With Spring Break coming up, college students across the nation are pushing themselves to get the perfect "beach bod" But for many adolescents, the pressure to be skinny can be dangerous.
This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. On Elon's campus, SPARKS Teamed up with the Active Minds Organization, Campus Rec, and Delta Delta Delta sorority to plan Love Your Body Week. Students engaged in activities such as a "Ladies Learn Lifting" night, free smoothies and massages, and nutritional classes. Friday is Elon's annual Zumbathon from 4:00-5:00 p.m. in Jordan Gym.
The focus of the week is to promote body image positivity while also giving students the opportunities and resources to learn about eating disorders and to reach out to peers. We interviewed many Elon students about their experiences with eating disorders, body image, and overall self care.
Jen Finkelstein is a freshman at Elon and a recent new member of the SPARKS peer educators, and acronym for Students Promoting Awareness, Resources, Knowledge, and Support. Finkelstein reports that one of the biggest misconceptions about eating disorders is that it's only the extremes that we see in the media.
"I think one of the biggest stigmas is you generally see them as the emaciated figure, or the person that is antisocial and doesn't go out but a lot of the dangerous aspect of eating disorders is that they don't get caught until they are that far along."
The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) uses the slogan, "Three minutes can save a life" for the theme of this year's week, in an effort to strongly promote mental health screenings for early discovery of eating disorders or other diseases, both mental and physical. For more information on absolutely anything related to eating disorders, along with the national campaign, visit NEDA's website at http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/
John Osborn is a junior at Elon who struggled with both Anorexia and Bulimia his sophomore year of college.
"I would say mean things to myself, like things that no person would ever say to anybody else, and I would say, if you eat that, you are going to, you're gonna get fat, and you're a piece of s***, and everybody already hates you, and they'll hate you more and it was really, really self destructive."
Osborne has improved his situation since that time, but he still believes it is important for there to be a safe space to talk about things like body image, and depression.
"It's a very toxic part of our society, conformist to the 'everything's fine, I'm doing great here at Elon, I'm the president of 50 different clubs, and I've never felt better in my life,' that mentality, it keeps people from talking about their emotions and their issues, and that leads to more buildup, and that leads to violent outbursts and yelling, and even more closing off of emotions"
Elon junior Scott Powell agrees, and thinks it is especially hard for men to talk about issues. Before transferring to Elon, Powell felt isolated in his hyper-masculine friend group, and frustrated because there was nobody who he could talk to about his emotions.
"Weakness and emotions are viewed negatively among men, among hyper-masculine culture, and people are afraid that if they show those things...then they will be isolated, and, that's certainly how I felt"
We are our own harshest critics. Body image negativity can bring us to beat ourselves up, and Powell believes we should use this week to appreciate the skin we are in.
"You say stuff to yourself that you wouldn't dare say to somebody else, During a time like this, love your body week, is important to remind yourself to treat yourself how you treat others."
What Osborne wants his peers to remember most is that they are not alone.
"The thing that I want to say is that, If you reach out, and if you talk to somebody, that people will be there."
- For immediate help if you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder or any kind of mental illness, reach out to Campus Safety at 336-218-5555 and ask for the Confidential Advocate. You can also call Elon's counseling services at (336) 278-7280 to schedule an appointment.
- For more information about Eating Disorders and national Eating Disorder Awareness Week, go to http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/
- To learn more about the Love Your Body Week activities going on at Elon,visit the SPARKS office in Moseley, or Campus Rec in Koury Commons.