From Feb. 22 to March 1, UR will be participating in the National Eating Disorders Association’s National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (NEDAW). The week highlights the importance of healthy body perceptions and the dangers of eating disorders to individuals and those around them.
“I think there’s a lot of pressure on people,” Associate Director of Health Promotion at University Health Services Linda Dudman said. “It’s a campus-wide issue and not something that only affects women.”
Eating disorders can be classified as when someone has intense emotions, attitudes and behaviors about food and weight and can include both weight loss and gain. The various types include Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder and Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified, which is a combination of the already classified disorders.
The week’s theme is “Be comfortable in your genes. Wear jeans that fit the REAL you,” emphasizing the role genetics play in an individual’s physique. It centers around the Great Jeans Giveaway in which old and new jeans will be collected and given to Unity Clothes Closet who, in turn, will donate the jeans to people in need in the greater Rochester area. Unity Clothes Closet is associated with the new Eating Disorders Clinic at Unity Hospital.
Other events include a “Day Without Mirrors,” in which male and female bathrooms will have positive, self-affirming statements posted and there will also be speakers from NEDA to discuss genetics role in body shapes. Confidential, free screenings will be available for individuals who wish to discuss their habits or to determine if their habits are healthy. During the screening, individuals will execute a brief questionnaire followed by a private conference with a professional from the University Counseling Center, who is trained to handle eating disorders.
NEDAW will attempt to provide help and solutions not only for those who may have an eating disorder themselves but also for their friends. Individuals can be concerned for someone else yet ultimately not know how to respectfully approach the issue, thus introducing tension into the relationship.
“One part is to bring information to people, the other part is to talk,” Dudman said. “I would like for people who need help for themselves and for their friends to know the resources available at the University, what they can do, and also what constitutes an eating disorder.”
In a fall 2005 health survey at UR, 3.1 percent of 448 randomly selected students reported having had anorexia within the previous 12 months; 2.5 percent reported having had bulimia in the previous 12 months. In a spring 2004 health survey, 2.9 percent of the 492 randomly selected students said they have had anorexia within the previous year and 3.9 percent said they have had bulimia.
“Especially in a school like ours, where appearances are not the main focus, girls are just writing their habits off,” Co-Public Relations chair of the Panhellenic Association Alissa Silverstein said. “The week is to help girls who don’t realize they have a problem, which is why I really emphasize the screening.”
NEDAW also stresses that men can develop eating disorders, particularly athletes. “There are sports-related eating disorders,” Silverstein notes, which can include strict fixations with dietary and exercise rituals.
Various student groups collaborated to help organize NEDAW, including UHS, UCC, Panhellenic and Multicultural Sororities, Freshman Fellows and the Health and Home Special Interest Floor.
“The week grew because the students grew it,” Dudman said. “I feel we tapped into something needed on this campus.”
Tables manned by multiple student groups will be located in Wilson Commons throughout the week with information regarding eating disorders. At the table, a documentary on eating disorders will be featured, entitled “Starving for Control,” which was created by Stephanie Testa ’04.
Collection bins for jeans for the Great Jeans Giveaway will be located in Wilson Commons and multiple dorm laundry rooms.
“The point of the week is for people to realize their natural shape and not participate in unhealthy practices to conform to an idealistic image,” Dudman said. Erickson is a member of the class of 2007.