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Students target eating disorders

Eben Harrell
Special to the Daily/Mark FoxAspen High School seniors Naomi Jones, left, and Veronica Hunsinger-Loe display blue Food 4 Beauty bracelets they're distributing to raise awareness of eating disorders.
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ASPEN – Two seniors have launched a campaign to halt eating disorders at Aspen High School, something they say is a serious problem there.Naomi Jones and Veronica Hunsinger-Loe have put up posters at the high school, distributed blue solidarity bracelets and given PowerPoint presentations on eating disorders to middle school and high school classes – all in an effort to lift the stigma on the subject.Jones and Hunsinger-Loe launched the Anorexia Awareness campaign last spring after a male friend developed the disease. They sought the advice of a trusted teacher, who herself had struggled with bulimia. The district nursing office offered funds – the girls say around $900 – to help get the program off the ground.When the duo started asking around, they learned eating disorders were all too common at the high school.”People started coming up to us and saying ‘oh yeah, my friend is anorexic,’ as if they were saying ‘my friend has brown hair,'” Jones said. “I don’t think the teachers have any idea how rampant eating disorders are at Aspen High School.”

Asked to clarify what she meant by “rampant,” Jones said, “Maybe not, like, every kid is in danger, but you can’t sit around a lunch table here without people talking about something being fatty.””The working-out culture here is also crazy,” Hunsinger-Loe added. “There’s this idea that you have to work out every day.”While the district nurse, Elise Dreher, could not pinpoint exactly how many students at Aspen High suffer from eating disorders, she said the numbers are on the rise.”It’s affecting more and more students each year,” Dreher said. “We see students each year about eating disorders. The serious ones are usually deferred to a private therapist or counselor.”The district offers eating-disorders education in its freshman health classes, but Jones and Hunsinger-Loe believe the word isn’t getting through.”The eating disorders’ portion is just a few weeks. Who remembers something by senior year they were taught in ninth grade?” Hunsinger-Loe said.

As a refresher, Jones and Hunsinger-Loe have set up a PowerPoint presentation that lists some scary statistics: 11 percent of 15-year-old girls vomit to control weight; girls between 7 and 17 use more diet pills than any other age group; men make up 10 percent of eating disorders patients; and 20 percent of people with eating disorders will die from them. Perhaps the most visible element of the campaign is the blue bracelets distributed by Jones and Hunsinger-Loe. The bracelets are in the style of Lance Armstrong’s cancer-fighting campaign and are engraved “Food 4 Beauty.”Hunsinger-Loe, who is headed to Bard College next year, and Jones, who will attend either Cornell or Yale University, said they are looking for proteges to take over the campaign next year.”I’ve been amazed by the response. I just hope it keeps going, because the problem isn’t going away,” Jones said.

==========================================To Learn MoreFor more information about eating disorders, call 1-800-841-1515.==========================================Vail, Colorado


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