Colleges nationwide are grappling with a significant increase in body image and eating concerns among their students, both male and female. Universities are a prime setting for recognition of these issues. However, it is important to note that even if resources are available on campus, your student body may not be aware of them. Universities have found that they need to be very proactive in their outreach efforts to students.
Ideally, planning outreach activities should include all departments on campus (Dean’s Office, Residential Life, Student Health Center, and Athletic Departments), not just practitioners in the counseling centers. The focus has to be reaching out to both potential students in crisis, and the community as a whole, so that each student, administrator, and professor, will know exactly how to support someone who is dealing with this life-threatening illness.
Unfortunately, not all students may realize the seriousness of their body image issues and/or disordered eating. And even for those that do, they may not feel comfortable letting others know about their concerns. Holding a campus awareness event is an effective way to bring this issue out of the darkness and into the light, while also decreasing the stigma that many with this illness experience. Participating in one of these activities could be the opening for them to come forward. The good news is that campuses all over the country have been finding creative ways to educate their students on this topic. National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, held during the month of February, is a time when awareness events take place on campuses nationwide. To learn more about events hosted in your area, click here.
Here’s what we did:
The Eating for Life Alliance was proud to partner with NEDA for their National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. This year’s theme, “It’s Time to Talk About It”, tied in perfectly with our goal of creating awareness events on campus, which allow students the opportunity to explore issues of body image and eating concerns with both peers and experts in the field. Our event, co-sponsored by Timberline Knolls and Boston University, was held on the BU Campus.
Our event, titled, “Lovin’ the Body You’re In”, was led by Dr. Kim Dennis, Medical Director of Timberline Knolls. She started off the evening by sharing her story of recovery from an eating disorder. Other panelists included Whitney Post (ELA President and Co-Founder), and Dr. Kate Ackerman, internist, sports medicine specialist, and endocrinologist at Children’s Hospital Boston and MGH (she is also an ELA Board Member). BU eating disorder experts joined them: Dr. Margaret Ross (Director, Behavioral Medicine in Student Health Services), Dr. Lynn Paikowsky (Student Health Services), and Stacey Zawacki (Director of BU’s Nutrition and Fitness Center). Michelle George, Wellness Coordinator at BU’s Student Health Services, was the moderator for this panel presentation. All attendees were given a ‘love your body’ mug, information on healthy recipes from Sargent’s School of Nutrition, and pamphlets on how to help a friend you are concerned about, along with campus resources.
In this section, we have listed a number of resources that universities have found to have a positive impact on their students. For a list of campus speakers, please click here.