Over 25 million people have some kind of eating disorder. Twenty percent of Americans with eating disorders die. Motivational speaker Jessica Weiner is a survivor.
Weiner came to Quinnipiac to speak about her disease and share her feelings about the media and how it affects people emotionally and physically. Weiner spoke to help promote Women’s History Month.
Weiner was anorexic, bulimic and a binge eater from age 11 through 18. She exercised for more than four hours a day and ate less than 400 calories a day when she was 14 years old. Instead of worrying about passing her driver’s test, a 16-year-old Weiner was so low she became suicidal. By the time she was 18, she was an alcohol and drug abuser.
“I was impressed with Jessica and what she’s been able to overcome,” Samantha Smith, a junior political science major, said. “I had no idea how many people are affected by eating disorders and also that it is such a mental disease.”
Growing up, Weiner lived with parents who were constantly dieting. They tried every diet available to them and were never happy. As a child, she thought it was normal to watch one’s weight and be concerned with outward appearance.
“I thought that the way I was brought up was normal,” Weiner said. “I grew up thinking selfworth was measured by a number on a scale.”
In college, Weiner realized she needed help. She started going to a support group and was told that the phrase “I feel fat” is not an emotion, although it has become an acceptable phrase in society. For the first time in her life, Weiner felt like there was hope and she started the recovery process.
As a motivational speaker, Weiner tells people to make a conscious effort to stop listening to the media, stop talking about people behind their backs and stop using hurtful language to describe ourselves and others.
“I am who I am right now,” Weiner said. “We get a chance every second of every day to do something, and we need to start making changes.”
Along with common facts about self-esteem, eating disorders and the demographics that are affected, Weiner talked about a group of high school male wrestlers that she spoke about this problem. She said that they felt the same way as females do in a society full of pressure to be thin, beautiful and perfect.
Many people do not realize that males also fall into the trap because of the images they see everyday. One of the wrestlers she spoke with said that during competition season, he throws up after every meal. Even though he knew it was a problem, he did not think he was bulimic because “only girls have bulimia.”
“I had no idea how common eating disorders were among men,” Jason Greenwood, a graduate student and residential assistant, said. “I wish more students could be aware of it all.”
Weiner captivated the audience and passionately urged everyone to take a stand against the media. Weiner ended with a quote from Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”