National Eating Disorders Awareness Week begins Monday, with the public campaign aiming to educate people about eating disorders. S.H.A.P.E, or Students Helping to Achieve Positive Esteem, is a student-run organization backed by UConn’s Student Health and Wellness Services. They promote awareness about eating disorders and body acceptance, holding workshops to transform students into peer educators.
S.H.A.P.E kicked off NEDA with the “Get One, Give One” event. On Monday afternoon, students came to their stand on Fairfield Way to drop off anonymous compliments. In exchange, they received an anonymous compliment written by another student. S.H.A.P.E also gave away stickers and bands and hosted a giveaway.
Elizabeth Shaul, an eighth-semester theater design major and S.H.A.P.E. intern discussed reasons for hosting the event. She explained that compliments can go a long way in making someone’s day better.
“I think that part of it was talking about, like, in a lot of our discussions and meetings, we talked about giving non-physical compliments to people. And, this is kind of like spreading that awareness,” Shaul said. “Because if you’re giving a compliment to a stranger, you can’t do anything that’s physical. If you’re not seeing them, you have no idea who your compliments are gonna go to but you still want to fit that person.”
That being said, it is important to be mindful when giving compliments to those with eating disorders. NourishRX, a web blog run by registered dieticians, points out the harmful nature of weight-related statements, saying that “people with eating disorders can’t just eat normally.” No one chooses to have an eating disorder and pointing out perceived weight changes can reinforce their thoughts about negative body image, the site wrote.
Instead, friends should provide emotional and moral support to those struggling around them. Checking up and just being there for them can make a big difference, Shaul explained.
Mason Tumminelli, a sixth-semester computer science major, helps run events at S.H.A.P.E. He joined the organization because in high school, he had friends with eating disorders that struggled immensely. Now, he wants to help others overcome that illness.
Amy Viens, another S.H.A.P.E. volunteer and a sixth-semester art history major, said, “I joined the club because I’ve had friends who have struggled with eating disorders before and I didn’t realize the impact that day-to-day life has on these people and not being able to identify certain characteristics of an eating disorder. I joined to really be able to do that and help people get through.”
S.H.A.P.E partnered with the Women’s Center to create the Body Project which is a “cognitive-dissonance-based body acceptance intervention” for young women to resist societal pressures to conform to an unrealistic body. S.H.A.P.E. also works with Active Minds, a student club that advocates for suicide prevention and mental health awareness.
Other events this week include a virtual Kahoot night about eating disorders on Tuesday at 7 p.m. and another one at 8 p.m. as well as an virtual art show. The theme for the art show is “See the change, be the change” and can be accessed via their website. Submissions will be accepted until Feb. 24 and voting will run from Feb. 25 to 27.