NISKAYUNA — Natalie Posner is ready to talk about her eating disorder.
The 17-year-old senior at the Academy of Holy Names spent most of her freshman year at treatment centers in Princeton, New Jersey, and Rochester, recovering from anorexia.
At the time, she was enrolled at Niskayuna High School. When she returned to her home and started her sophomore year at Holy Names, she was worried. Posner was healthy, but she feared if she told her new classmates about her eating disorder, they wouldn’t be able to see past it.
“I didn’t want to come back and be the girl with the eating disorder,” she said.
She’s come a long way. Now, Posner isn’t the girl with the eating disorder; she’s the girl leading the fight against eating disorders.
Later this month, Posner will lead a National Eating Disorders Association walk at The Crossings of Colonie. In addition to the walk, the event will include music, yoga, face painting, educational tables about nutrition and eating disorders and a recovery speech by the organizer herself.
Almost 80 people have already signed up, and the group has raised more than $6,000, beating Posner’s initial goal of 50 participants and $5,000. So she’s raise the goal to $10,000.
Posner lives on Grand Boulevard with her father, Erik Posner; her mother, Helen Carroll; and her 15-year-old sister, Rachael.
Carroll is in awe of the work her daughter has done.
“It’s been really gratifying to see her move beyond just getting herself healthy,” she said. “I think other people might find that encouraging, as well.”
In a sense, though, this latest project is perfectly in line with Posner’s personality. She’s always been a high achiever. Carroll said during the course of her daughter’s treatment, she learned eating disorders often affect dedicated students, who can tenaciously stick to goals.
But when it comes to denying themselves nutrition, “You don’t want to be good at that,” Carroll said.
She hopes the walk will help raise awareness, not just for those with eating disorders, but for their parents, who may have to intervene.
Posner had the idea for the walk when she was looking for one to participate in. She found an event in New York City, but the date had passed, so she created her own. It took longer than she expected to complete the project — over a year — but the surprisingly strong local response has shown Posner that bringing the walk here is well worth the effort.
“Everyone knows somebody with an eating disorder,” she said. “I think it was something that was really needed in our community.”
In addition to organizing the walk, Posner has presented at schools and set up educational booths at community events. She says she never set out to become an activist; it just slowly happened when she realized there was a need.
Since she began openly sharing her story of recovery, lots of people have reached out to Posner and her family, offering solidarity and even asking for advice. She tells them to believe her when she says that things truly will get better.
“If you asked me a couple of years ago, I never would’ve thought I could make it to that point,” she said. “I didn’t think it could get better.”
Happily, she was wrong.
“I’m able to tell myself that I really am a beautiful person,” she said.
Posner hopes the walk will continue annually, and she will pass leadership responsibilities on to another high school student when she goes to college next year. Inspired by her recovery experiences, she hopes to become a doctor. In the short term, she’s looking toward to the moment when the first Albany NEDA Walk becomes a reality.
“I’m kind of excited for the kickoff of the actual walk,” she said. “I think that’ll be really invigorating and empowering. That’s the moment I was waiting for.”
The event will be held rain or shine Saturday, Sept. 27. Check-in is at 9 a.m. and the walk is from 10 to noon. To register or learn more, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit nedawalks.org/albany2014.