For Dan Glapa, it started in seventh grade.
At first it was just an interest in working out and eating healthfully, said the genetics, cell biology and development sophomore. Soon, working out and restrictive eating spiraled out of control.
By high school, Dan spent four to six hours a day working out.
According to the National Eating Disorder Information Centre, compulsive exercising, also known as anorexia athletica, is a condition in which someone overexercises because they think it will control the way their body looks and give them a sense of power and self-respect.
Although the University doesn’t have long-term facilities to treat eating disorders, campus medical professionals offer resources and send students to local treatment centers.
From seventh grade to his junior year of high school, Dan went from wanting to be healthy to not eating at all. He would binge and purge while exercising hours a day.
Dan, who always had good grades, said that by his junior year, the gym was more important than school.
“Now I was skipping classes so I could go to the gym,” he said.
Dan said he would arrive at the YMCA at 5:30 a.m. and spend up to two and a half hours on an elliptical machine.
Then he would go to school, sometimes late, and work out on the wrestlers’ equipment while the other students ate lunch. After school he would go back to the gym and work out for two more hours.
For Dan, binging, purging and writing letters were reasons for punishment.
Dan also endured manual labor on a daily basis, including cutting grass with a machete.
While Dan was in treatment, he said his parents sent applications for colleges, even to schools he didn’t want to attend.
He was accepted to Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, and said he agreed to go because he was afraid his parents would never let him leave the Dominican Republic if he didn’t.
When he came back to the States, his struggles resurfaced. Dan didn’t have a roommate in college, so he was able to hide his eating disorder, he said.
After being caught binging and purging, he said he decided to reapply to the University, and started classes in January.
“I came here with a lot of hope,” he said.
When at the University, he started slipping back into some old patterns, but wanted to independently find treatment at Boynton Health Service.
But, Boynton “couldn’t provide me with resources,” he said. “I had just been trapped in the Dominican Republic for over a year; I wanted this independence to deal with this.”
Boynton referred Dan to the STAR Center, which referred him to Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park.
STAR Center Director Kerri Boutelle said eating disorders are more common if a person plays sports, but it isn’t a determining factor.
Boutelle said one of the common misconceptions among athletes is that it’s normal for a woman to miss her period.
University women’s track coach Gary Wilson said he knows missed periods are not normal and is something that would arouse suspicion if a runner already shows other signs of an eating disorder.
He said the female runners at the University never are weighed, because body fat percentage and being nutritionally fit are most important.
“Weight is not the answer,” he said.
Wilson said the track team takes a proactive stance by having its nutritionist discuss eating disorders from the beginning.
Despite multiple treatments, Dan said he still struggles with eating. It often resembles having bipolar disorder, he said, because of the drastic change in his sense of control.
“One little thing goes wrong and you just let it dominate your life,” Dan said.