NEDAW educates about eating disorders

Nicole Zelniker, Managing Editor

March 4, 2016

Ninety percent of those diagnosed with an eating disorder do not receive treatment.

About 30 million people in the United States suffer from eating disorders.

More people die from eating disorders than any other mental illness.

For these reasons and more, from Feb. 22 to Feb. 26, Guilford recognized National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

“We’ve been discussing this week since last year’s week ended and just trying to figure out how to make the program more inclusive and more intersectional,” said junior student body president and NEDAW organizer Molly Anne Marcotte.

According to an article by University of California San Diego Eating Disorder Research and Treatment Program Director Walter Kaye from the National Eating Disorders Association website, people with eating disorders are more likely to die from starvation, substance abuse and suicide than those without an eating disorder.

“Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, and they also affect many facets in our society, more than is portrayed in the typical vernacular surrounding white, upper-class women with anorexia nervosa,” said Marcotte.

This year, students from Assistant Professor of Education Studies Anna Pennell’s Understanding Eating Disorders class got involved by sharing presentations throughout the week.

“The class is putting together a community awareness project (for) eating disorder week,” said senior Yashua Clemons, who took Understanding Eating Disorders over J-Term.

One of the presentations focused on eating disorders in the African-American community.

“Historically, a lot of the research done on eating disorders is done only on white, middle-class, heterosexual women,” said Clemons. “A lot of people who aren’t in that bracket, their eating disorders have gone unrecognized, so they haven’t been getting treatment.”

For Clemons and other students, the presentations allowed them to continue discussions of eating disorders outside the classroom.

“It allowed us to share what we learned, to share that eating disorders are a real problem and it also affects people socioeconomically, culturally,” said Clemons.

In addition to working alongside Pennell’s class, organizers also took to social media. Using the hashtag #whoknew, the class shared information about eating disorders, personal stories and support for people suffering with eating disorders.

One of the goals for the week was to get people to understand some of the causes of disordered eating.

“Oftentimes, eating disorders develop as a coping mechanism to various types of trauma, which can include so much more than the internalized white, western, straight and cis standards of beauty that are often blamed as the sole cause,” said Wellness Education Coordinator Kristie Wyatt ’08 in an email interview.

There are many reasons people develop eating disorders, and all of them do not discriminate between races and genders.

“Sexual abuse, mental illness, internalized oppression, discrimination and other forms of abuse can be catalysts as well,” said Wyatt. “People of color, and people of size, are also systematically underdiagnosed and undertreated.”

Next year, organizers hope to spread awareness of more mental illnesses.

“While we’re starting on National Eating Disorder Awareness week, I’m working with (Wyatt) and the rest of wellness education to find other representatives who would be willing to do other illness weeks like bipolar awareness, depression awareness,” said junior organizer Darion Bayles.

For now, organizers will continue educating and encouraging discussion about eating disorders.

“I hope (people) are reminded of the need to talk about (eating disorders) and, hopefully, might feel less shame or stigma surrounding receiving mental health counseling for any disordered eating patterns they may have to prevent it from developing into something more harmful,” said Marcotte.

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