On the day that Meghan Durham decided to really change her life, she got a new haircut. Then, having already skipped breakfast and lunch, she went without dinner, too. In the days that followed, the new Meghan continued to starve herself, except for the one bowl of All-Bran she allowed herself each afternoon at 4.
"I hated the way I looked," Meghan explains now. Never mind that she was popular, talented, smart and pretty. "I thought I could impress people more if I was even thinner."The bran plan seemed foolproof, until one day two weeks later when she suddenly doubled over in pain.
Meghan's father is pediatrician George Durham and her mother is Supreme Court Justice Christine Durham not the kind of parents who would let something like this just slide by. They encouraged her to eat.
But the more they encouraged her to eat, the more Meghan resented what she saw as their control over her. So she ate, all right . . . and then she went into the bathroom and threw it up.
That was two years ago, when Meghan was a high school sophomore. Now that her anorexia and bulimia are behind her, she wants to help other teenagers who are still looking for irrational shortcuts to happiness. By some estimates, 8 to 15 percent of America's teenage girls are bulimic.
Meghan will be keynote speaker Saturday at the first statewide conference as part of Eating Disorders Awareness Week. The conference runs from 8:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. at Highland High School.
Meghan says she first started to dislike her body when her ballet teachers told her she had hyper-extended knees and short Achilles tendons. These are not major flaws, except maybe to ballerinas or to young girls who want to be perfect. Meghan was very aware of her body, and what she was most aware of was that it never looked quite thin enough.
Until she started purging after meals. Then her 5-foot-9 frame slimmed down to an emaciated 94 pounds. People started saying she looked anorexic, and that sounded like a compliment.
Then one evening in May two years ago, she arrived home to find her family in a somber mood. "Mom wants to see you," her younger brother told Meghan as she walked through the door.
Christine Durham showed her daughter a Deseret News story about the death of Cottonwood High student Kristin Haroldsen. Kristin was bulimic, too, and had died after the baking soda she ingested had mixed with stomach acid, distending her stomach so much that it cut off the blood supply to her other organs.
Meghan read the story in horror. Baking soda was her favorite purging agent, too. She graduated to it after she discovered that Ipecac made her too nauseated. When she finished the article, Meghan agreed to enter therapy.
During five months of counseling, she began to realize that she had been rebelling against the control she felt that her parents and her friends had over her.
Meghan is now a high school senior, studying ballet at the Idyllwild School of Music and Art in California. Next year she will enter Wellesley College in Massachusetts, her mother's alma mater. Her plans are to become either a psychiatrist or a psychologist.
"It's possible to overcome bulimia," she said in a phone interview from California earlier this week. "I've learned to accept my body for what it is."
Saturday's conference also will feature a presentation by the West High Improv Group, plus workshops outlining risk factors, social and cultural influences, physical consequences, dieting myths and types of treatment. For more information, call 533-8415.
There will also be a free presentation of "Illness: The Pursuit of Thinness," Wednday night at 7 at Cottonwood Hosptial Easting Disorders Unit. The awareness week will also include a presentation Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Salt Lake Child and Family Therapy Clinic, 515 S. Seventh East, and one Friday at 7 p.m. at the University of Utah Nutrition Clinic, HPER E 134.