24-year-old Neesha Arter to Keynote GW’s National Eating Disorder Awareness Week

On Feb. 25, the memoirist will discuss her battle with anorexia after surviving a sexual assault.

February 22, 2016

By Brittney Dunkins

As a teenager, Neesha Arter found herself among the 20 million women and 10 million men diagnosed with clinically significant eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder.

Ms. Arter struggled with anorexia nervosa—commonly referred to as anorexia—a disorder she developed in response to a sexual assault that she suffered at the age of 14. She says that her battle with anorexia was an attempt to physically transform her body into a child-like state.

“Eating disorders are complicated, but for me, anorexia was a coping mechanism for trauma,” said Ms. Arter, who is now 24 years old. “I wanted to regress to childhood so that I could look like the girl I was before I was assaulted.”

In August 2015, Ms. Arter released a memoir about the experience called “Controlled: The Worst Night of My Life and Its Aftermath.”

“It is important to me to share my personal story because I know that for young girls—in high school or college—it’s much more relatable to hear about these issues from someone that is closer in age.”

Ms. Arter will share her story with the George Washington University community Feb. 25 as the headline event of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, held Feb. 22-26. The activities are co-presented by the Milken Institute School of Public Health, Students Promoting Eating Awareness and Knowledge (SPEAK) GW, GW Spoken Word Collective and the Colonial Health Center. 

The keynote address will be followed by a discussion and Q & A with Ms. Arter, GW students, Greg Rheault, director of the GW Center for Student Engagement, and moderator Melissa Napolitano, associate professor of prevention and community health at Milken Institute SPH.

Dr. Napolitano said that National Eating Disorder Awareness week is a great time for college students to explore “body attitude,” a concept discussed in the Healthy Body, Healthy U research program.

“It’s about the importance of appreciating all of the things that your body can do for you, such as being strong, helping you get to class and enabling you to hug a friend,” Dr. Napolitano said. “While a healthy body weight is important, understanding the behaviors and factors that relate to a healthy body like getting enough sleep, hydrating and managing stress are also critical in the college years.”

View a full list of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week events.

Tuesday, Feb. 23
7 p.m., GW Serenity Shack, 2208 F St. NW, Lower Level
Join SPEAK GW for a meet and greet and grab free National Eating Disorder Awareness Week gear at the GW Serenity Shack.

Wednesday, Feb. 24

Illuminate Hope
5:30 p.m., Kogan Plaza
Speak GW and GW Spoken Word Collective invite you to light a candle and share a message of hope to raise awareness of eating disorders.

Thursday, Feb 25

More than a Body: Celebrate You Fair
11 a.m., Marvin Center, Great Hall
Learn about health and wellness, body image and self-care during this fair hosted by the Colonial Health Center and local resource providers.

An Evening with Neesha Arter
7:30 p.m., Milken Institute School of Public Health, B100A Auditorium
Memoirist Neesha Arter, author of “Controlled: The Worst Night of My Life and It’s Aftermath,” will discuss her recovery from anorexia. A Q & A will be held following the discussion and free copies of her book will be available.

Friday, Feb 26

Mindful Eating Group
Noon, Marvin Center, Colonial Health Center
Mental Health Services Eating Disorders Services Coordinator Nancy Cass will convene a group on mindful eating that breaks down critical skills for choosing nourishing foods, understanding responses to food and building awareness of hunger and fullness cues.