The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) declared the week of Feb. 24 to March 1 National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (NEDAwareness Week). While there are several groups on the University of Connecticut campus dedicated to promoting positive body image, there are also numerous resources available for those seeking help with eating disorders.
NEDA’s theme for this year’s NEDAwareness Week is “Come as You Are: Hindsight is 20/20.” This theme declares that everyone’s story — no matter their identity or where they are on their journey to self-acceptance — is valid. NEDA also hopes that this theme encourages people to reflect on the positive steps they’ve taken toward accepting themselves.
In addition to promoting awareness of eating disorders, NEDAwareness Week also connects those seeking support to resources. At UConn, Student Health and Wellness offers an eating disorders support team. Students can call (860) 486-2719 to make a medical care appointment or (860) 486-4705 to make a mental health appointment. Both offices can provide more information and referrals.
Eating disorders usually take one of three forms. Anorexia nervosa is characterized by restricted eating and distorted body image. Bulimia nervosa is characterized by overeating a large amount of food (bingeing) and then purging. Binge eating disorder is characterized by overeating a large amount of food but no subsequent purging.
Health professionals at Student Health and Wellness are available to help those who believe they might be struggling with an eating disorder. Several clubs on campus are also dedicated to promoting positive body image and helping students achieve better self-esteem.
UConn S.H.A.P.E. (Students Helping to Achieve Positive Esteem) is a peer education group run through Student Health and Wellness that seeks to encourage positive attitudes about body shape and size to increase self-esteem and positive body image. S.H.A.P.E. hosts The Body Project, a workshop that allows students to openly discuss unrealistic beauty standards and promotes body positivity.
A few events are occurring on campus to commemorate NEDAwareness Week. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day this week, the Women’s Center, S.H.A.P.E. and Active Minds (a mental health advocacy organization) will be tabling in the Student Union. Their table will have activities and giveaways as well as more information about NEDAwareness Week.
From 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, UConn S.H.A.P.E. invites students to create Jars of Self-Acceptance in Student Union Room 331. Students will be able to decorate or paint a mason jar to then fill with statements about what they accept about their body while also reflecting on things that they do not yet accept and why.
On Thursday at 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Class of 1947 Room in the library, there will be a panel of experts from Walden Behavioral Care who will discuss their roles in treating eating disorders and their experiences with these topics.
This week, S.H.A.P.E. is also hosting a week of challenges on Instagram to promote body positivity. Monday’s challenge was for students to share a selfie that isn’t perfect, and similar challenges encouraging self-acceptance will follow throughout the week.
The most important takeaway from NEDAwareness Week is that there is help out there for those with eating disorders. Any student who thinks they might have an eating disorder is able to reach out to Student Health and Wellness for support.
Stephanie Santillo is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.