Thrive by IU Health

Patient With Eating Disorders: “I was Secretive. I had a World that Others Weren’t Aware of.”

Patient With Eating Disorders: “I was Secretive. I had a World that Others Weren’t Aware of.”

She was an adolescent and her body was changing. She didn’t feel accepted. That may have been the beginning of Kristina Denton’s declining health that eventually led her to IU Health Charis Center for Eating Disorders.

She could say she was bullied. She could say she pushed her food around on her plate. She could say her weight was a target number.

But because Kristina Denton has been a patient with eating disorders, she knows the triggers. She knows that some people look at those target numbers, those behaviors and habits as a way to measure and compare the degree of their illness.

“Numbers and weight are tricky for people in recovery. My eating disorder mind became so insidious that it picked up on everything. It all felt so related to my eating disorder goal,” said Denton. She prefers to focus on the realization that she had health issues and how she recovered.

She grew up in a Southern Indiana community filled with German heritage. Her grandmother taught her to speak German as a child and she spent time visiting in the Black Forest region of Western Germany.

At about the age of 12 she began gaining weight and was going through the growing pains of adolescence that included wearing glasses and braces.

“Not only was my body changing but there were stressors at home that I was coming to terms with and I’m a very sensitive and emoting person. I was having a hard time dealing with the fact that I wasn’t accepted by my peers,” said Denton. “I didn’t wear name brand clothing. My mom worked at K-Mart and my dad worked at a factory. I was awkward and other kids bullied me because of that. One kid pulled my hair and broke my glasses on the bus,” said Denton. She remembers making herself vomit to avoid school.

“My logic was ‘if I’m sick I don’t have to go to school I can stay home and read and create a world where it is easier to cope,’” said Denton. By high school she was at her highest weight and decided she would decrease eating and increase exercise.

After graduation she left her southern Indiana town and headed to Muncie where she met a close- knit group of friends at Ball State. From the outside her life seemed fulfilled. She was enjoying her newfound independence and studying to be a social worker. But privately she had vowed not to gain the “freshman 15,” and fixated on her weight.

“I was secretive. It was like living in a world with rules and values others weren’t aware of. I would lie about whether or not I’d eaten,” said Denton. “I would exercise obsessively for hours on end. I would make excuses when eating with my friends to attempt to explain why I wasn’t eating. I was socially withdrawn to the point my eating disorder was my whole world.”

It was her junior year when her friends sat her down. Speaking through tears they told her she needed help and they would go with her.

“My motivation to lose weight became greater than my motivation to appease my friends and the people I surrounded myself with,” said Denton.

She first went to a therapist close to campus who referred to IU Health Charis Center for Eating Disorders. She was enrolled in therapeutic programming in 2012 and again in 2013. In 2017 she was enrolled in a partial hospitalization program.

At her worst, her blood pressure and blood sugar levels dropped so low she would pass out. She developed pre-osteoporosis and her skin was covered in lanugo hair.

“In 2012 when I did the intensive outpatient program it made me aware that my eating disorder was a problem. In 2013, when I did the program a second time, I realized how I contribute to the problem and by 2017 I was ready for a solution. It was something I never want to do again,” said Denton.

The programs involved group and individual therapy including expressive therapy such as art and movement. Counselors helped her focus on trauma and how to understand and express her emotions.

As part of the program at the Charis Center, patients learn about issues that can contribute to the development and maintenance of eating disorders such as perfectionism, cultural pressures and relationship issues. They are educated about physical and nutritional consequences and how to develop healthy coping strategies. A dietitian works with patients to help them plan healthy, nutritious meals and snacks. The programs run on set schedules ranging from six to eight weeks, but patients’ timetables may vary based on their individual treatment plans.. The program involves treatment for anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and other related disorders.

Denton’s diagnosis was anorexia, but the diagnosis shifted over the years. When she first walked into Charis Center she was struggling with binging and purging.

Not long after she enrolled in therapy, her mother was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. She was diagnosed in February of 2014 and she died in August. At the age of 26, Denton left her job in Muncie and moved back to southern Indiana to care for her ailing her mom.

“It’s part of my personality to take care of other people’s needs and worry about others. I spent most of my life caring for others and through my work at Charis Center I learned about how to take care of myself, said Denton. “I have discovered who I fully am as a strong, confident woman. I found my voice. The past year and half has been about learning to accept my body and learning to step into my power. I am no longer afraid to advocate for myself and others who have experienced similar struggles.” As part of that advocacy she has helped plan the National Eating Disorder Association Walk.

According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Other Eating Disorders (ANAD) at least 30 million people in the U.S. of all ages and genders suffer from some type of eating disorder.

Denton has learned several myths about eating disorders.

First, eating disorders have little to do with a person’s body weight. She has been in treatment with people of all shapes and sizes. Second, eating disorders aren’t limited to people of a certain age, race, or culture. She’s met a diverse group of people who suffer from eating disorders. Third, eating disorders are not about food. It’s more about an underlying emotion.

“My advice to others is don’t be afraid to ask for help and when you ask, try to be as honest as you can during recovery,” said Denton. “There’s a lot of shame and a lot of people react to shame by hiding or lying. People who are trying to help you can’t fully help you unless you tell the truth.”

Anther thing Denton has learned is that “intention” is a verb.

“If I set my intention on recovery and eating, I have to take that intention. I have to decide every day I’m going to pack my lunch, eat dinner and take snacks for my day. There are days I don’t have the energy and they don’t go so well but I’m constantly trying and intention is an ongoing process.”

-- By T.J. Banes, Journalist, IU Health.
Reach Banes via email tfender1@iuhealth.org.

Latest Stories

Filter from

January 18, 2021 What to Expect After COVID-19 Vaccine As the COVID-19 vaccine rollout has expanded to more Hoosiers in recent days, you may b... January 18, 2021 IU Health COVID-19 Data IU Health is committed to being a trusted source of information for the public during t... January 15, 2021 IU Health Arnett announces leadership promotions Christopher Mansfield, MD has been promoted to Associate Chief Medical Officer (ACMO) f... January 08, 2021 Chief Nursing Officer receives DNP Marilyn Riley, vice president and chief nursing officer at IU Health Frankfort, recentl... January 08, 2021 IU Health Arnett Hospital announces retirement of President Daniel Neufelder, FACHE, president of Indiana University Health Arnett and the West Cen... December 20, 2020 She’s a respiratory therapist with asthma, and she’s on the front lines Jody White didn’t have to treat COVID-positive patients at Methodist Hospital, but opti... December 18, 2020 Physicians implore their communities to take COVID vaccine when it's time IU Health infectious disease physicians from around the state feel confident in taking ... December 17, 2020 IU Health begins COVID-19 vaccines: 'Light at the end of a very long tunnel' IU Health took possession of the first COVID-19 vaccines in central Indiana on Wednesda... December 17, 2020 Coping with Grief and Loss This Holiday Season The holiday season is often a time of year in which a wide range of emotions can arise.... December 17, 2020 Behavioral health numbers up; Fighting holiday stress during a pandemic The past year has been filled with anxiety, disappointment, and heartache. Never has it... December 16, 2020 Veteran nurse: ‘I can’t tell you how hard it is to see that lonely patient in bed’ For more than two decades she’s sat at the bedside of her patients. Now, IU Health Nurs... December 15, 2020 ‘Baskets of Cheer’ boost front-line teams During a stressful day, a quick cup of coffee or snack can make a big difference, espec... December 15, 2020 New program allows patients to heal at home In April, when the impact of the pandemic began to hit home, IU Health had an idea to h... December 15, 2020 COVID-19 vaccine: Freezers ready to store; Staff ready to administer first doses It’s been a long time coming but now, a new vaccine is making its debut in the fight ag... December 14, 2020 Steps to Eating Healthy at Home It may be an understatement to say that the year 2020 has been quite the whirlwind. The... December 13, 2020 First patient who received COVID-fighting infusion: ‘Hardest part was the needle’ When she signed up to receive a new monoclonal antibody to help ward off her symptoms o... December 12, 2020 Wigs can help cancer patients feel sense of control When you combed or brushed your hair this morning, you likely didn’t think much about h... December 11, 2020 Watch: IU Health experts answer COVID-19 vaccine questions With COVID-19 vaccine approval just around the corner, IU Health experts address a numb... December 10, 2020 Generational Trauma: Breaking the Cycle of Adverse Childhood Experiences How Our Understanding of ACEs Provides Better Healing Care for Adults “The child is th... December 10, 2020 First a Riley patient; Now at 25, athlete is a patient at IU Health Simon Cancer Center At the age of three he became a patient at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health. No... December 09, 2020 COVID-19 Vaccine: What You Need to Know With COVID-19 cases on the rise in Indiana and across the country, a ray of hope exists... December 09, 2020 IU Health vascular team’s phone app focuses on blood clots and COVID patients As health care providers piece together the impact of the deadly coronavirus, a team of... December 08, 2020 Indiana University Health Arnett welcomes new Chief Nursing Officer, Allison Shuttz, MSN, RN, NE-BC Allison Shuttz, MSN, RN, NE-BC, has been appointed Chief Nursing Officer for Indiana Un... December 08, 2020 For two years, this young mom could not speak Her 2-year-old was just a baby when Maranda Slusser stopped talking. Two more children ... December 04, 2020 Tranquility Spaces Provide a Respite For Frontline Team Members Sometimes even heroes need a break … a chance to slow down, take a breath, gather their... December 03, 2020 Hospital chaplain: From bedside compassion to hospitalized care She’s sat at the bedside of new moms and patients undergoing radiation therapy. She’s a... December 02, 2020 “I thank God I’ve come through it” As a COVID-19 “long hauler,” Sarah Hagan found help through IU Health’s Convalescing CO... December 02, 2020 She cares for patients with COVID and carries on her mother’s legacy Her mother worked for IU Health, and for two decades this nurse has followed in her foo... November 30, 2020 Calling a Code Lavender If you’ve watched a hospital-based television show, you’ve probably seen the following ... November 30, 2020 Hospital workers – Giving hearts on holidays and every day They work tirelessly every shift, every day. Most never anticipated living through a pa... November 29, 2020 He was looking for a liver giver and she delivered Wayne Brown posted on Facebook that he needed a new liver. A long-time friend saw his p... November 24, 2020 IU Health Frankfort Hospital now open The new IU Health Frankfort Hospital is open and ready to serve you. A fence around the... November 24, 2020 Nurse down 75 pounds: ‘Self-care is vital, especially during a pandemic’ As a progressive critical care nurse, Kristy Fields sees many patients treated for symp... November 23, 2020 Q4 2020 Quarterly Report: COVID-19 brings community together, while social distancing Crystal Hinson Miller, chief philanthropy officer for Indiana University Health and pre... November 23, 2020 Father of five girls gets wish with hospital bedside wedding Seven weeks ago, Matthew Rynearson was diagnosed with a neuroendocrine tumor. When he e... November 20, 2020 Transplant Gratitude Triggers $1 Million in Funding Technically, Jerome Josephs received a kidney when he underwent a transplant at IU Heal... November 19, 2020 In the Midst of a Pandemic, Three Foundation Team Members Achieve International Certification Diane Buzzell, Julie Paolillo and Kate Konzen have several new letters after their name... November 19, 2020 Rock band member chooses IU Health for testicular cancer treatment Minnesota native Ryan Keyes came to Indianapolis to play drums in a rock band. Now, he’... November 18, 2020 Offering help to go tobacco-free during COVID-19 People who are tobacco users and who vape have a higher chance of getting COVID-19. IU ... November 17, 2020 How to Stay Safe & Healthy This Holiday Season With COVID-19 cases surging across the state, it may be time to rethink your traditiona... November 17, 2020 Long-time nurse known for educating the next generation of nurses She has been at the bedside of countless patients – the sickest of the sick, and Marcia... November 15, 2020 Father Donates Kidney to Young Son: “It’s a Huge Sigh of Relief” By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org It was in her 20th we... November 13, 2020 Double transplant patient on quest to educate young adults with diabetes Even before his first transplant, Mike Davis knew the importance of self-care for diabe... November 12, 2020 How to Cope with Holiday & COVID-19 Stress With COVID-19 cases on the rise and the holidays around the corner, you may be feeling ... November 12, 2020 Lung cancer patient, non-smoker: ‘Anyone with lungs can get cancer’ It started with a mild cough that wouldn’t go away. Now Shauna Dalton is taking meds tw... November 11, 2020 Veteran’s Day – A family legacy for IU Health doctor IU Health Dr. Kevin Rice talks about his journey to the medical field and his service i... November 10, 2020 Nurse who had COVID-19: “The positive is I can donate plasma to help others” The numbers are the highest they have been in months. COVID-19 continues to be a deadly... November 09, 2020 TCC Gives’ donated iPads help IU Health patients and families connect The isolation created by the COVID-19 pandemic has weighed heavily on everyone, but it ... November 08, 2020 ‘Hospital at home’ patient: ‘They spoiled me. I couldn’t have asked for better care’ In April, IU Health launched a program for ill COVID-19 patients that allowed them to r... November 05, 2020 New glucose management option helps COVID-19 patients Since the beginnings of the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare professionals have learned th... November 02, 2020 Risky tumor removal threatened patient's ability to talk & swallow Daniela Gomez started experiencing severe headaches when she was 14 years old. For six ... November 01, 2020 First Altruistic Living Liver Transplant at IU Health After 10 years with an autoimmune liver disease, Matthew Prather was told it was time f... October 29, 2020 A look back at LifeLine rescue of crash victim: “A life-defining moment” It was in the early morning hours when LifeLine flight nurse Mike Collins was summoned ... October 28, 2020 First living liver recipient: Three months later and patient enjoys new life When Kelly Kinkade’s health began to decline, she turned to IU Health’s top-ranked tran... October 26, 2020 3 Healthcare Topics Every Hoosier Should Know About Before They Vote As we approach Election Day on Tuesday, Nov. 3, healthcare continues to rank high on ju... October 25, 2020 He thought he had COVID-19; Nurse practitioner suspected something else Ryan Gillen is beyond grateful. He says one special nurse who discovered his illness, i... October 22, 2020 Cancer patient, 28: ‘People say 2020 has been bad, but for me it’s a blessing’ He’s young, launching his professional career and he’s facing the challenges of a cance... October 22, 2020 For this student nurse, COVID unit has helped her grow PCA Kate Davenport: “It’s so important to meet people where they are and offer support,... October 21, 2020 Grant Expands Dementia-Support Services in Southern Indiana “It really does take a village when it comes to dementia care,” said Dayna Thompson, an... October 21, 2020 What Characteristics are the Most Important Part of a Safe & Effective Weight Loss Program? In today’s digital age, you can find weight loss plans everywhere. From diet pills that... October 20, 2020 This doctor has a reason to be a real man wearing pink Each year, the American Cancer Society raises money and awareness for breast cancer wit... October 15, 2020 Elementary teacher, 28, diagnosed with breast cancer Both her grandmothers had breast cancer, but Sarah Clark had no reason to believe her d... October 14, 2020 When Minutes Count: Know Risk Factors for Stroke Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death and is a leading cause of long-term disabili... October 14, 2020 Putting on the White Coat: Celebrating an IU School of Medicine Bicentennial Scholar Image courtesy of IU School of Medicine Where once walked a scribe, following doctors ... October 13, 2020 Infant Loss: Two Mothers Open their Arms to Those who suffer Two Nurses at IU Health Arnett both suffered the loss of their precious newborns. Their... October 12, 2020 Philanthropy Funds Rooftop Garden to Offer Patients, Loved Ones and Team Members a Breath of Fresh Air In the midst of uncertainty and stress, it’s important that all of us take a moment to ... October 12, 2020 Understand the importance of safe sleep While the prevalence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in the United States has de... October 12, 2020 Olcott’s Gift Paves Way for Nurse Navigation at the New Regional Academic Health Center Joan Olcott will be long remembered as an important figure in the Bloomington community... October 11, 2020 Breast cancer patient found lump two weeks before mammogram At the recommendation of her family physician, Kelly Kelso scheduled a mammogram. Two w... October 09, 2020 Merriman Award Honors Compassionate Team Members Statewide Five IU Health team members around the state have won the “Lynda,” the Lynda A. Merrima... October 09, 2020 From Riley to University Hospital – Patient relies on music therapy He first came to IU Health as an infant and recently when he came back as an adult, Nat... October 07, 2020 Former school bus driver fights pancreatic cancer For 25 years, Alan “Dale” Albright drove a school bus. He looked at the kids on his rou... October 06, 2020 How Could My Alcohol Use Affect My Family? “It’s just one more drink.” “I haven’t had any legal problems.” “I worked really hard t... October 06, 2020 IU Health midwifery practice invites women to “call the midwife” In a nod to the popular PBS television series “Call the Midwife,” four IU Health nurse ... October 01, 2020 Mother’s devotion: Driven to improving mental health care After years of experiencing firsthand her son’s diagnosis of mental illness, Joan Ester... September 30, 2020 LifeLine crew reunites with seriously injured teen airlifted to Methodist It was his second time to board a LifeLine helicopter and this time, Brandon Stuckwish ... September 29, 2020 How to Recognize & Prevent Heart Disease During COVID-19 Have you given much thought to your heart this year? During the COVID-19 pandemic, ma... September 29, 2020 IU Health, IPS launch career development program at Crispus Attucks Upon graduation and completion of the fellowship program, students will be guaranteed a... September 28, 2020 Grant Connects People in Rural Communities to Emergency Behavioral Care Thanks to a new grant secured by IU Health Foundation, people in rural communities in n... September 24, 2020 White Memorial helping patient move from a motorized cart to walking the fields Gene Dallinger suffers from COPD and started working with pulmonary rehab at IU Health ... September 24, 2020 From North Africa to the U.S.: Expatriate encourages community engagement A native of Algeria, Mohamed Merzoug joined IU Health’s Community Outreach and Engageme... September 24, 2020 As he retires: Transplant leader dedicated to patients and hospital community After more than a decade of serving as IU Health’s Medical Director of Kidney & Pancrea... September 23, 2020 Lab worker driven by niece’s death from sepsis Thousands of children die each year as a result of severe sepsis. Matthew “Trevor” O’He... September 22, 2020 Methodist childbirth educator looks forward to Riley move The new maternity tower at Riley will centralize all inpatient and newborn care so even... September 21, 2020 In Pursuit of Health Equity: An Evolution in Healthcare At the crossroads of storylines between the COVID-19 pandemic and summer-long protests ... September 21, 2020 Practicing Mindfulness During Times of Uncertainty The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the fact that things in life can be out of our co... September 18, 2020 IU Health Arnett donates masks to local food banks Indiana University Health Arnett is donating masks to local food banks to help improve ... September 17, 2020 Two surgeries, one day - Father donates kidney to son When his son’s kidneys began to fail, Shannon Dobrucki did what most fathers would do –... September 16, 2020 IU Health Foundation’s Jessica Journey Receives International Industry Honor “Serving people with excellence, compassion, ethics, and positivity” has earned Jessica... September 15, 2020 Her nursing career is an extension of her life of empathy for others Melyssa Sams started her career later in life but she’s always been headed toward nursi... September 15, 2020 Hospital dietitian first came to IU Health as a pediatric patient Long before she even knew about careers in healthcare, Jennifer Golding was a patient a... September 14, 2020 Wear a Mask Because You Care … and Because It Works One of the best ways to protect yourself, your loved ones and the people in your commun... September 14, 2020 Why it’s Crucial to Get Your Flu Shot in 2020 2020 has taught us a lot of lessons. One major lesson being the importance of maintaini... September 10, 2020 Nurse: “I chose IU Health because I trust the oncology care” There are hospitals closer to her home, but when DaJuana Moore was diagnosed with breas... September 09, 2020 College student recovering from bone marrow transplant When she discovered the mass two years ago, Mayra Rodriguez completed treatment at IU H... September 09, 2020 IU Health Foundation Funds Officer Down Kits for Tipton Police & Tipton County Sheriff's Departments Pictured from Left: Thomas Sliwa, MD – Emergency Medicine; Brad Robins – Sergeant Tipto... September 09, 2020 IU Health Foundation Grant Helps People Quit Smoking Indiana ranks fifth-highest in the nation for tobacco use, but the IU Health West Centr... September 08, 2020 IU Health Team Member Gives to Transform Healthcare Inequities For Craig Brooks, transformation manager for IU Health Physicians, “transformation” is ... September 07, 2020 Healthcare at home with virtual visits As the COVID-19 case number increases throughout Indiana, more and more Hoosiers are fa... September 04, 2020 Indiana University Health Tipton Hospital opens COVID-19 testing site TIPTON, Ind. – Indiana University Health Tipton Hospital understands the need for a loc...