The summer of 2018 was when Meredith Given developed an eating disorder.

Now in recovery, the 17-year-old New Albany High School senior wants to raise money to help someone in need access counseling to overcome his or her own eating disorder.

According to statistics on the National Eating Disorders Association website, at any given point, 0.3% to 0.4% of young women and 0.1% of young men will suffer from anorexia nervosa.

For her senior-seminar project, Given is looking to raise $10,000 to fund two years of counseling for a girl or boy ages 14 to 19.

Senior seminar is a New Albany High School graduation requirement in which students research an idea and complete a project; they must document 80 hours of work.

Applicants would submit essays for review and eligibility would also be determined on an as-yet-to-be-defined income threshold, Given said.

To raise money, Given plans to contact companies headquartered in New Albany and local publications to help community families donate. This fall, she also plans an assembly at her school to raise awareness about eating disorders.

"I wanted to do something that was, like, meaningful for me," she said.

Given said her own eating disorder began when she was having health complications that required her to change her diet. Because she had limited eating options, she began skipping meals, which eventually led to the loss of 12 to 15 pounds.

After she went off the diet, she said, she began skipping even more meals to avoid gaining the weight back.

Given was training for cross country and traveling that summer, but said she was eating about one meal and one snack per day. No matter how hungry she was, she said, her disorder was so controlling that her hunger didn't matter. She thought anything she ate would make her gain weight, she said.

At her annual checkup in midsummer, her doctor asked if she was eating normally and Given said she glossed over some details. Still, her doctor told her she might have an eating disorder, and her mother, Julie, began watching her daughter's eating habits more closely.

Julie Given said she was surprised when the doctor said her daughter had an eating disorder.

"I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach," she said. "I knew she had lost some weight as a result of adjusting her diet due to health complications, but I didn't expect to hear the words 'eating disorder.' "

It was at that point, Julie said, that she started watching her daughter intently, making sure she ate proper amounts at all of her meals and staying with her after she finished eating.

"It was difficult to let her carry on with her life out of our sight," she said. "We could never be sure what she was eating or, more importantly, not eating, away from us, like during lunch at school."

Given has come a long way over the last year, her mother said. They still watch what she eats, and she weighs in periodically, just to make sure she stays on track.

"It's been a long road, but we are really proud of the progress Meredith has made," she said.

Given said her doctor recommended going for an assessment at Nationwide Children's Hospital, which she eventually did. At the assessment, medical professionals suggested she attend a partial-hospitalization program offered there.

But although Given knew she was exhibiting unhealthy behavior, she said, at that stage, she didn't want to change or seek help.

She began skipping social outings, worrying she looked too fat to go out. Close friends who knew about her disorder began distancing themselves from her, she said.

After that, Given said, she got worse. She felt lonely and began purging more regularly, on a daily basis, in addition to skipping meals.

Eventually, her mother and her father, Mitch, issued an ultimatum: She could either attend the recommended partial-hospitalization program with Nationwide Children's Hospital or she could begin daily therapy elsewhere. Given opted for the latter, beginning in late June 2018.

Initially, she said, she disliked going to therapy. She didn't want to get better, but she found talking to someone who could understand her was helpful.

Then she began slowly to change her behaviors.

"It was just like a long process, I would say," she said.

Given still attends therapy, and she is able to eat normal meals now. And now that she's basing her senior project around eating disorders, she said, she wants to create a positive example in her own behavior in order to show that eating disorders can be overcome.

Given's therapist, licensed professional clinical counselor Tasha Boyer with Kovacs Counseling in Columbus, said such eating disorders as anorexia and bulimia rewire the brain, a process triggered by malnutrition.

Internal thoughts are so loud, Boyer said, people believe they have a different set of rules because of that brain rewiring. That's why a statement such as, "I can't eat this," would seem strange uttered by a friend but completely normal to someone with an eating disorder.

Nutrition is one of the key ways to eliminate such thoughts, Boyer said. And in the process of attending counseling, patients build relationships with their counselors, who become trusted sources.

Cognitive behavioral therapy -- the process of identifying erroneous or disordered thoughts and reframing them in an effort to change behavior -- can be used to challenge thoughts associated with eating disorders, Boyer said.

And working with counselors who won't judge patients' thoughts but instead help then refocus on healthier thoughts also is helpful, she said.

ssole@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSarah