Minneapolis Teen Throws Downtown Bash to Raise Money for Eating Disorder Research
She was the All-American girl next door--a good student, great athlete, with lots of friends.
And she had an eating disorder.
18-year-old Taylor Kirkham of Minneapolis has now decided to talk about her struggle, in hopes of drawing attention to statistics like these:
*More than half of teenage girls use unhealthy weight control behaviors like skipping meals, fasting, vomiting or taking laxatives, according to the National Eating Disorders Association.
*As much as four percent of the entire population has been diagnosed with a serious easting disorder like anorexia or bulimia.
*Up to five percent of those diagnosed die from their disorders.
So, how does a newly-minted high school grad even begin to fight the problem? By hosting a big concert downtown and a post-show party bash, of course.
But first, you have to understand Taylor's journey.
In her backyard, which overlooks Cedar Lake, she says, "I think the biggest thing for me was trying to look perfect." From the Barbie dolls she played with as a kid, to the fashion magazines she paged through as a teen, Taylor says she always wanted to be thin. "I started experimenting with dieting when i was even in the third and fourth grade," she remembers.
By middle school she was eating very little. She'd eat a small breakfast, dinner that consisted of "a piece of bread and some fruit" and at lunch, in her school cafeteria, she says she ate the same thing every single day. "I would have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but I wouldn't finish the entire sandwich," she says.
By her sophomore year at Breck High School in Golden Valley, there were serious binging bouts. "I'd have even servings of food within a very short amount of time," she recalls, "so much that you're almost not even conscious you're eating it.
"I would obsessively exercise and go run for hours to try to get rid of it," she says.
At her worst, she'd go from one fast food drive-through to another. "And pretend I was on the phone with somebody and that I was ordering for a group of people. But it was really all for myself. It would be too embarrassing to order that much for just one person."
Yet no one, not her family, nor her closest friends, had any idea. Friends like Sarah Mevissen, who has known Taylor since they were six, says, "It really is something that she was going through just by herself and I wish I could l have been there for her. I honestly didn't know at all."
Taylor's high school friend Abby Kirshbaum says she found the news hard to believe. "She's such an athletic person and she was so confident--she IS so confident."
Taylor says she became a master of deception, until it took her to the edge of despair. "All the outer things looked great," she said."But it reached a point where I just couldn't do this any more and I needed to get help."
She did so, at the Park Nicollet Melrose Institute in St. Louis Park. She took off an entire semester of school. She says she learned how to "trust my body," to respect her food, and to enjoy eating without fear. "I feel I'm cured," she says. "it was definitely one day at a time for about a year and half but I would say probably in December I literally never got those urges any more.
"If I'm hungry I'll eat. If the food tastes good I'll even have seconds," she says. At 5'5 she now weighs 135 lbs. "I'm very happy with it. I used to weigh myself five to ten times a day. I know now that I have a great healthy body and I wouldn't want to change anything about it."
Taylor spoke about her experience to her senior class before graduation.
She's off to college out west this fall, but this summer she's interning with the National Eating Disorders Association. Her first assignment is to help raise funds for research through a downtown Minneapolis concert at First Avenue, with singer Sammy Adams, Wednesday night. Click here for details.
She's also organizing an upcoming charity walk at Mall of America, to raise even more money to fight eating disorders.
"This is not something to be ashamed of," she says, "and it's something that our society needs to address or else it's never going to get better."
Mark Saxenmeyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org