Richland woman walking cross-country to raise awareness for eating disorders

Rae Smith of Richland might have to eat as many as 10,000 calories a day when she embarks on a 2,600-mile hike across the country.

She plans to walk from Philadelphia to Richland, traveling almost 28 miles each day, in varying terrain and weather conditions.Smith, 29, who has a master’s degree in counseling psychology, wants to raise awareness of eating disorders.

She also hopes to raise $5,000 for a nonprofit organization called Eating Disorder Recovery Support, which provides scholarships to individuals suffering from eating disorders to assist them in getting treatment.

“Sometimes when people hear” about her plans, Smith wrote on her blog, “They look at me like I’ve lost my marbles.”

She departs July 21 and plans to complete the trip in 94 days, keeping all of her food in a lightweight backpack.

Smith is working with a nutritionist to create a meal plan that gives her body the nutrients it needs. It must have the right ratio of protein, fats and carbs, and be easily transportable.

For as long as Smith can remember, she has “had a distorted body image” and always felt like “the fat sister between two thin sisters.”

Her eating disorder behavior, which included “severe caloric restriction and purging,” began around age 19.

She had difficulty finding formal support to aid in her recovery. The services she was able to take advantage of were not covered by insurance and required her family to pay out of pocket, Smith said.

Smith relied on a support system of family and friends to recover, she said. She worries about others who do not have the same assistance. Smith hopes that by sharing her story, she will encourage others to do the same. Talking about problems is the only way to get better, she said.

“We all have our struggles, but we’re quiet and ashamed,” she said.

She plans to stay in church yards and campgrounds with a tent and sleeping bag. She hopes to meet as many new people as she can and talk to them about her journey.

-- To make a donation, go to bit.ly/1aLDLDt.

-- Smith is also writing about her journey on her blog, raewalksacrossamerica.wordpress.com.