Eating disorder fundraiser quadruples goal

Kaitlin Costello was 16 years old when she was diagnosed with anorexia. Now a senior in Social Work, Costello is healthy and raising awareness for eating disorders.

McKinley Health Center, the Counseling Center and the Student Dietetic Association at the University held a National Eating Disorders Association Walk on the Quad Saturday morning.

About 140 students, parents and community members registered, raising $19,000 to donate to the National Eating Disorders Association, almost four times more than the organizations’ goal of $5,000.

Costello raised $745, the most of all participants.

“I spread the word and let people know what I was raising money for,” Costello said. “A lot of passionate people like me are helping me with the cause.”

The money raised will be used to support NEDA’s education and advocacy programs. It will provide education about eating disorders, which Costello said she feels is necessary to remove the stigma associated with them.

“The word ‘eating disorders’ brings pictures to people’s minds of the really stereotypical throwing up in the toilet or extremely emaciated women or men,” Costello said. “There are so many places in between, and I don’t think people really know about it. I think it can be really dangerous if we don’t address it.”

Beth Frasca, health educator at McKinley, said she has seen an increase in cases of eating disorders at the University and there is a need on campus to raise awareness.

Frasca said college students are at a higher risk because of the pressures they face to succeed. She and Costello agreed that eating disorders are not about food; they are about control.

“It’s really common for people who have perfectionist temperaments to engage in eating disorder behaviors because they desire to pursue perfection in all areas of life,” Costello said. “It gets taken to the extreme because there’s a drive for perfection and to succeed in everything you do.”

Pursuing perfection can be costly to one’s health, however, and Kelsi Evans, also a health educator at McKinley, encourages students to find balance in their lives. She said students “cannot be successful in academics if they are not well — both have to be a priority.”

Both McKinley and the Counseling Center offer a variety of services to help students with eating disorders. Instead of focusing on weight, they emphasize healthy behaviors and being comfortable with one’s self, Evans said.

Angelica can be reached at [email protected]

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the money raised for the NEDA Walk will help fund treatment centers and research. The money will be used to support NEDA’s education and advocacy programs. The Daily Illini regrets the error.