Understanding eating disorders
Published: Monday, February 25, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 25, 2013 01:02
Members of the Oregon State University Nutrition and Dietetics Club will kick off National Eating Disorder Awareness week with a life-size replica of the famous childhood toy Barbie helping to man their table in the Memorial Union quad.
Rebecca Rau, a junior in dietetics and webmaster for the club, said they will use the Barbie doll as a representation of the body-type widely portrayed as “perfect” in the media.
“You can never actually look like Barbie,” Rau said. “It is unattainable and unrealistic.”
Over the past couple of weeks, Rau and other group members including Stephanie Moore, McKenna Brown and Lindsey Leighton, all of whom are dietetics majors, have spent time educating nearly 300 seventh and eighth graders on positive body image and eating disorder awareness. Now, the club will hold a week-long campaign hoping to educate OSU students as well.
The primary goal of OSU’s Nutrition and Dietetics Club this week will be to make students more aware of eating disorders and resources readily available nearby.
“We want people to know they don’t need to search outside of campus for assistance,” said Moore, a junior at OSU. “They might be more resistant to get help if it’s farther away.”
Brown, also a junior at OSU, hopes to also clear up any stigmas that exist concerning eating disorders. In her experience, the most common misconceptions she has dealt with have been people thinking those with eating disorders are vain and simply wish to look pretty, or that they just need to eat and all will be solved.
“Sometimes people think that it’s a choice,” Brown said. “They think someone chooses to have this disorder when in reality different events come together, which triggers it.”
According to the National Eating Disorder Association, 20 million women and 10 million men in the United States will suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life.
Moore thinks in order to steer students away from eating disorders and toward a better view of their body-image, positivity is key.
“Our priorities and society can be a little skewed,” Moore said. “We focus so much on our physical appearances when really we should focus on our knowledge and talents that truly make up who we are rather than just our appearance.”
Throughout the week, the club will be tabling in the quad, providing information about resources on campus, engaging people in conversation on the issue and getting people to write down their own pledge which will help them achieve a better body image. Those who write down a pledge will be entered into a raffle for a free one-hour massage.
At 11 a.m. on Thursday, a documentary will be screened in the International Forum in Snell Hall. The film, “Beyond Killing Us Softly: The Strength to Resist,” is about the fight against degrading messages regarding body image which dominate the media.
The National Eating Disorder Information Centre published a review of the film on their website saying, “[The] documentary is about the impact of media images on women and girls. It presents the ideas of girls and young women, as well as those of leading authorities in the fields of psychology, eating disorders, gender studies and media literacy.”
Following the on-campus screening of the film, the Nutrition and Dietetics Club will host its own panel of experts to discuss the film and facilitate a question and answer session.
“The panel includes a group of professionals from student services and CAPS called the ‘Blend Team,’ because they’re blending different disciplines together,” said Leighton, an OSU senior. “A dietician, counselor, psychiatrist and clinician will work together to tackle all the different dimensions of an eating disorder.”
The event is part of the club’s participation in National Eating Disorder awareness week and is free to all students, faculty and community members. Club members said the event should last no longer than an hour, during which snacks and refreshments will be provided.
Positive messages written in chalk and posted around campus throughout the week will also be used by the club’s members to promote their message: “A healthy you is a beautiful you.”
In the past, these short messages, which tend to be complimentary in nature, have included short statements like “you are beautiful,” “you’re worth more than the number on a scale” or “speak to yourself as you would speak to a friend.”
By the end of the week, all of the club’s members hope to increase discussion on campus concerning eating disorders, because they feel no one wants to talk about the problem due to the issue’s uncomfortable severity.
“A lot of people don’t understand it,” Brown said. “There’s a knowledge deficit that needs to be addressed.”
For a full schedule of events the NDC will host this week, visit their website at groups.oregonstate.edu/ndc.
Gabriella Morrongiello, news reporter