The last week in February is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, and the members of Sisters Making A Change are raising awareness early.
SMAC hosted a Body Positivity event on Monday Feb. 19 from 5-7 p.m., during which speaker Ellen Bennett returned to raise awareness of eating disorders and talk about social media’s influence on body image.
Bennett was invited by SMAC sister senior Megan Normann, who knew Bennett prior to the event.
“When I was service chair, I reached out to her to do the Body Project and a documentary with her,” Normann said. “Hearing Ellen talk always makes me feel positive about myself. No matter what I’m thinking negatively about myself at the end of the day, I am who I am and I am beautiful.”
Bennett is self-described as having “over 20 years of experience with eating disorders.” Her daughter died of acute anorexia nervosa in 2013 after struggling with it starting at age 11. Since then, she has worked on raising awareness about eating disorders.
Bennett introduced the attendees to the nine truths of eating disorders, which are extremely important for everyone to know—not just for people who have this disease.
The first truths involve visibility and impact on family and friends. Many people with eating disorders appear healthy, yet may be extremely ill. Families are not to blame and can be the patients’ and providers’ best allies in treatment. An eating disorder, moreover, is a health crisis that disrupts personal and family functioning.
“Our family was extremely reconfigured,” Bennett said. “Eating disorders impact everyone, not just the individual.”
The next five truths focus on combating the stigma around how people inherit eating disorders. Eating disorders are not choices, but instead serious biologically influenced conditions that affect people of all genders, ages, races, ethnicities, body shapes, weights, sexual orientations and socioeconomic statuses.
Eating disorders also carry an increased risk for both suicide and medical complications. Additionally, genes and the environment play important roles in the development of eating disorders. Genes alone, however, do not predict who will develop eating disorders.
“I think it’s important to spread awareness,” childhood special education major senior Emily Flaherty said. “I feel like a lot of people don’t know that it’s a disease, and people can’t just stop. People also don’t realize how many people have it and how serious it can get.”
Finally, the last truth carries a message of hope. Full recovery from an eating disorder is possible, though early detection and intervention are important in the process.
Bennett then spoke about social media’s impact on body image.
“Talking about social media is really eye opening,” accounting major senior Jeannine Babak said. “A lot of the images you see on Instagram … I might be really harsh on myself but I don’t think of my peers that way.”
Once the event was over, Bennett handed out bracelets and socks and encouraged people to spread the message about body positivity and awareness for eating disorders.
“Change the culture around you. Change the conversation. Make a difference,” Bennett said.
This positive message had a huge impact on attendees.
“I think the reason a lot of the sisters came is just feeling positive about your body and spreading that positivity, because I know that even on a college campus, a lot of people don’t feel positive about themselves,” Normann said.
Bennett’s presentation definitely combatted this negativity and provided hope and awareness just in time for National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.