Two Women Share Stories Ahead of Eating Disorder Awareness Week

Baihly Warfield
Created: February 24, 2020 03:58 PM

This week is Eating Disorder Awareness Week. It's something that is all too real for Rachel Moe and Robyn Tomaszewski. 


"Societally somewhere, it was engrained in my head that being thinner was better," Tomaszewski said. 

Her eating disorder developed when she was in her teens. Moe's stemmed from trauma as she was growing up. 

"I was bullied pretty significantly. I went to a local middle school here in Duluth and had some pretty traumatic experiences," Moe said. "And so initially, my eating disorder started as a way to cope."

Carolyn Phelps, Phd, a licensed psychologist, specializes in treating people with eating disorders. 

"A lot of the people who I see and treat for an eating disorder are very high-achieving, very competent people. And when you're high-achieving and competent, saying to yourself that I have a problem is a hard thing to do," Phelps said. 

Starting when she was 21, Moe tried inpatient treatment several times. Finally, a passion for her career helped her overcome. 

"When I was really sick in my eating disorder, I had a super low heart rate and I had been hospitalized before and I was like, I can't be a nurse and be the nurse that I want to be if I'm sick," she recalled. 

Moe was also tried of having to leave her life and the people she loved for inpatient programs. 

"Me and my mom would be out and about doing things, and then we would have to have a meal or snack," she said, "and her 27-year-old daughter would essentially turn into this 9-year-old that's crying and refusing to eat." 

For Tomaszewski, it was the realization that she didn't want to be miserable every day. 

"I had just detached from who I genuinely was," she said. 

She recognized that she had perfectionist tendencies and knew she had a problem. But she still had to overcome doubt.

"I didn't feel like I was sick enough to deserve treatment. I'm not skinny enough," Tomaszewski remembered. "My message for people is don't base whether you're sick or not on what you look like or what people tell you. If it's something that is impacting your life and your joy and your fulfillment and your self-worth, then you are sick enough." 

She said once she started fighting the mental health illness, she started finding joy again. 

"It's definitely been the best decision I could have made is to really choose that I was worth more," she said.

Dr. Phelps said she has treated people as young as 6 and old as 68 for eating disorders. 

"It is never too late to get help," Phelps said. "No matter what help you've had before and no matter how that's gone, there's no such thing as hopeless." 

Moe also started a local chapter of Eating Disorder Anonymous, and she finds strength in sharing her story and struggle. 

"There's always going to be an excuse not to get help. Now is the right time, and recovery is possible, and recovery is worth it," she said.

Northland Healthy Minds is sponsoring a screening of a documentary called "Embrace." It's at 6 p.m. Tuesday in Room Chem 200 in Brian Kobilka Hall on UMD's campus. It is free and open to the public.


Baihly Warfield

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