Ramapo engages in discussion of Eating Disorders Awareness Week

On Tuesday, Ramapo hosted a discussion that dove into social media and practicing self-love amongst Eating Disorders Awareness Week (EDAW). Ramapo’s Counseling Services, Ramapo Psychology Professor Jessica Saunders and The Renfrew Center’s professional relations representative Nancy Graham aimed to help those who attended fight against eating disordered thoughts.

EDAW, according to the National Eating Disorders Association, “is an annual campaign to educate the public about eating disorders and to provide hope, support, and visibility to those affected.” This year, it lasts from Feb. 27 to March 5 and the theme is “C.A.R.E,” which stands for Continue the Conversation, Act Early, Strengthen Recovery and End the Cycle.

As reported by National Today, “more than 30 million Americans ranging from kids to older adults… [suffer] from eating disorders.” Additionally, the Child Mind Institute “estimates that between 10 and 20% of women and 4 to 10% of men in college suffer from an eating disorder, and rates are on the rise.” Therefore, hosting this discussion is very important on a college campus like Ramapo’s, especially with the increased use of technology.

With consistent access to face and body altering filters and editing apps, body issues continue to affect more people. There is a constant pressure to look a certain way on social media, and when discussing a topic like EDAW, there is an unfortunate connection.

Due to Tuesday’s snow, the event had to be moved online, but the takeaways were all the same. The event began with a slideshow put together by Saunders, who conducts research on this topic but focuses primarily on women. Graham stated that “a lot of men do [suffer] too, a lot of males [and] a lot of people who identify with all different… sexualities… and it really is not something that just women have.”

Before explaining her research, Saunders gave background information on the types of eating disorders and important terms that appeared during her presentation. Attendees learned about anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder and other feeding and eating disorders, as well as the difference between terms like body image and body dissatisfaction.

“We live in a culture where disordered eating is actually often promoted,” Saunders began, leading into her idea that social media has an immense influence on body image, therefore creating a relationship between media and disordered eating.

Saunders’ research is what is known as the photovoice method, which she explained as “a method where you give power and control back to the participants to sort of create their own narrative about a specific topic through pictures.”

Her research involved 30 women in self-defined recovery, most of them college-aged who shared photos with her either of themselves or from the media that made them feel a certain way. But before presenting those images, she asked attendees to share what kind of media they view and what effect it has on us and our society.

Between social media and the advertisements we are exposed to every day, Saunders noted that her participants found that “seeing that body shaming made it more difficult to feel at home in their own body.” She then asked what these images evoked in ourselves.

After another quick group discussion, host Megan Johnston, who is the health educator at Ramapo, presented attendees with all of the information for Ramapo’s Counseling Services. Graham then took a turn discussing information for the Renfrew Center, making sure to let attendees know that they have “19 locations throughout the country,” and she herself is located in Paramus.

Graham also mentioned that the center has “treated over 85,000 people,” and they are close to reaching 100,000. While they focus on adolescent girls and women, she did say that they have “expanded [their] treatment to include everyone except cisgender males.”

Renfrew was actually the first “eating disorder treatment center ever established in this country,” as stated by Graham. Still around, they pride themselves on their care and treatment. Afterwards, the discussion was opened up to the audience for questions.

“It’s really important to remember that [these diagnoses] are emotional… psychological disorders and when we’re looking at someone with one of these disorders, it has very little to do with weight,” Graham made sure to note. “A lot of times people think someone [who has anorexia] will be underweight, but that’s not always true. It really depends on what’s going on emotionally.”



Featured image courtesy of @RenfewCenter, Twitter