National Eating Disorders Awareness Week comes to campus Feb. 27

Annual event spreads awareness, support

Oakland University Recreation and Well-Being will be hosting National Eating Disorders Awareness Week events Feb. 27 through March 3.

NEDA Week is meant to spread information about eating disorders and break down the stigmas and stereotypes associated with them. Students will have various opportunities throughout the week to support or learn to understand individuals with eating disorders.

This year’s awareness week will be focusing on the message of body positivity, and social media will be a major contributor to the campaign. 

“We will be going around campus and having opportunities here at the Recreation Center for people to share why they love their bodies,” said Erica Wallace, health and wellness coordinator for OU Rec Well.

The week will include a series of both active and passive programs.

In 5054 Human Health Building at 10 a.m. on March 2, the Recreation Center will host an event discussing how people perceive themselves. The goal is to help retrain their thoughts to focus on the positives and matters not directly connected to appearance.

“A lot of people do not know, but eating disorders kill more people than any other mental health problem,” Wallace said. “We might hear about suicide, depression or conditions like schizophrenia. You do not often think about the seriousness of the mortality rates of eating disorders.”

Throughout NEDA Week, the OU Counseling Center will be introducing confidential screenings for individuals who might have eating disorders.

Wallace said the Counseling Center will refer individuals who display red flags of eating disorders to the appropriate resources.

Event coordinators are also working on having speakers share their personal stories about eating disorders. Wallace hopes to have speakers who do not fit the stereotype of someone battling an eating disorder.

“People who appear to be overweight or [males, are not] often thought about [as having eating disorders],” she said. “[Males] are one of the fastest growing groups diagnosed with eating disorders.”

Wallace encourages students to check OU Rec Well’s website for a calendar of events, which will also be listed on GrizzOrgs. She hopes students will reflect on NEDA Week to think about the great aspects of their bodies and to appreciate them.

Wallace is also hoping to post positive messages onto mirrors in bathrooms around campus. She wants to “remind people that they are more than a bad hair day.”

Wallace encourages individuals who have or suspect they may have an eating disorder to take advantage of the open screenings at the Counseling Center, set an appointment or use the MindKare Kiosk in Kresge Library.

Laura Sanders, an eating disorder specialist who practices at Helfman and Associates in Bloomfield Hills, said eating disorders are a secretive struggle. NEDA Week will provide educational resources to help people understand the disorders and how to help others.

Sanders said there are “biological, psychological, developmental, emotional, behavioral, family, relational, social-cultural and environmental risk factors.”

Not only that, but eating disorders can be difficult conditions to escape.

“Eating disorders often become a way of coping with various stress,” Sanders said. “Once the [disorder] begins to affect the body, one’s judgment and perceptions can become significantly impaired.”

According to Sanders, the best way to help a friend is to express concern in a calm, caring way.

“It’s important to handle these issues with honesty and respect,” she said. “It is also important to discuss worries early on. We know that early intervention saves lives.”

She said sharing concerns will also make important progress.

“Encourage professional help, but remember you cannot force someone to seek help,” she said.