Former athlete talks pressures of perfection

The last time Whitney McMullan was at the College, she was playing girl’s lacrosse for Drew University. Soon after, McMullan began treatment for anorexia and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Secrets keep you sick,” McMullan said, sharing her personal account of her battle with anorexia on Wednesday, Feb. 27 in the Library Auditorium.

DPhiE and CAPS Peer Educators create an interactive poster. (Photo Courtesy of Regina Yorkgitis)

The lecture was a part of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, which was organized by a host of cosponsors including CAPS Peer Educators and Delta Phi Epsilon. The goal of the week was to reduce the negative view of mental illness, which often stops people from getting help.

McMullan’s glory days were during college. She fell in love, was a talented athlete, and was a straight-A student.

“Everyone on the outside thought, ‘she’s perfect,’” McMullan said, but on the inside, she was falling apart.

“I was angry. I was hurt. I was broken,” McMullan said. She worked diligently to maintain an image of perfection for the outside world, yet she struggled to repress the feelings of pain and hurt she experienced in her childhood. Unable to cope and put her feelings into words, she isolated herself from her friends and showed her pain by hurting herself.

“My body was just kinda wasting away,” McMullan said.  Eventually she decided to seek help.

However, treatment was not an easy process for McMullan. She was reluctant to change her habits and tried many different programs before going to Timberline Knolls, a treatment center outside of Chicago, where she eventually developed the skills needed for her recovery.

“The great news and the terrible news is only you can help yourself,” McMullan said.

Today a therapist, McMullan says that often people expect her to thrust her fist in the air and shout “women are beautiful,” when she shares her story. “I still struggle,” McMullan said, “but it is so much easier.”

“Her story of resilience was so inspiring,” said junior psychology and education double major Carrie Fippinger. Fippinger, a CAPS Peer Educator, explained that CAPS chose McMullan to come speak because “a lot of people could identify with her.”

McMullan is not alone in her struggle. The pressure to be thin is inherent in our culture today. According to NEDA’s website, eating disorders among college students have risen from 10 to 20 percent for both men and women in recent years.

A chilling documentary about the media’s influence on our body image, “Miss Representation,” was screened in the Library Auditorium on Thursday, Feb. 28.

“Miss Representation” cites several depressing statistics about the media’s depiction of women. It is common to see women portrayed in film in television as one-dimensional characters who use their bodies and sexuality to get ahead. Unattainable ideals of perfection in magazine and film ads seduce viewers to buy their products.

“People need to be aware of what they are watching,” said senior graphic design major Emma Kapotes. “It is entertainment, but people put it into their real lives.”

On Monday, Feb. 25 and Tuesday, Feb. 26, CAPS Peer Educators and DPhiE sisters collaborated to create an interactive poster titled, “Tell Us What YOU Think is Beautiful.” Student written phrases such as “not Barbie” and “screw the media” were posted on the middle of the trifold surrounded by pictures of photo-shopped models versus pictures of real beauty.

“Beauty is confidence,” said sophomore urban education and women’s and gender studies double major and DPhiE sister Tatiana Campos. “You have to feel beautiful.”