Posted: November 29, 2017 at 9:25 pm

By Megan Bsharah

Kim Allen is 1.5 years recovered from bulimia nervosa, an eating disorder in which sufferers purge their food in order to maintain a goal weight or appearance.

“Basically anything that wasn’t salmon, grilled chicken or salad had to come up,” Allen said.

Her disorder was triggered at age 15, when her boyfriend broke up with her and began dating a girl who was skinnier than her.

“I immediately fixated on this idea that my entire sense of self-worth was based on how much I weighed,” Allen said.

“Every 62 minutes, someone loses their battle to an eating disorder,” said Hayleigh Bradley, the president of WVU’s chapter of Project Heal.

Project Heal is an organization on campus that provides support for people recovering from eating disorders.

“People often don’t realize that eating disorders are serious,” Bradley said. “They should be talked about more, and more attention should be brought to the severity of them.”

Allen kept her eating disorder a secret, yet people would question her.

“I got caught throwing up in the bathroom at school one day,” Allen said. “And I just lied. I lied constantly to get out of it.”

She would lose a few pounds here and there, or her friends would notice that she wasn’t eating, but she would make excuses to get through it.

“I know personally how important it is to remove the stigma from the disorder,” Allen said. “Project Heal is a safe space with endless support and absolutely no judgement.”

Cailyn Hall is the fundraising chair, and she wants people to know that those who are struggling don’t always show signs.

“People with eating disorders aren’t always just skin and bones,” Hall said. “Suffering can get extremely dangerous, so Project Heal is here to kind of help prevent that.”

Allen said her battle with bulimia nervosa revolved around control. She needed to control her calorie intake, her environment and her emotions.

“Sometimes if I was upset about something I would eat just so I could purge,” Allen said. “That was more of a coping mechanism or an emotional control technique than a calorie disposal.

“If I ate anything that gave me anxiety, I would purge. So any sort of fast food or anything fried or sugary. Binging to me was anything relatively unhealthy.”

As she battled with self-control, she struggled alone. She was too afraid to tell her mom about her issues.

The group members are also involved with fundraising to help those who cannot afford treatment.

“Treatment for eating disorders can cost up to $3,000 a day,” Bradley said. “And it isn’t something that insurance covers.”

The group has held bake sales, panel talks and body positive events to bring awareness to eating disorders and to raise money.

These events invite people to come with open minds to share positive comments about their bodies in a safe, supportive environment.

Allen did eventually talk to her mom about her struggles while in a stage of recovery, but was told, ‘Don’t do it again.’

“You relapse a lot before you actually heal,” Allen said.

Allen said she never sought actual treatment during the years she suffered. It wasn’t until her dentist found her out that she really got scared.

After four long years of suffering, Allen began recovering in 2016.

She now holds two leadership positions with WVU’s chapter of Project Heal.

“I was healthy when I got involved with Project Heal,” Allen said. “And it’s been awesome with helping me stay healthy.”

Allen said she avoids her trigger foods, which are fast food or chocolate. She keeps herself busy in order to combat her anxieties.

“When I feel out of control now I try to focus on Project Heal and planning the walk which is our huge fundraising event at the end of the year,” Allen said. “I try to think about the people I can help.”

Bradley and the team want people to know that you are not alone.

“You are beautiful, inspiring, strong and brave,” Bradley said. “Talk to someone about how you’re feeling. You never know how someone else can change your life.”