We dedicate weeks and months of the year to recognizing significant issues facing today’s society, to commemorate historical moments, and even to celebrate significant figures in our lives. This past week, February 22-28th, was National Eating Disorders Awareness Week—a topic that has risen to the top of the discussion list. This year, the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) themed the week “I Had No Idea” in an effort to emphasize early intervention. The overarching goal of the week is “to put the spotlight on the seriousness of eating disorders and to improve public understanding of their causes, triggers and treatments.” NEDA has dedicated their resources to exposing the cold, hard facts about eating disorders, creating programs for treatment, educating others about how they can play a role, and raising awareness for the need to rid society of the eating disorder epidemic. This year, the hope is to teach others to learn the signs and symptoms of eating disorders so that individuals who are suffering have a better chance of avoiding a full-blown disorder are achieving treatment before it is too late. With the high prevalence of eating disorders on college campuses and even in middle and high schools around the country, I am proud to see so many students partaking in the fight to end this issue.
On UNC Chapel Hill’s campus, the Campus Recreation staff, Campus Health Services, Carolina Dining Services, Student Wellness, Embody Carolina, and the Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders organized 7 days of events to celebrate this nationally recognized week. Activities such as a special speaker series, group exercise classes, and posters across campus were used to emphasize the issue that plagues too many individuals in the student body. Having been a tri-sport athlete in high school, I like to call the gym my second home and understand the importance of balancing all aspects of life. Many of us are burdened with stress from our fast paced society, and I have personally witnessed the damage that can occur to an individual who is unsure of how to cope with the multitude of stressors in life. This year, the emphasis on early intervention is a topic that, I believe, is one of the most important aspects in battling the issue of eating disorders. Becoming familiar with warning signs and symptoms has to potential to save an individual from hurting the amazing body that they have been given.
One of my favorite activities of the week was Mirrorless Monday, a campaign to help students understand that the importance of feeling that they are beautiful rather than having what they see in the mirror dictate how they view themselves. Also equally impactful were the two life size cutouts of Barbie and G.I. Joe in the front lobby of the gym. The posters enlarged and downsized specific areas of each blown up doll with facts to emphasize the unrealistic proportions of each toy. This goes to show the impact of media on girls and boys alike.
With the conversation abuzz, it is time to continue the conversation. We cannot continue down the path we are on as eating disorders are affecting younger and younger generations. While both males and females fall into the trap of eating disorders, young women tend to be more susceptible at younger ages. Thus, we must start educating early. “Healthy” comes in all different shapes and sizes, and we must start to recognize the need to combat the growing issue of constantly picking apart our bodies. We are all uniquely beautiful, and we don’t need a mirror to tell us that.
To see some of the staggering facts, visit http://nedawareness.org and follow them on instagram: @nedastaff
To see some of the fun activities that UNC held, check out the Campus Recreation Instagram: @unccampusrec , #UNCBodyBeautiful , or #Embody4NEDA
Pictures courtesy of the UNC Campus Recreation instagram