Student organization Active Minds and local sorority Delta Omicron Tau (Delta) hosted National Eating Disorder Awareness Week on campus this past week to highlight an issue affecting millions of college students. The organizations hoped to raise awareness of the complex factors that underpin disordered eating and to cultivate an empowering environment for those who may be suffering from such issues. The week’s events included a build-your-own granola activity, lecture from a nutritionist, guided meditation, disordered eating lecture and a self-worth circle on the Quad.
Active Minds President and Diplomacy and World Affairs major Dana Rust (junior) emphasized that the primary goal of this week was to raise awareness about the complex nature of eating disorders and their prevalence in communities. Rust also recognized that accomplishing these goals would be tricky and wanted to address concerns about the week.
“We want to build a community where people know how to support each other on this, which is not something that’s easy to do because the issues are really convoluted and the signs are not that clear,” Rust said.
The event was initially met with some hesitance. Gray and Rust were approached by numerous individuals throughout the week who had concerns about devoting a week to a mental illness and whether the activities planned educated the campus in an positive way or trivialized the issues further.
“It’s weird for people who actually have an eating disorder and kind of alienating because it’s a week where other people are trying to educate you about your own issues and often the people who attend the activities are people who don’t have eating disorders,” Rust said.
Rust specifically addressed a lecture held last Tuesday night, which focused on healthy eating and exercise habits with nutritionist Gia Fey.
“It really wasn’t promoting the ideas we wanted to be promoting. She was a nutritionist for Hollywood stars and was focusing on how to lose body fat. What we were really hoping is that it would be about healthy eating habits and being good to your body,” Rust said.
Undeclared Emma Cones (first-year), who attended the lecture, said that there were interesting tips she wouldn’t have otherwise known, but the climate during and after the talk was at times awkward and uncomfortable.
According to Rust, the image Fey appeared to be promoting is often what triggers eating disorders. Rust said she personally has cut back on watching television to avoid such images for her own mental health.
“We’re definitely thinking about how to do this week better next year. In the future I want to focus more on how to help a friend. Focusing on the other community members and saying these are some signs of an eating disorders and these are some ways to start a dialogue with someone,” Rust said.
According to Delta Vice President and sociology major Dorothy Gray (junior), the difficulties this past week have demonstrated the complicated yet relevant nature of eating disorders.
“As a human being I should care about other people and their experiences and it’s really important to me that we widen our understanding and complicate our understanding of what it is to suffer from disordered eating and other mental health problems,” Gray said.