First ever walk held to bring awareness to eating disorders


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Ankeny, Iowa, resident Kelsey Andreson has been out of recovery for nine years.

After treating her eating disorder at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics eating disorders program, she said she was tired of hearing stories about friends and peers suffering from similar disorders.

She decided to take action by organizing more than 100 participants to register to raise funds and awareness for the disease.

Over the weekend, Andreson hosted the first-ever Iowa City National Eating Disorders Association walk at Willow Creek Park.

“I hope to make it a yearly thing,” she said. “Because of the [high] turnout, we most likely will be doing it next year.”

According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, up to 24 million people suffer from an eating disorder in the United States.

The group defines a “clinically significant” eating disorder as including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and any other unspecified eating disorders.

From the local walk event, $10,500 was donated to the association.

“Our initial goal was $5,000,” Andreson said. “After we surpassed that, we went to $7,500, then $10,000. We’ve had a great response from walkers and the community.”

The event brought together 80 participants in the mile-long walk, despite the chilly weather.

Lori Hosea, a 44-year-old who recently finished recovery for an eating disorder, traveled from Waverly, Iowa, to participate in the walk, along with friends she had made during her recovery.

“I think the walk is wonderful,” she said. “Unfortunately, there’s a lot of shame that comes with eating disorders, and with more awareness, more people will get help.”

Hosea had dealt with an eating disorder for seven years. Once her disease became life-threatening, she spent the past summer in a treatment center in Iowa City.

“It feels good to be in recovery and to be strong enough to be able to do a walk,” she said. “The disease really robs you of your life.”

Participants were given T-shirts to wear throughout the walk, which was paid for by registration fees. In addition, 20 T-shirts were sold on an online site.

Business in the area, including Target and Costco, donated drinks and snacks for participants to enjoy. Fruit snacks, bananas, and cookies covered tables near the end of the walk.

Those donations helped offset costs for the event, allowing the organization to donate its money raised to the national fundraiser.

The UI has a program to help students on campus, the Eating Disorder Awareness Advocate Program, to raise awareness and help for those in need.

Erin Arneson, a graduate student in public health, said the program provides outreach services such as table events and panel discussions.

Kelly Clougher, staff psychologist at the University Counseling Service, said the UI has resources to aid students based on their needs.

“[Our program] has a dietitian and psychologist,” she said. “We work closely with the University of Iowa Health Center.”

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