Last week, the Center for Health Education and Wellness (CHEW) and the Counseling Center co-sponsored a series of events for National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (NEDAW). Spanning from Feb. 23 to Mar. 1, the week included displays of positive messages around campus, do-it-yourself (DIY) projects and social media campaigns.
While planning these events, CHEW and the Counseling Center took some inspiration from “Fat Talk Free Week,” a body activism campaign that was modeled after the international sorority Tri Delta’s award-winning program, Reflections. The campaign hopes to increase awareness about eating disorders and their prevalence, along with promoting body acceptance and countering the unhealthy “thin ideal” common among women.
“The goal of the campaign is to educate others about the damaging impact of pursuing the thin ideal and the use of fat talk on women of all ages, inspire change in the way we think and feel about our bodies and promote a healthy lifestyle and one that urges individuals to live a balanced life in mind, body and spirit. Those goals completely fall in line with CHEW’s mission to create a healthier campus,” CHEW Associate Director Barbara Gwinn Schubert and CHEW Health Educator Alanna Biblow wrote in an email to The News-Letter.
Prior to beginning the NEDAW campaign, Schubert and Biblow met with the Counseling Center’s Eating Disorder Specialist Emily Massey.
Massey hoped that through doing outreach, more students would become aware of the issue of eating disorders.
“I know one of the problems I have as a counselor is when people come in for counseling for issues other than eating disorders, and it’s hard to get them to realize that an eating disorder is also one of the things they need to deal with,” Massey said.
During the week, CHEW and the Counseling Center co-sponsored an outreach event with the resident assistants in Charles Commons. They distributed KIND bars in the Recreation Center as part of CHEW’s “SEE for Yourself on Monday” campaign as well as balloons with positive messages and eating disorder and body image facts. The balloons, courtesy of CHEW and PEEPS, were displayed in the Brody Learning Commons Café with written messages such as “the best curve on your body is your smile” and “what’s cookin’ good lookin’.” Attached facts included statistics, such as “one out of four college aged women has an eating disorder.”
Taking part in Operation Beautiful, a campaign that encourages people to post body-positive notes in public places, CHEW and PEEPS also wrote messages on post-it notes and placed them on mirrors around campus. This included phrases like “There is no ‘wrong way’ to have a body” and “you got this!”
Thursday, those involved with NEDAW held an outreach event in Levering Hall where students could make body scrubs and pick up information about eating disorders.
“We’re more likely to reach friends and peers than those that are struggling with eating disorders. Most women with eating disorders are not aware that they have them, and if they were aware, they would not be likely to approach us. We wanted to focus on teaching others how to recognize someone who is suffering, what to say and what not to say and what the resources on campus are,” Massey said.
In Levering Hall, students also had the opportunity to contribute to a paper chain. Each link on the chain contained a positive message, such as “weight worth” and “love your body.” The paper chain was hung up in Q Level of the Milton S. Eisenhower Library on Friday.
Finishing the week with “Fat-talk Free Friday,” CHEW aimed to increase awareness about the damaging effects of “fat talk.”
According to Operation Beautiful, “fat talk” includes everyday comments such as, “Do I look fat in this?,” “She shouldn’t wear that tight shirt!” or “You look great! Have you lost weight?.”
“A lot of research has been coming out about that right now, and how women tend to feel pressure from other women to engage in negative talk about their bodies. Yet, the research is showing that women actually dislike other women who engage in ‘fat talk.’ So it actually backfires, and women are in this double-bind,” Massey said.
Throughout the week, CHEW also encouraged people to celebrate different body-types by posting selfies on social media sites tagged with #LoveYourSelfie.
“It seemed like a great way to get the conversation going through posting selfies on popular social media outlets to celebrate every shape, size and age,” Schubert and Biblow wrote.
In the future, Massey hopes that NEDAW will continue to develop and expand at Hopkins.
“I’d like to be able to attract a larger group of people to do more activities. I think that it will be helpful that next year I’ll know more about the department and school, since I’ve only been here since August. I think that we will be able to put together some larger activities,” Massey said.
While some students found out about the week through avenues like Today’s Announcements, many students were unaware of NEDAW.
“I had no idea, but I think eating disorders are a pretty prevalent thing in college, and I personally know people who suffer with eating disorders. I guess the way I really find out about things is through physical events and posters of things that happen. Maybe if they hosted some kind of event in honor or to bring awareness to this issue it would have caught my attention more. I think that would have helped make people be more aware of the issue,” sophomore Ching Xie said.
Others were surprised that they had missed information about NEDAW.
“I honestly think that the world could do well with more awareness on that topic, so I do think they could have maybe done a little more to publicize it,” freshman Zoe Demko said. “I’m not sure what, though. Certainly small tasteful stuff would be better.”
Still, CHEW was pleased with the outcome of the week.
“I think all the events and campaigns were successful this year. Through each of our events we tried to emphasize the “healthy ideal” which doesn’t put the focus on weight or size, but on overall health and how that looks different for everyone. . .Even if we were only able to truly impact a few people per event it still feels extremely worthwhile and gratifying knowing we helped make a difference in someone’s day. That can be huge,” Schubert and Biblow wrote.