Eating Disorder Awareness Week promotes healthy body image

With the sudden profusion of purple “Love Your Body” and “Food makes me feel good” signs on napkin holders, coffee cup sleeves and bathroom stalls around campus, the Active Minds student group has kicked off the first-annual observance of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week at the College. A series of events is planned for the week, beginning with a panel discussion geared toward raising awareness about eating disorders and the resources available for addressing them, in line with the national theme “Be Comfortable in your Genes.”

Approximately 25 students and members of the community gathered in Paresky Performance Space on Sunday afternoon for a discussion about eating disorder issues. The event began with a short film by the Massachusetts Eating Disorder Association, Inc., which featured the experiences of individuals recovering from eating disorders.

After the film, attention shifted to a panel discussion featuring three eating disorder experts. The members of the panel were Maria Cruz, college nutritionist, Dr. John Miner, co-director of psychological services and Diane Barth, a psychoanalyst and psychotherapist involved with the Center for the Study of Anorexia and Bulimia in New York.

The panelists gave their thoughts on the film, and then spent over an hour discussing personal, emotional, social and cultural aspects of eating disorders. The discussion was followed by a question and answer session, in which the panelists dealt with issues such as the vulnerability created by transition to college and the influence of the media on personal body images. They also expressed a hope for increased knowledge and awareness of eating disorders. “The more discussions we have like this, the more we can change the way people view eating disorders,” Barth said.

In addition to Sunday’s panel discussion, a free screening of the film Real Women Have Curves at Images Cinema yesterday and an ongoing donation drive for old jeans, three documentaries about eating disorders will be screened tomorrow. The finale, a belly dance workshop, will be held on Saturday.

Active Minds, a student organization started in November to raise consciousness about mental health issues, headed the effort to organize the awareness week. The group asserts that one of the most important parts of the week is spreading information about eating disorders. “The week is really about making sure people know about the available services and use them,” said Veronica Rabelo ’11, a member of Active Minds. Students who pick up information from the tables in Paresky will be entered into a “Sensory Delights” raffle for the chance to win a basket of prizes the appeal to all the senses.

This is the first project of the Williams chapter of Active Minds, a national campus-based mental health awareness group. The College chapter is currently made up of around a dozen students who meet weekly to plan awareness events. The group aims to augment the work of Peer Health by taking away the stigma surrounding mental health issues through the creation of an environment open to discussion of mental health problems. “This week, they wanted an event that was educational, informational and would get people on campus started thinking about mental health issues,” said Margi Wood, co-director of psychological services.

In contrast to the Active Minds groups on other college campuses, which often focus on fundraising for mental health problems, the Williams chapter sees a need to make the student body more aware of the problems that people are struggling with, and to encourage people to make use of the available resources. “It is important to understand the magnitude and prevalence of mental health problems that can be brought on seasonally, or by academic stress or by pressure to be really involved,” Rabelo said. “People shouldn’t feel that they have to deal with it on their own.”

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *