Counseling, Health, Wellness, SUPERs host events for Eating Disorder Awareness Week

Brigitte Carreiro and Ingrid Burghard

Counseling, Health, and Wellness took charge of their “Love Your Body” campaign this week in recognition of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

Teresa Blevins, a psychologist in Counseling, Health, and Wellness, said the office was thrilled to be able to hold events with the help of their Suffolk University Peer-Health Educators in acknowledgement of this week.

“This is the first time we’ve done something for Eating Disorder Awareness Week that I know of, so we’re excited to have the SUPERs to partner with and to be getting some awareness out there,” said Blevins.

Blevins said the objective of this week is for the center to highlight the importance of knowing what real health is, to be able to see signs of an unhealthy lifestyle, and be able to reach out and help others.

On Monday, the center set up a table in 73 Tremont where students could write positive body image messages on cutouts. They also were given handouts on nutrition and statistics of eating disorders. The center then hosted a screening on Tuesday of “America the Beautiful 2: The Thin Commandments” in the Donahue Café, which ended with a talk with the SUPERs about appreciating health.

Blevins, who has worked as a college counselor for five years, spoke to the Journal about eating disorders, as well as what Suffolk is doing as a whole to raise awareness. According to Blevins, though the general view of eating disorders consists of being extremely skinny to the point of emaciation, disordered eating can manifest in different ways.

“Eating disorders in general can come in many different shapes and can include a couple of different factors,” said Blevins. “Someone might have eating disordered behavior, but not qualify for an eating disorder.”

Blevins explained two of the ways that eating disorders can take shape are by binge eating, when one indulges in too much food to an unhealthy extent, and restrictive eating, when someone either eats much less than they should to maintain a healthy body or does not eat anything at all.

David Ho, a SUPER working with the center to raise awareness and organize this week’s activities, said that students need a safe place to discuss any issues they may have.

“Eating disorders can be caused by many factors, so it’s important for students to feel safe on campus and comfortable enough to talk to someone about it,” said Ho. He also said that Suffolk is trying to create that sort of environment and inform students about the importance of it with the Unity Week initiative.

“We’ve dedicated a whole week to raising awareness for it and making sure those who need help know that there are professionally trained staff on campus ready at any time to help,” Ho said.

The SUPERs and the center are using their resources to raise awareness about the dangers of eating disorders and are trying to create a safe environment for all who may be suffering.

When asked if eating disorders have risen during her time as a psychologist, Blevins said that there has been a general spike in mental illness on college campuses, mostly because of rising anxiety levels.

“If I was in charge of the world I’d probably put eating disorders in the anxiety category … if you think about it, we all do something to cope when we get stressed or when we feel anxious about something or upset about something,” she said.

Blevins said that past experiences or family situations where body image was an issue, and society may contribute to the reasons a person can develop an eating disorder.

“We live in a culture where we see images of needing to look this super unattainable way that’s only available by Photoshop, but we feel like that’s what we need to do to look like a real woman or beautiful person,” she said.

Anxiety, Blevins said, makes it easy for college students to fall victim to disordered eating.

“It’s this time in your life where you’re wanting to fit in and look good and manage a lot of responsibilities … Life is stressful in college, so it’s easy for that to get out of control,” she said.