• About This Learning Portfolio

    Learning Portfolio 101.

    What is a Learning Portfolio?

    A learning portfolio as stated by Repko et al. in Introduction to Interdisciplinary Studies (2017, p. 348) is a specific type of portfolio used to showcase and exemplify learning over time. Learning portfolios bring out learning from multiple sectors of academic life. The goal of learning portfolios is to construct where learning began and where learning has brought academic knowledge to. These portfolios are explicit in demonstration, collaboration, and documentation through self-reflection of knowledge obtained and knowledge applied in and out of academic environments. 

    The University Studies capstone project I am currently working on pushes senior students to connect two or more disciplines of study together, gain common ground, and generate thoughtful insight on problems observable in our academic world or life. The beauty of interdisciplinary studies allows students to answer rich and complex questions unsuitable for one discipline to answer. In an act of consilience, students are examining problems through a broad lens with multiple theories and ideas in mind (Repko et al., 2017). Engaging in interdisciplinary studies is parallel to that of a learning portfolio. 


    As of today, the underlying biological factors that contribute to the onset of eating disorders is not vastly understood (Ayton and Ibrahim, 2019). Current hypotheses for eating disorder development are the culture bound hypothesis, the intrasexual competition hypothesis, and the calories-in calories-out hypothesis. Each hypothesis aims to connect eating disorder development to culture, evolution, and biological pathways in which organ systems function with the brain. Although these hypotheses aim to provide context to who and how a patient might develop bulimia nervosa (BN), the exact nature is muddled. In order to re-examine and gain insight to this complex question, a connection from social, psychological, and biological systems need to be made. 

    Regardless of how eating disorders develop, eating disorders are on the rise. Exact statistics and numbers vary by communities, but clinical studies suggest wide increases in BN are present (Hay, 2020). With the knowledge so far on how to diagnosis and treat BN, why is the rate of BN increasing? 

    For my capstone project utilizing interdisciplinary studies, I will be looking at bulimia nervosa (BN) from a sociological, psychological, and biological perspective in order to redefine BN as a mental illness. I aim to propose new recovery options and criteria that allows sufferers to become healthier physically and socially as well as identify leading factors to the onset of BN from Western Culture. 

    “How will redefining bulimia nervosa impact the current understanding, diagnosis, and treatment of eating disorders in young girls and women in western society?”

    Working Thesis:

    By redefining bulimia nervosa (BN) as a representation of culture and society, a more comprehensive way of diagnosing and treating BN can be obtained and used to better treat sufferers socially and physically. 

    Current day treatments and definitions may in part hinder healing as epidemiology excludes societal factors such as diet culture, western diet, and personality factors that may hinder sufferers from recovering. 

     As a sufferer of bulimia nervosa (BN), and a current recovering bulimic, I have gained insight into how having BN affected the way I behaved and socially interacted with my environment. I believe my eating disorder was developed from neurological pathways and the diet culture of which I grew up in, but exactly how did I get this illness? I believe the answer lies outside of the medical realm. Looking into the social, psychological, and biological disciplines, I believe there will be a stronger answer to why I developed BN. 

    Bulimia nervosa (and all eating disorder types and sub-types) are the highest rated mortality mental illnesses in America (Insel, 2012). The answer to why eating disorders make up ten percent of all mental illness deaths is a complex question. The current understanding of eating disorders, in a medical sense, is incomplete. This incompleteness of the understanding of bulimia nervosa (BN) leaves a door open to new interpretation and consilience. Utilizing connections from multiple disciplines could combat death rates, improve treatment, and provide better recovery options for BN. 

    My Academic Story.

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    Countdown to one year in recovery!

     

    As a freshman at Northern Arizona Universtiy in 2015, I was studying to become a middle school science teacher with the NAUTeach program. The NAUTeach program was designed to place first-year students into the classroom to provide first-hand experience during their first year as student teachers. I fell in love with the program, the professors, and my fellow peers who were following the same dreams I had. 

    For secondary science, my courses at Northern Arizona University were broad. I dabbled in most of the science disciplines from physics, to electronics, to genetics, and even astrobiology. My current views of science at the time were unwavering. I believed science to be absolute, concrete, and unavoidable. I swayed my opinion to science. I looked for the numbers, the research, and the scientific figures who backed up claims in the news. I was focused on only knowing facts. 

    In my third year at NAU, I enrolled in a class that brought forth the mindset I have now. It was called the Philosophy of Science. I was unaware the future impact this class would have on my life and the way in which I viewed my education. It was in this class I learned how to look at things from different perspectives. The course was rich in explaining there are multiple ways to know and explain phenomena. What led me to view science as fluid was a little thing called proof. In science we cannot prove, we can only support. 

    I began to see new light in elective courses I had previously taken.

     

    It wasn’t the science course that provided me enlightenment, nor the education courses I seemed to feel I was lacking in. It was the liberal studies courses I had previously taken in which I  mocked for being unnecessary. Looking back I recognize how my introduction to humanities course taught me to analyze human behavior and creation within historical context. It was my race and social disparity course that made me question why we blame others for their problems. I looked at race differently. I looked at the world differently. I became more empathetic and warm to others. Relying on science  made me cold and judgmental to the wonders of the world. It was through different and diverse disciplines that I felt I was enriched with education valuable to my future. 

    By the time I realized my true academic passion, I was in a position where I had to choose my education over my health. Prior to beginning college at NAU I was suffering from bulimia nervosa for seven years. My bulimia continued until the day I moved back home and took a semester off from college. My mental health needed the same attention I had put into my academic life. The last semester I was in Flagstaff was the most agonizing pain I have felt to this day. I barely got out of bed, I failed my classes, lost my scholarship, and I slashed my 4.0 GPA. Most people might think of this as an avoidable failure. I see it as a blessing. A GPA cannot measure the positivity I gained through new experiences and knowledge, nor the personal respect I gave myself in order heal. Straight A’s cannot give merit to personal projects I succeeded in. I learned more from failing than I did by avoiding failure.  

    Once I got back on my feet and began therapy and my recovery, I changed my major to University Studies where I began taking more courses in sociology. I did so through NAU’s online campus while working full time as a receptionist for Sigma Technologies. I found connections to my mental illness in the course sociology of medicine. This is the class that made me question why my mental illness developed and what it could mean for others. 

    Once finishing my therapy sessions I created this website, The Diet Boycotter. I am on a quest to provide out-reach to those who also suffer from bulimia nervosa and how they can navigate the diet culture society we live in. I believe there is a difference to be made and hand I can reach out to others who need help standing back up. 

    I am continuing my degree by connecting my own experiences with bulimia nervosa to social, psychological, and biological interactions to help me answer the question heavy on my mind, how and why did I develop bulimia nervosa? I believe the courses I took have led me to this moment. There are connections to be found, mindsets to be fostered, and a lot of uncertainty to look forward to.