Detroit Stories Episode 41: 'Surviving an Eating Disorder' (PODCAST)

How a 19-year-old college student defeated anorexia with the help of her family, doctors — and a renewed relationship with God

(0:07) The narrator introduces Maureen Cole, a spirited 19-year-old student at Hope College and an avid dancer. Usually sunny, Maureen’s positivity disappeared as she fell into habits that led to an eating disorder, at first unbeknownst to her parents. Marlise Cole, Maureen’s mom, explains what she witnessed.

(3:00) Maureen Cole describes the conditions that led to her anorexia, starting with the pandemic in 2020. A straight-A student, Maureen describes her reticence to switch to remote learning and dance via Zoom. As the pandemic wore on, she transformed her basement into a full home dance studio, and exercise slowly became an obsession.

(7:00) Over Christmas break her senior year of high school, Maureen had a routine physical with her doctor, who told her she had lost 10 pounds. Others seemed to notice she looked fitter, and she liked the attention.

(8:23) Slowly, her eating habits changed. She cut sweets and carbs, and began to become obsessed with her diet. She cut condiments, then red meat, then dairy. Eventually — and to Maureen’s credit — she realized she might have an eating disorder, but didn’t want to tell anyone. Her personality faded, and eventually, others began to take notice.

(11:03) Maureen’s dance teacher called her parents, who began to panic at the realization of what their daughter was facing. Maureen’s body began to show frightening signs of an eating disorder. She started to work with a dietician and physician.

(13:40) During fall break her first semester in college, Maureen visited the doctor for a check-up, but she hadn’t gained any weight. Her heart rate was frighteningly low, and she realized — finally — that if nothing changed, she was slowly dying.

(14:14) Realizing the gravity of the situation, Maureen finally committed to battling her anorexia. Her parents pulled her from dance, and found her a doctor specializing in eating disorders. She began a University of Michigan-sponsored program, Maudsley, to fight her disease.

(16:38) Maureen describes the role of faith in her recovery. The realization that God was calling her to great things — not an eating disorder — was crucial, she says. Slowly, she began to see progress.

(18:21) As things improved, Maureen’s relationship with God did also. Her personality began to return, and she started to develop healthier relationships with food.

(20:04) Today, Maureen continues her recovery, but she’s back in school at Hope and dancing again. Maureen’s mom, Marlise, describes Maureen’s newly rediscovered relationship with God. Maureen describes the courage her journey took, and how she continues to battle — all with God’s help.

Reporting and narration by Michael Stechschulte; script by Casey McCorry; production by Ron Pangborn

(Editor’s note: Some material provided by Marlise Cole)

This episode is brought to you by the PIME Missionaries — Catholic priests and brothers, evangelizing in 19 countries around the world and celebrating 75 years of service in Detroit. Visit pimeusa.org to learn more.

Listen to ‘Detroit Stories’ on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or Spotify. Podcasts also will be posted biweekly on DetroitCatholic.com.



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