By EMILY BEHNKE
February 22nd marked the beginning of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. This campaign was created by a leading non-profit organization, the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA).
NEDA’s mission is to “campaign for prevention, improved access to quality treatment, and increased research funding to better understand and treat eating disorders.” Their goal is to decrease the amount of men and women who are clinically endangered and affected by an eating disorder. They also provide recovery support to those who are struggling to find quality treatment.
The theme of this year’s weeklong campaign is, “I Had No Idea.” The goal is to put spotlight on the danger and reality of eating disorders and to improve the public understanding of what they are, how they are caused and how they can be prevented.
At Manhattanville College, a three day program was created by sophomore Sasha Pavlova. The program consisted of three different lectures which included an introduction to what eating disorders are, a screening of Dying to be Thin, a video that showed the harsh reality of eating disorders and how they can affect not only an individual, but their family as well, and a lesson on mindful eating followed by an, “I am Beautiful” campaign. Each of these lectures also included a Q&A session with a panel of trained professionals and patients who are in recovery. The programs provided a comfortable, safe space for students to learn about eating disorders and recovery, as well as discuss their own personal experiences.
“Most people know about the existence of eating disorders, but that’s pretty much it. They imagine a super skinny girl, but the truth is, there are many different types of eating disorders and many different types of people who are affected. It is hard to identify and help someone who hides it if you are aware of their symptoms, but it becomes impossible if you are not aware at all,” said Sasha Pavlova in response to why she decided to bring the program to Manhattanville.
There’s a common misconception in today’s society that only skinny, model-type women are the only people who suffer from eating disorders. In reality, that is not the case. Men and women of all shapes, sizes, financial situations and races are all equally susceptible to developing an eating disorder.
It’s also important to note that a restrictive diet and uber-thin appearance aren’t the defining traits, or red flags, of an eating disorder. There are other illnesses, such as Binge-Eating Disorder and Bulimia Nervosa, which are just as dangerous as Anorexia Nervosa. These disorders can also be more difficult to detect in an individual. If one does not fit into the criteria for those disorders, they could be diagnosed as Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, or EDNOS.
This organization is one of many that encourages people who may suffer from any illness to reach out and get help. More information about NEDA can be found on their website, nationaleatingdisorders.org. Students at Manhattanville College are also encouraged to visit the counseling center or the health center if they are in need of assistance.