From starvation to salvation

Shelley Blundell

Tallmadge resident overcomes eating disorder

Credit: Ben Breier

This year, 1,000 women in the United States will kill themselves.

They will do it slowly and those around them will feel powerless to stop them. They will waste away to nothing, and they will die still believing they are less than perfect.

These women all have one thing in common ƒ_”- they have an eating disorder.

While some women will never break the cycle, there are those who do.

Angela Cevasco is one of those people.

A 23-year-old Tallmadge resident and police officer in training, Cevasco suffered from various eating disorders from early childhood.

“For me, it was a self-destructive thing,” Cevasco said. “I was sexually abused as a child, and it was a way for me to express on the outside the way I was feeling on the inside.”

Cevasco learned her behavior from her mother, who also suffers from an eating disorder. In denial of her daughter’s sexual abuse, Cevasco’s mother used the eating disorder as a means of control. And then Cevasco did too.

“People would say ‘you look younger’ or ‘you look like a little girl,’ ” Cevasco said. “I felt that if I made myself look ugly enough I wouldn’t get hurt again, that I could keep myself from being a victim.”

Cevasco binged when she was down; if someone had disappointed her or her mother didn’t come home on time in the evenings, she would overeat to suppress the pain. She would then starve herself to make up for the overeating.

At that point, the disorder was controlling Cevasco’s life. But she knew the disorder was not the problem.

“I needed to deal with what had happened to me when I was younger, and I couldn’t,” Cevasco said. “Until the person is willing to deal with the behavior under the problem, they won’t be healed.”

Jenny Dimoff, a 22-year-old hair stylist from Tallmadge met Cevasco in high school and suspected early on that something was not right with Cevasco.

“I started picking up on things as I got to know her better, but it was hard because she was very good at hiding it and manipulating people,” Dimoff said.

One day, unable to watch her best friend hurt herself anymore, Dimoff confronted Cevasco about her suspicions.

“I asked her blankly about (the disorder), and she denied it,” Dimoff said. “I knew she was lying.”

So Dimoff started to fight back the only way she knew it might make a difference ƒ_”- by beating Cevasco at her own game.

“I noticed she would take pills, so I would steal or hide all of them so when she went to take one, they were gone,” Dimoff said. “I talked to her a lot about it too, but when she was on her own she would do what she wanted anyway.”

Dimoff also felt Cevasco’s problem was fueled by the people she hung out with in high school.

“She was way worse in high school,” Dimoff said. “There were lots of people who would do it together, and it was like they had their own little support group.”

As much as Cevasco was comforted by her undernourished peers, many people suffering from eating disorders have found solace through others like them on the Internet. Web sites such as, and provide havens where people with eating disorders can go to talk about their own struggles and get encouragement from others like them.

The Eating Disorders Association says there are more than 400 pro-eating disorder Web sites and chatrooms currently active on the Internet.

Some offer tips for weight loss, such as taking cold showers to make your body burn fat to stay warm or throwing up in the shower so the water will cover the noise. Some provide “thinspiration,” pictures of emaciated figures in pop culture or lyrics and poetry they feel support their decisions.

But most function as a place anas (anorexics) and mias (bulimics) can go to celebrate their triumph over their greatest enemy ƒ_”- food.

While some feel these Web sites cause more harm than good, a study conducted by the Stanford University School of Medicine and quoted in a 2005 Time article found otherwise. While the studied anorexic adolescents who visited the sites spent less time on homework and more time in the hospital, it did not find major differences in things like body weight or bone density between visitors and non-visitors of the sites.

Eating disorders are not the domain of women alone. According to, out of the 11 million Americans afflicted with an eating disorder, more than 1 million of those are men and boys.

As the debate rages between the terms “disorder” and “lifestyle choice,” many in recovery, like Cevasco, see only one thing now ƒ_”- a cycle of destruction.

“I didn’t even know who I was,” Cevasco said. “I looked at myself and thought, ‘I am an eating disorder’ ƒ_”- until I came to terms with (my problems), I couldn’t get over it.”

But get over it she did. Cevasco has been in recovery for more than three years but acknowledges the struggle it took to get her to where she is. And she knows she would not have been able to do it alone. It was her best friend that finally forced her to get the help she needed.

“It had a lot to do with (Dimoff’s) actions,” Cevasco said. “She told me, ‘if you don’t deal with this, you’re going to die, and you will have nothing good left.’

“She also told me it was hard to be around me, and if I couldn’t do it for myself, to do it for her.”

Dimoff stuck with Cevasco through her ordeal and recognized the challenge involved with helping someone recover from an eating disorder.

“It takes a lot of time, consistency and patience,” Dimoff said. “It’s not an easy thing to get over; it takes a lot of time to heal from something like that.”

Cevasco said once she started uncovering her past hurt and dealing with the emotional roots of her eating disorders, she was able to stop the actions promoting the behavior quite quickly. But the mental struggle took a little longer.

“I’m only 23, and I feel like I’ve been through a lot,” Cevasco said. “But I chose not to be a victim anymore.

“I’m going to be a cop so I need to be physically and mentally strong. Above all, I want to show other women they don’t need to be victims either.”

For information on eating disorders, or if you are looking for an eating disorders support group, visit the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders Web site at

Contact features reporter Shelley Blundell at [email protected].