It’s a monster, one that consumes and affects more than 30 million men and women throughout their lives. Whether it’s stress or obsessiveness regarding food, weight, dieting, calories or body image, eating disorders can have detrimental effects on both physical and mental health.
In a current culture that tends to form complicated relationships with food, exercise and appearance, National Eating Disorder Awareness (NEDA) week is designed to raise awareness and help those struggling find the support they need to pursue recovery.
NEDA week went from Feb. 26 to March 4.
Student organizations at Keene State College took part in promoting and celebrating NEDA week, spreading awareness and positive messages in various ways.
Tabling in bright purple in the L.P. Young Student Center throughout the week, Delta Phi Epsilon (DPhiE) spread positive messages about body image and body positivity.
While the sorority supports three philanthropies throughout the year, this week was about supporting and raising money for the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD).
Vice President of Programming for KSC’s chapter of DPhiE, junior Lauren McClure, said their table in the student center focused on a different aspect each day.
On Monday, sisters at the table encouraged students to sign a banner that said, “I support the cause to end eating disorders,” while also selling $1 chocolate bars to go toward ANAD.
Table themes “Love Your Shape Tuesday,” “Who You Are Wednesday,” “Trash Your Insecurities Thursday” and “Self Love Friday” all focused on sending messages to students.
Tuesday, students walking by could pick up a paper cactus that said “Love Your Shape,” and Wednesday, people could “try confidence on,” by trying on a short-sleeved shirt with the word “confidence” on it.
Thursday, sisters tabling encouraged those who came to the table to “leave scales for the fish,” by writing an insecurity on a paper fish and throwing it away.
Friday, people who came by the table wrote things they loved about themselves on sticky notes.
“It’s not only about having body positivity this week. It’s all about supporting people with eating disorders to help them find recovery and to help advocate for them because oftentimes they don’t really know how to,” McClure said.
DPhiE sets a goal of fundraising $1,000 for each philanthropy during the year, and through different raffles, sales and fundraising efforts, they’ve already raised more than $700 for ANAD.
“A lot of sisters do deal with body positivity issues, so [NEDA week] is all about supporting people with eating disorders and [having] a positive mind [and] positive bodies,” McClure said. “It’s just all about being true to who you are and trying to have a positive body image because that’s really important.”
For one Keene State College student, and sister of DPhiE, conquering an eating disorder has been a challenge since she was 15 years old.
A dancer growing up, KSC senior Becca Reeves stopped the sport during her junior year of high school and noticed she had started to gain weight.
After a 5-month period of dieting, she said it began to get out of hand, and her mom expressed concern with her health.
One trip to her primary doctor led to many more trips to others with specializations, from cardiologists to nutritionists to therapists, etc. Reeves said, “It definitely hit me all in one day that my life is going to change…”
However, finding a doctor, or a nutritionist in particular, that she worked well with when it came to food was challenging, she said, and additional struggles with anxiety and depression added another component to the recovery process.
Coming to college, Reeves found immense support in joining DPhiE, who’s philanthropy organization happened to be ANAD.
“Knowing that we’re raising money for something that hits so close to home,” she said, was a huge component of why she joined.
The organization gave her an entire support system and the opportunity to connect with other individuals in the organization who have had similar experiences.
“I think it shows just how aware we are of what one another goes through and being there to support each other when it comes to body positivity,” she said.
In terms of how she conquers her eating disorder every day, Reeves said she’s so much more appreciative for the life she lives now.
“When I had my eating disorder, I had a really low heartbeat and I couldn’t move my fingers or my toes as much because they would always be cold, so I think each morning when I wake up, I’m just so thankful that I don’t have to put on mittens…because my fingers are cold, [and] I’m able to complete my workout because my heart can beat at a normal pace, so I think just reminding myself of those little things helps me through it every day.”
KSC’s student organization Active Minds participated in supporting NEDA week as well by hanging uplifting sticky notes on bathroom mirrors all over campus.
Senior and President of Active Minds Courtney Heck said Active Minds members have been trying to combat the negativity people have for themselves and their bodies.
The purpose, she said, is “to tell people they’re beautiful, worth it and more than the number on the scale.”
Eating disorders affect about 20 million women and 10 million men, but millions more will struggle with negative food and body image issues that will have a long-lasting impact on their lives, according to ANAD and the National Eating Disorder Association.
To Heck, this week is impactful because body image has been a personal struggle for her throughout her life.
“Body image is something I have struggled with a lot in my life and have known a lot of people to struggle with, so the fact that we have members of Active Minds who care to participate in this means a lot to me. Also, when I see posts or hear of the sticky notes brightening someone’s day, it warms my heart,” Heck said.
As someone who conquers her eating disorder everyday, Reeves said she was asked last week if she thinks eating disorders are a lifelong recovery process. Her response? “Definitely.”
Thoughts will always exists, she said, “where you’ll always think about, ‘This is what I’m putting into my body,’ or, ‘This is how much I need to exercise to work it off,’ so I think you’ll always have parts of thinking about that controlling your life.”
For additional support and resources, contact the NEDA helpline at 800-931-2237.
Jessica Ricard can be contacted at email@example.com