I-Team: As pandemic increases eating disorders, Oakwood woman’s story inspires recovery

DAYTON — With 40 percent more people calling the National Eating Disorders’ helpline since the pandemic was declared last March, a Centerville psychologist credits one of her Oakwood patients with using social media to inspire thousands who may be facing their own health struggles.

“I think Maddie’s videos really can give hope to people. It’s not just a textbook thing that you can recover. It’s a human being that you can relate to and hear her story,” Dr. Meredith Glick Brinegar said. “I think people relate to her authenticity, her sincerity. She’s real. She shows her emotions.”

>> Part One: I-Team: Psychologist warns pandemic causing more, severe eating disorders

Starting in January, Maddie Plunkett, 20, began posting videos on the social media app TikTok about her recovery journey from an eating disorder that has consumed her entire life.

“I want people to know that recovery is possible. But I also want them to know that it’s not easy,” Maddie Plunkett said.

>> Eating Disorder Resources

Plunkett started struggling as early as kindergarten. She was in and out of treatment during adolescence. During her freshman year of college she saw the physical toll her sickness was having on not just her weight, but her hair, teeth, and skin as well.

“When I saw that, I was like ‘ok, this is real, this could kill me, I’m done with it,’” Plunkett said.

When the pandemic sent her home during her second college semester, she decided to take control.

Dr. Glick Brinegar said the videos can help people going through something similar, including those triggered during the pandemic, feel less alone.

“She talks about what’s hard, what worked, what didn’t work, and I think people are hungry for that,” Dr. Glick Brinegar said.

Plunkett said working with Dr. Glick Brinegar, a psychiatrist, and a dietitian, as well as her own reading and research helped get her body back to a healthy weight.

She explained, she replaced her eating disorder behaviors with healthy habits to cope with her anxiety and ADHD.

Now, she does not do anything to maintain her weight.

“The purpose of life is not to shrink,” Plunkett said.

She is studying to one day be a teacher.

“I’m a future educator. I think the purpose of life is education and growing into who you’re meant to be and living your authentic truth,” Plunkett said.

After years of concealing behaviors, throwing out medication, and not being her true self, Plunkett’s TikTok is the exact opposite.

“I spent so much of my life lying and this is me being honest,” Plunkett said.

News Center 7′s Eating Disorders Awareness Week coverage continues Wednesday, with a special report about the misconceptions around who suffers from eating disorders.