer called Life Without Ed.

Schaefer also suffered from an eating disorder.

Schaefer said she began thinking she was fat from the time she was four years old and did not get help until she was 22 years old.

Schaefer said by personifying her eating disorder, she was able own her own personality.

“I am not an eating disorder; I am Jenni,” Schaefer said.

Schaefer said her metaphor for her eating disorder gave her hope.

For Burton, the concept hit home.

She herself had heard Ed telling her she was fat, telling her not to eat.

While she was binging, purging and restricting her food, Burton said there was no separation from Ed.

“It was almost like I was building up an art piece and they were ruining it,” Burton said. “I spent so much time trying to lose weight, and I felt like they were poisoning me.”

From the time she was 15 until she was 17, while in the depths of her eating disorder, Burton said she would often binge and purge around 10 times a day, and would often throw up blood.

But she didn’t care.

Burton described food to her at the time of her eating disorder as a drug.

Doing anything with food, binging and purging or restricting, became a habit Burton couldn’t stop.

“Inside looking out you can’t explain it, and from the outside looking in you can’t understand it,” Burton said.

Burton said she was even throwing up while in outpatient treatment and while in the hospital.

“I don’t know how I did that,” she said. “I was manipulative in treatment. I hate saying that, but I was. I earned their trust … so they didn’t monitor me as much.”

However, while she was undergoing inpatient treatment, Burton said she made a conscious choice not to throw up.

“All during my treatment I wanted to get better,” Burton said. “(But) it was just a lot harder than I thought it would be.”

After being in treatment throughout high school, Burton became involved with a nonprofit organization called Beyond Hunger.

Burton visited schools in the Bay Area to teach people about eating disorders.

Although already having gone through treatment and no longer binging and purging, working with Beyond Hunger was where Burton said the real healing began for her.

Burton then came to school at Cal State Fullerton to study psychology.

She worked to create an organization about eating disorder awareness on campus.

However, the paperwork was too much, she said.

Burton later became the founder of Project HEAL’s Southern California chapter, an organization that raises money to sponsor treatment for eating disorder patients.

Burton said the Project HEAL Southern California chapter now has a few members and volunteers.

For Burton, her eating disorder and treatment made what she called a 360.

“At the beginning everybody says ‘just eat,’” Burton said. “And at some point it really does come down to just eat … It’s that simple, but it’s not that simple.”

Now a bubbly, young woman, Burton is pursuing a career to work with eating disorder patients, to give back. She now works as an assistant for Schaefer.

However, Burton has hobbies outside of school and her work, including surfing, yoga and backpacking.

She said she doesn’t want her whole life to be all about the disorder that once consumed her.

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