“In the U.S., eating disorders are more common than Alzheimer’s disease: five to ten million people have eating disorders compared to four million with Alzheimer’s disease,” according to DoSomething.org. Although not all students on campus are suffering from eating disorders or body image issues, they probably know someone who does.
This is a serious subject for many young men and women who may feel less than perfect.
“Eating disorders are conditions of abnormal eating patterns and sometime unhealthy habits of taking care of oneself, and it is necessary that we offer a helping hand,” said Ashley Cummings, head program coordinator of Eating Disorder Awareness Week.
“Mind of an Eating Disorder,” one of the many events part of Eating Disorder Awareness Week at Ramapo College, presented eating disorder and body image facts, examples and advice from Nancy Graham, a Renfrew Center representative.
Eating disorders affect both men and women. Everyone who has overcome, or is still struggling, with an eating disorder has a story to tell, and the many causes and manifestations of eating disorders are unique to each person.
“We value weight loss in our culture, but in the end it’s not really about food, it’s about our underlying issues,” Graham said. “Food is something that helps us to divert or cope with our inside feelings.”
According to NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association), body image is how you see, think, feel and sense your body.
“This event brought the idea of healthy body image into focus,” said freshman David Ward. “Students can learn to love their bodies, which builds self-esteem and keeps them healthy, both of which are very necessary on college campuses.”
Many people, especially students, have days when they feel less than what they aspire to be. Feeling uncomfortable and awkward is common, which is why awareness for these issues is so important.
“I believe that these kinds of campus events allow us to alter the way we think of eating disorders, while also encouraging those who have one to seek help and guidance,” said freshman Megan Chan. “No one should feel that they have to suffer an eating disorder alone.”
Graham relayed many ways to help students love their bodies, including to “count your blessings, not your blemishes” and to “be your body’s friend, not its enemy.”
She also encouraged students to look at their bodies in a different way.
“Think of your body as the vehicle to your dreams. Honor it, respect it and fuel it,” Graham added.
Graham stressed the importance of assisting those who are struggling with an eating disorder.
“People with disorders tend to withdraw and become depressed, but some encouragement from a friend or family member can make all the difference. Allow that friend to replace their coping mechanism and learn to deal with stress in a secure and healthy way,” said Graham.
If you feel that you are suffering from a disorder or negative body image, there is help. Visit http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/ for more information on eating isorders and body image. Also, students can visit Ramapo Counseling Center and/or the Women’s Center for advice or simply to talk.