Patrick Wall, Style Editor

By all accounts, Kathleen MacDonald was a normal child. She was a little thin, but she was a runner – it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. Despite this, MacDonald says she was dying. Growing up, her mother taught her that thin was the way to be. So at age 12, she stopped eating lunch, a habit she’d keep for 16 years.

As she got older, MacDonald’s illness brought her to the brink of death. To disguise it, she started drinking heavily. Her condition cost her friends, jobs and even an education – she was kicked out of college three times. All seemed lost. Then, in July of 2002, MacDonald traveled to Washington, DC to give a testimony in front of Congress. The topic? The severity of eating disorders.

Her speech was raw and heartbreaking. “I do not want to live my life as a result of anorexia,” MacDonald said before the House of Representatives. “However, I am scared that I might have been sick for too long now, and I wonder if the costs of anorexia will force me to become part of the 2-5 percent statistic of eating disorder victims who take their own life.”

But it was there that she met the three people who would change her life. After her speech, she was greeted by the parents of girls who had died as a result of their eating disorders.

This had a profound effect on MacDonald, who said she began her recovery the next day. Her recovery took a lot of work and required a major lifestyle change, but MacDonald eventually overcame her eating disorder.

Her story isn’t unusual. According to the Eating Disorders Coalition (EDC), for whom MacDonald now works, over 11 million Americans suffer from some kind of eating disorder. And these disorders are beginning to develop in children of younger ages. It’s not unusual for kids as young as 3 to develop an eating disorder.
For her, these presentations are a way to combat the disease by helping those who are in the position she once was in.

MacDonald visited George Mason University on January 15 to speak with students from the Chi Sigma Iota (CSI) sorority, members of the women’s cross country team and interested community members. CSI President Megan Ibbotson says that she hopes to have another similar presentation later in the semester.
MacDonald began her presentation with a slideshow sharing the stories of girls who had lost their battles with eating disorders. Alongside the girls’ pictures were quotes from family and friends expressing emotions of love and loss.

MacDonald told her story of loss, redemption and recovery and answered questions after her presentation.
Although the outlook might seem bleak, MacDonald contends this isn’t necessarily the case. She says that over the three years she has visited Mason, several students have wanted to talk with her about her story.

“It never fails that a great many [Mason] students contact me post-presentation to ask for help for themselves or for their friends,” MacDonald said in an e-mail, “Last year after presenting to only one sorority, I received 15 e-mails asking for help.”

If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, visit to learn what you can do.