In her last years of high school, Haley Nute, 21, felt out of control with college resumes, being captain of her rowing team, and the sudden suicide of her classmate.
“The actual trigger had nothing to do with weight,” said Nute, who developed an eating disorder. “I was so stressed about school, and I felt like everything was spiraling out of control. That number was the one thing I could control.”
Eventually, Nute said that way of controlling her life began to control her. As she graduated, her problems worsened.
“My day revolved around making sure I would weigh less the next day,” she said. “. . . the pounds started just falling off.”
After entering college, the stress became too much, and Nute became bulimic for four months over-excercising daily. This piece of her life is still blurry. She said her body was so malnourished, her brain didn’t have enough energy to store memories.
While the summer after her freshman year was better, she got back to school and relapsed repeatedly until she went home her sophomore year for winter break.
“When I got home, my parents were waiting for me outside . . . ” she said. “I was wearing pretty baggy clothes, but when I hugged my mom, she started crying.”
This prompted her parents, after days of awkward avoidance, to trick Nute into going to the hospital. There, after being diagnosed with disordered eating and anorexia, Nute sat on the examination table as her parents looked at the doctor next to her. The doctor told Nute anorexia was going to kill her, as she was 102 lbs. at 5’6 feet tall.
The hard truth didn’t hit Nute until later, but once it did, as well as the threat of not going back to school due to her illness, she began to take her health seriously.
She found a dietician and a therapist and had informative forms sent to all her professors. She also changed her major to nutrition dietetics.
“It makes me understand why what I did was wrong,” she said.
Clinton Copp, a University of Mississippi biology instructor, speaks about eating disorders during one class each semester, educating students about the seriousness of disordered eating.
“It is any form of disorders characterized by abnormal or disturbed eating habits,” he said. “Bulimia can cause inflammation in your digestive system track . . . meaning the acid comes up your throat along with the food you are purging. This can cause loss of teeth, holes in you esophagus, or even cancer.”
Copp described anorexia as an extreme form of undereating and self-imposed starvation. The side effects of malnourishment can be liver damage, loss of kidney function, poor blood circulation, bowels closing incorrectly, and irregular heartbeats.
Copp said both 80 percent of bulimic sufferers and 90 percent of anorexia sufferers are women. “It is not a funny topic,” he said. “It is a very dangerous disease… death is a very real possibility.”
Today, while Nute understands she will always have to be careful not to listen to the voice in her head telling her not to eat, she is not ashamed of her past.
“Losing weight doesn’t cure negative body image,” she said. “My life should not be cut short 75 percent to weigh 25 percent less.”
She also posts on her Instagram @haleynute about recovery, and life after her illness, hoping her story will inspire others to seek help, as her life is an inspiring model of what recovery looks like.
If you feel you may have an eating disorder or abnormal eating patterns, contact the University of Mississippi Counseling Center.
You can call (662)-915-3784, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or walk into 310 Lester Hall to receive free help and guidance. There are also multiple therapy offices, such as The Oxford Counseling Center and Grace Counseling, in the area.