Nicholls dietician student organizes walk for eating disorders


Photo by: Submitted Photo

From left to right: Dani Crockett, Sara Murphy, Mandie Tracy, and Taylor Cole participate in the first annual NEDA Walk in Baton Rouge on Oct. 11, 2014.

Although October is best known for breast cancer awareness, one Nicholls dietetics major is helping organizing an annual walk to raise awareness for eating disorders as a serious mental illness.

Sara Murphy, a junior from Baton Rouge, is organizing the second annual NEDA Walk being held at the Baton Rouge Riverfront Plaza and Levee at 9:30 a.m. this Saturday. National Eating Disorders Associations Walks are fundraisers that are aimed at bringing communities and families affected by eating disorders together and serve as catalysts for prevention, cures and access to quality care.

“Although I’ve never had an eating disorder, I’ve seen how it affects other people and made me want to get involved,” Murphy said. “I’m really interested in food therapy and want to work closely within field.”

Murphy, along with four other women, is responsible for bringing the first NEDA walk to Louisiana last year. NEDA first started walks in the spring of 2009 and now have grown to over 65 annual walks across the U.S., raising over $3 million since launch. Murphy and others contacted NEDA’s headquarters in New York after feeling the lack of recourses available in the state of Louisiana.

“There is definitely a need in the community for knowledge of eating disorders, and I think we’re making that more well-known through the walk,” Murphy said.

There are not many resources in the state of Louisiana that specialize in eating disorders. Only River Oaks Hospital located in New Orleans offers inpatient treatment that specifies in the mental illness affect of eating disorders.

“There’s only one inpatient treatment center in the state. Most people that need an inpatient treatment have to go out of state due to limited amount of space in that treatment facility,” Murphy said. “There are only a handful of outpatient treatment faculties, very little support groups and a limited amount of therapist who specialized in eating disorders. So the walk has really raised the awareness that we need more resources.”

Inpatient rehabilitation centers differ from an outpatient center in that inpatient requires patients to live at a facility for 24 hours a day, opposed treatment where patients are allowed to return home each night. Patients may enter a center for symptoms of anorexia or bulimia nervosa.

NEDA sets walk fundraising goals for each event. Last year the first annual walk that was held in Louisiana had a set of goal of $5,000, and doubled the expected $10,000. This year, NEDA set the fundraising goal for the Baton Rouge walk at $7,500. As of now, the walk has surpassed that goal and is at $8,885 and counting.

This year the walk coordinators are Sara Murphy, Dani Crockett, Mandie Tracy, Taylor Cole and Anna McKay.

“There are many different complex stigmas that go along with having an eating disorder I believe many just don’t understand,” Murphy said. “It’s more to it than ‘I just want to be skinny.’”

Murphy’s motivation for the cause comes from the excitement of seeing others overcome eating disorders and getting back to enjoying life.

“I’ve had people I love and care about go through the worst of it and really lose the glimmer in their eye, and seeing those same people go through recovery is a beautiful thing,” Murphy said. “The beauty of recovery is so worth it.”