Northern Iowan

Eating disorder awareness on campus

ANNA FLANDERS, Staff Writer

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On Feb. 26 through Mar. 2, UNI will participate in National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Events will be sponsored by Body Image and Eating Disorder Awareness (BIEDA), Alpha Sigma Tau and Student Wellness Services.

“We like to provide awareness of eating disorders and body image issues — they stand in the way of many students and interfere with life joy and academic success,” Health Promotion Coordinator Joan Thompson explained. “So, with providing some information during Eating Disorder Awareness Week, it’s our hope that students are sensitive to the issue, become aware of their own concerns, as well as concerns for others and know that there is help available.”

To kick off the week, on Monday, Feb. 26, there will be information tables in the Union about BIEDA, which is in its first full year as a student organization here at UNI. The group is part of the Eating Disorder Coalition of Iowa (EDCI) and is working on becoming an official branch.

“We just raise awareness about eating disorders and body image issues,” said Alexandra Eldridge, the president of BIEDA. She is a senior social work major.

“We aren’t a support group, and I think that’s the biggest thing that people think we are. So, you don’t have to have an eating disorder to be a part of our organization,” Eldridge said. “We organize events related to eating disorder and body image issues and then also connect people with resources if they need those.”

The table will also have a variety of items meant to promote body positivity. There will be small mirrors with sayings like “You were born to be real not perfect” and “You are more than this tiny image.” Students can also weigh themselves on a scale that will give them an encouraging result like “I deserve to be loved” and “Imperfections make me perfect.”

The tabling will also direct visitors to the “Lunch and Learn” about intuitive eating in the Presidential Room at 12 p.m.

“Intuitive eating is a philosophy based on the premise of becoming more attuned to our natural hunger and fullness cues instead of keeping track of calories, carbs, fats,” Thompson said.

She will be leading the “Lunch and Learn.”

“Intuitive eating is creating a healthy relationship with food, mind and body,” Thompson said. “It’s rejecting the diet mentality and using one’s own wisdom to choose food. In the ‘Lunch and Learn’ we’ll be talking about the different steps of becoming an intuitive eater.”

On Tuesday at 7 p.m., speaker Jessica Setnick of the EDCI will be giving a talk titled “Stop Bullying Your Body” in the Maucker Union ballroom. Setnick is an expert on eating disorders. She will speak about her own experiences and invite guests to challenge their own thoughts about body image issues.

Students will have the opportunity to participate in the Labyrinth Walking Meditation on Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in WRC 185.

“Practicing self-care with any mental illness is extremely important, and a lot of times people do find that meditation relaxation is a very important self-care routine,” Eldridge said. “Another [reason for the walking meditation] is just to introduce people to the idea of thinking about what’s going through your mind and challenging thoughts as they happen.”

Then on Wednesday, there will be a “Love Your Body Zumba” in the University Room of the Union at 4 p.m. This event is meant to change some of the negative connotations surrounding exercise.

“Movement is so important,” Thompson said. “A lot of times we look at movement as burning calories and helping to achieve a certain look when movement is so important for so many different reasons. It can help with anxiety, with a mood disorder, with feeling alive. It can help lower blood pressure and achieve good cholesterol.”

On Thursday, there will be a showing of the film “To the Bone” in the Maucker Union Oak Room at 7 p.m. The drama follows a character through her struggle with anorexia. After the movie, there will be a discussion.

The week will conclude with the Gene Project/Body Image and Self Acceptance display in the Union all day Thursday and Friday. This is a visual display of different sized jeans that have been donated by students, encouraging everyone, regardless of size, to love not only their blue jeans but also their biological genes.

“You’ll find that it’s really about body image as well as eating disorders, because when someone has a poor body image that is a risk for developing an eating disorder, because they might start doing some unhealthy things to achieve this body image that they would like,” Thompson said. “Someone could be at risk of developing an eating disorder by dieting, by having some strict guidelines as far as what they’re eating. So, you’ll find information at tables about eating disorders, but you’ll also find a lot about body image.”

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Eating disorder awareness on campus