UB Wellness Team starts a body-love revolution for National Eating Disorders Awareness Week
For many people, what they see when looking in a mirror is closely linked with what they see after stepping on a scale.
But not everyone sees a realistic connection between their appearance and their weight.
During the Wellness Activity Day last Wednesday in the Student Union, the UB Wellness Team encouraged students to describe their body not by weight but as “beautiful, hot and ravishing.”
Last week was National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, and the theme was “Start a Revolution, Love Your Body.” UB’s Wellness Team, which includes the Wellness Education Center, Counseling Services and Health Services, put on the Wellness Activity Day to raise awareness about and provide support to people struggling with eating disorders.
“The theme “Start a Revolution, Love Your Body” really applies to all of us,” said Janice Cochran, a dietician and nutritionist for UB’s Wellness Education Services. “Much energy can be wasted dwelling on what our body looks like, instead of appreciating all we are and do.”
People with eating disorders are often ashamed of their bodies. This often prevents them from seeking help when they need it, Cochran said.
Only 10 percent of those struggling with an eating disorder receive treatment, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD).
Although the Wellness Activity Day attracted many people, Cochran said awareness of the on-campus treatment available to students should be increased and have a better presence year-round.
“I feel like we need to push the word out more. Students need to know there’s a place on campus that you can get help,” Cochran said. “If you have questions, are struggling with an eating disorder, or just struggling with eating in general, we are here to help.”
Wellness Activity Day involved crafts like making magnets with positive phrases and pictures.
Not only did the crafts draw students to Wellness Activity Day, but it made those struggling with eating disorders feel more comfortable being there, according to Carissa Uschold, a counselor in UB’s Counseling Services and the chair of the eating disorder treatment team.
“The arts and crafts are a good way to draw people in who need help because it’s not a big sign that says eating disorders,” Uschold said.
At the Wellness Activity Day, those who need help were surrounded by people on campus who can do that. The activities were a step in encouraging people to love their bodies. The theme of loving your body went past having a positive body image to things like mindful eating and good sexual health.
Cochran and Jackie Kalter, a sophomore health and human services major, conducted a mindful eating exercise.
The exercise involved eating a Wheat Thin. The process normally takes just a couple of seconds, but with mindful eating, it took nearly half a minute to eat the Wheat Thin.
Kalter were instructed to first look closely at the Wheat Thin, noticing its color and texture. Then she placed the Wheat Thin on her tongue for five seconds and instructed participants to pay close attention to their body’s response. The final step was to take five seconds chewing and swallowing the Wheat Thin.
The point of the exercise was to encourage students to have full awareness of what they are putting into their body.
“[Mindful government] makes us more in touch with portion size, and also the quality of food we choose to eat,” Cochran said. “Mindful eating, the fullness in the awareness and enjoyment of food, is the ultimate goal.”
Sexual health was used as another way to promote good body image, especially for women.
Nicole McDermott, health educator at UB health services, was at the Wellness Activity Day to educate about the female condom and how to use them. This doesn’t just help to protect women, but offers them a new level of control over their bodies.
“Using a female condom is empowering to many women. Men are usually the ones to negotiate barrier issues,” McDermott said. “With the female condom women think, ‘I can protect myself.’ It takes away any argument men might have to not use a condom.”
Kalter, who also works at the front desk of the Wellness Education Center, said she notices the uneasiness of people coming into the Center to get help.
“People are a little uncomfortable when they come into the Wellness Education office.
But we see so many different people that ask so many different questions. There is no judgment,” Kalter said. “Do not be afraid.”
Kalter wants people to know how much the Wellness team has to offer, like condoms, Plan B, massages, free tea, workshops, yoga and LGBTQ counseling.
She also wants people to know that many people come in for each service they offer.
“People think they’re alone,” Kalter said. “You are not alone.”
Sophia McKeone is a features staff writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org