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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Andrea's Voice ... Silenced by Bulimia


Andrea Lynn Smeltzer, 19, was trained in opera, enjoyed the theater, was an avid dancer, a masterful jewelry-maker and poet. After studying in Spain for a year at the age of fourteen, she spoke Spanish fluently. At the time of her death she was studying German, with a plan to master Japanese next. Prior to college, Andrea was elected president of her high school’s Amnesty International group and was an outspoken advocate for human rights. She was the representative chosen to present the student petitions to the Guatemalan consulate in San Francisco in 1996. At Pitzer College she was awarded the prestigious Fletcher Jones Scholarship, worked as a Resident Assistant and Mentor, majored in International Business and Politics—and looked forward to saving the world. She died tragically after thirteen months of bulimic behaviors on June 16, 1999.

Andrea's mother has taken up the cause of educating others about EDs. Here is the most recent post from her blog:

I facilitate a peer-led body image support group at one of our local high schools. Every week I am stunned when I listen to the pain the students bring to group around “body.” This group averages about 17 attendees each week—they come because of their own needs so this is not a representative “sampling” of the campus or community by any means, but the thing that saddens me the most in this group is the pain and agony caused by the comments and actions of their parents around food, weight, body size, and looks.

Students in group share how their parents constantly talk despairingly about their own bodies and then about the student’s body as well. Each week I hear, “Again they told me I need to lose weight.” Students are given ultimatums such as, “Lose this weight or … You’ll need to find some other place to live … or you’ll never be successful, or have friends, or be respected, or be happy or find a man or find a woman … or …..”

I listen with an open heart and with no judgment. Until Andrea died I was one of those parents: I spoke with continual disapproval of my own body, I counted calories, dieted and obsessed about food and weight. I am fully aware of how I contributed to the development of Andrea’s eating disorder, but until working with these students, I was truly ignorant of how deeply painful my actions may have been to her.

As parents, our diets, our obsessions with looks, weight and food are not only poor modeling but may bring our children to tears when we’re not looking. I witness the anguish each week and my heart breaks anew for not only the students and their well-meaning but misguided parents, but for my own daughter and my own misguided actions.

I wish I’d had the courage to really look at how my actions affected our daughters. I think I assumed I was being helpful at best and benign at worst. As I witness my current students’ sorrow I realize how mistaken I was—our children so desperately want us to accept them unconditionally—no matter what pretense they present on the outside. Because of all that I have learned from Andrea, my students receive from me what she could not.

Blessings until next time,

Doris



For those of you caught up in the whole dieting mindset---remember your children are watching. The choice is yours. Do your children grow up feeling loved and accepted for who they are no matter their size. Or do they follow your example and end up basing their entire self worth on a number on a scale.

Andrea's Voice Foundation--Disordered Eating and Related Issues

2 comments:

Medusa said...

Excellent post, Bama.

Andrea's is such a tragic story. What a terrible loss.

Unfortunately, so many others have shared Andrea's fate as a result of bulimia and other eating disorders.

"For those of you caught up in the whole dieting mindset---remember your children are watching. The choice is yours. Do your children grow up feeling loved and accepted for who they are no matter their size. Or do they follow your example and end up basing their entire self worth on a number on a scale."

So very true, Bama. Again, great post.

My blog: Medusa

2BIG said...

thank you for sharing this. The point that kids look up to their parents for approval of body is something many overlook and the message they are sending by just following a starvation diet like kimkins is staggering to think about.