Scarlett Pomers couldn't stop moving.
The actress stood instead of sitting, paced even when she was reading and fooled people into thinking she had already eaten.
What had started as a way to lose a couple of Christmas pounds and eat healthier spiraled into a seemingly never-ending quest to be thinner. Her friends and co-workers on the set of the CW network's Reba, where she plays country-music singer Reba McEntire's daughter, noticed the usually teasing, cheerful Pomers seemed sad and withdrawn.
"I couldn't stand thinking this was going to be the rest of my life," Pomers told an audience yesterday at Towson University in a program centered on a far more serious topic than the usual TV sitcom material.
Pomers was 16 at the time, she said. "My health was in danger."
Finally, she told her mother and began receiving treatment for anorexia.
The ambassador for the National Eating Disorders Association, now 18, shared her battle with the eating disorder with several dozen people - some of whom have faced similar struggles.
The event, presented by the Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt Health System and the Towson University Counseling Center, kicked off National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Started in 1987, the week is meant to emphasize the importance of healthy body image and draw attention to the danger of such disorders and the need for early intervention.
"This week is geared toward providing hope," said Dr. Steven Crawford, associate director of the Center for Eating Disorders. The center has brought in speakers to highlight the event for about a decade, said its director, Dr. Harry A. Brandt.
Pomers said promoting awareness helps strike down some of the stereotypes she feels surround eating disorders.
"A lot of people only think it affects women - young, white women," she said. "It can happen to anybody, and it does happen to a lot of people. No one's safe."
People also tend to assume that "it's just a vanity thing," Pomers added. But, as she shed more and more pounds, "it definitely wasn't about the way I looked anymore."
Last year, Pomers started the Arch-Angels Fund to assist the national association in its awareness campaign and "get people talking about treatment and providing treatment," she said.
She also recorded an album, Project Chains, whose proceeds will go to NEDA.
Many in the audience said they appreciated Pomers' story.
Sue Glaeser of Lutherville said she held back tears at times as she recalled her daughter's trouble with anorexia.
"It's a daily battle for all of them," Glaeser said.
Megan Miller, 19, a college sophomore, attended along with Towson juniors Natalie and Maureen Hooker, 21, looking for support and inspiration in her own recovery from bulimia.
"I was inspired," said Miller, who started treatment when she was 17 at Sheppard Pratt's center.
Miller said she agreed with Pomers' observation that vanity - and the images promoted by the media - isn't necessarily what leads to an eating disorder.
But those images do perpetuate it, she said. "Once you get into it, then all of a sudden it's like, 'I have to look like that.'"
Natalie Hooker, who has suffered from anorexia, brought her twin sister so that she could learn more about the disorder.
"I could relate to a lot of stuff [Pomers] said, so it kind of validated my feelings," Hooker said.
For more information about eating disorders and other events planned for this week, visit the center's Web site: www.eatingdisorder.org.