Students of SPU: Stories worth telling

Student brings the issue of eating disorders to light through their own story

Perris Larson, Staff Reporter

Girl stands with a cat in her arms
Gabriella Laureano is a freshman at Seattle Pacific University majoring in Physiology on the pre-med track. In her arms is her ESA (Emotional Support Animal) cat, Adeline. (Sydney Lorton)

There is more than meets the eye when it comes to students walking across campus. Struggles often linger behind the smile.

It is no secret that freshmen physiology major Gabriella Laureano loves to be around people. She enjoys spending time with her family and friends. This select group of people ended up serving as her major support system in her struggle with eating disorders.

“If you just have someone to talk to, it can make it so much easier,” Laureano said.

She was diagnosed with a type of anorexia when she was 16 and is now in the process of recovery.

“High school can be a very toxic environment, especially with body image and standards. In high school, eating disorders aren’t talked about as much as they should be,” Laureano said. “I was clearly ashamed of it, and I didn’t know what to do about it until I started educating myself about it.”

The pressure to conform to a certain appearance was all-consuming in high school and all she thought about was what she was eating.

“I got a lot of comments from people about me looking in the mirror a lot,” Laureano shared.

Thankfully, after years of feeling ashamed and being secretive, Laureano now feels comfortable enough to open up about her story. She realized she isn’t alone and that other girls on campus are affected by eating disorders as well.

“It’s crazy how much societal standards can be ingrained into someone’s head.”

After being admitted into an in-person facility for a month of therapy and provided meals, she was able to face her fears and connect with other people who shared similar struggles. She continues to stay in contact with them.

“I was admitted twice because of a relapse after the first two weeks of being discharged. It was terrifying.”

The struggles of living with an eating disorder have not fully gone away. Eating with people helps to distract her mind from negative thoughts.

“I relate to addiction in a way because it’s very hard to overcome; it takes a lot of time and patience,” Laureano explained.

It took her a few years to speak about it, but once she did, she was able to get the help and support she needed to get through it.

“Any body type is valid, it shouldn’t matter.”

Because of the help and support she has, Laureano has learned to live with the eating disorder and not be ashamed of it. Laureano believes just because eating disorders are not talked about a lot does not mean it has to stay that way.

“The biggest step to take is to reach out, it’s the hardest step to take.”