Inaugural eating-disorder walk hopes to increase awareness of illness

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Co-chairs Lori Price (from left) and Maggie Pingolt and volunteer coordinator Varsha Prasad have been promoting this Sunday's first Phoenix Eating Disorder Awareness Walk. (Photo courtesy of Evie Carpenter)

The first Phoenix Eating Disorder Awareness Walk will take place this Sunday at the Phoenix Zoo. With an expected 175 attendees, the walk is focused on bringing eating-disorder awareness to the Valley with music, food and fundraising.

Journalism senior Maggie Pingolt is co-chairing the walk with Lori Price and has been working with Price for more than a year to plan it by managing the social-media presence and registering participants. Price, a former teacher and co-owner of local indoor gymnasium Flip Dunk Sports, began the financial foundation for the walk by seeking out sponsors after she had struggled with eating disorders, Pingolt said.

“This is the first walk of its kind in Phoenix, which is probably the most exciting part of it,” she said. “Everyone involved, even our volunteers, are all spreading the word, but Lori and I have been working on planning the logistics for the website, Facebook and media releases.”

The Phoenix walk will kick off National Eating Disorder Awareness Week with more than $22,000 raised. Organizations such as Remuda Ranch, Rosewood Alumni and the Arizona Department of Health Services are some of the highest fundraisers for the walk.

“Our biggest accomplishment thus far is we have reached 91 percent of our fundraising goal,” Pingolt said. The money raised will be donated to the National Eating Disorders Association to help boost awareness efforts.

An estimated 10 million people in the United States are affected by eating disorders, and through awareness campaigns and community outreach, the hope is to reduce the predominance of eating disorders across the country, she said.

“Eating disorders are more prevalent than people realize and are a more complex issue than people talk about,” Pingolt said. “It’s beyond the food, it’s beyond the numbers, and more importantly, it affects more people than you would think.”

Pingolt said the chances of someone dying from an eating disorder are higher than any other mental illness, including depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

“With our increase in media delusion you see and read about for anti-obesity or general wellness, everything gets convoluted, people get confused, pressures of life come in and you get this issue of eating disorders,” she added.

Through the walk, Pingolt said she hopes to specifically make people aware of the issue of eating disorders in the Valley. Although there have been some smaller efforts in the community to bring awareness and discussion to the eating-disorder issue, this is the first real movement of its kind.

“A good amount of professionals in the Valley would admit that there is a lack of discussion, advocacy and awareness,” Pingolt said.

She said ASU Health Services has put in a lot of positive effort to get the word out about body image, mindful eating and healthy self-talk through posters and presentations on campus to help those struggling with the disorder.

Diana Inzunza, a dietetics sophomore and Eating Disorder Awareness Walk supporter, said she believes eating disorders should be taken more seriously.

“Eating disorders are an epidemic,” she said. “People need to be aware because it is a life-threatening issue. It is also not just a vanity issue; it is much deeper.”

Jaime Buchholz, a dietetics junior, is participating in the walk because she wants to support the effort to make eating disorders a more approachable topic.

“I am supporting the walk because eating disorders are not talked about and often go unseen,” she said. “The stigma needs to be removed so we can help more people overcome their struggle with eating disorders.”

Contact the reporter at mrinck@asu.edu