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Foundation targets anorexia, bulimia

Nov. 18, 2004

Speaker says child's eating disorder inspired Lifelines

By LISA MARRS, reporter

Dawn Montaner didn't know anything about eating disorders until her youngest child's life was in danger. In December 1998, her daughter Mandy, a senior in high school, admitted she'd been binging and purging after her brother discovered her secret.

"I felt terribly guilty," Montaner said. "I felt like I'd been backstabbed."

She said as a parent, no one had told her about eating disorders.

"I felt frightened," she said.

Robyn Kenagy | Lariat staff
Chapel speaker Dawn Montaner talks about coping with her daughter's eating disorder on Wednesday.
They looked for a therapist for Mandy in Waco, but nothing helped.

"Nobody knew anything," Montaner said about her search for information.

Mandy was hospitalized for three days, and the family was told she needed acute-care treatment at an inpatient facility.

There was no such facility for eating disorders in Texas. They found a place in Florida where their insurance company agreed to pay, and Mandy was there for 45 days.

"When she was gone, I got angry," Montaner said.

In 45 days, she wrote more than 200 letters to organizations to fight to get more awareness about the disease and find out what could be done to treat it. Montaner decided to take things in her own hands and started the Lifelines Foundation to help people with eating disorders.

Their resources and support help families explore every treatment option, including inpatient care, a day program or outpatient therapy. They also do referrals and networking for treatment options all over the state. Lifelines provide support for families, and they work to get insurance coverage for treatment.

Montaner said she is dedicated to educating young people, parents, teachers, coaches and school nurses about eating disorders. She travels and speaks at schools across Texas.

Lifelines recently received a donation of $64,000 to publish educational materials, which includes a poster, hand-out and three booklets. Montaner will distribute them to 11,000 schools across Texas.

Montaner said this isn't an easy task, and donations are needed to mail and deliver the materials.

"All donations make a difference," Montaner said.

Her dream is to build an in-patient eating disorders facility in Texas. She contacted Texas A&M University's School of Architecture, and the graduate students already have designed the plans.

Called "The Haven," the facility will sit on 50 acres of land. Several doctors and nurses already have agreed to be a part of the facility. All they need now is land, money and an endowment to keep it up.

Montaner said when it comes to prevention and treatment of eating disorders, education is vital.

"It's the way to save lives," she said.

Montaner isn't the only one speaking out on eating disorders.

Stacey Kole, who competed as Miss Arizona in the 1998 Miss America pageant, spoke to chapel students Wednesday about her struggle with anorexia and bulimia when she was a junior in high school.

Kole was in all honors classes and on the homecoming court, took dance and acting lessons, and was enrolled in college classes because she planned to graduate college in three years.

She heard people say, "That girl does it all," and she said her self-esteem soared. As a perfectionist, she said she wanted to find a new thing to be the best at.

Kole said she was never thought of as the prettiest girl in high school, and she felt like she needed to become the thinnest girl in school.

She restricted her food intake, then began purging and throwing her lunch away.

She also was competing in a beauty pageant, and she missed classes and homework that she needed to make up. Kole crammed for her exams and stayed up late studying every night.

One morning, however, she woke up "in a fit of tears," crying and shaking all over. She said she laid in bed, and when she finally spoke, all she could say was, "I'm so scared, I'm so scared."

Kole said she realized she was trying to be the best for everyone, and she couldn't make everyone happy anymore. She went to a counselor, who said she was an "extreme perfectionist" who was developing an eating disorder.

Kole said her "story-book life" turned into a nightmare overnight, and her personal identity vanished. She recovered with a lot of time and counseling. She remembered how her fourth grade teacher used to say Jesus came to make our lives full. Kole said she realized she was powerless over her life.

"Our souls begin to starve if we don't fill them with something that will last," she said.

For the first time, she said she began to live a full life.

"My soul found its worth," she said.

Kole has made it her mission to speak on college campuses about eating disorders and her experience. She said if anyone knows someone who may have an eating disorder, keep the lines of communication open, and try to get him or her professional help. However, someone has to want to get help first.

Kole is the author of Satisfying the Starving Soul: A Biblical Recovery Book for Eating Disorder Victims.

For more information on eating disorders, visit Find more information on the Lifelines Foundation at