Celebrities and supermodels dictate the latest trends, looks and body shape that the population needs to follow in order to “fit in.” Some people go to extreme lengths to look thin, such as starving themselves or purging after meals. However, eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, are not about vanity. They are serious psychological illnesses that occur in everyone. Nearly 10 million women and up to one million men in the United States suffer from an eating disorder. Eating disorders are more common than Alzheimer’s disease in the United States.
With that said, the Sister to Sister Peer Mentor Program at West Chester University plans to inform students of facts just like those during Eating Disorders Awareness Week, occurring Feb. 25-Feb. 28, 2008.
The Sister to Sister Peer Mentor Program was started back in 2000 by psychology professor, Deanne Bonifazi. She is still the adviser to the organization.
“The group is comprised of about 24 strong, dedicated, passionate women from different sororities on campus who learn about body image, eating disorders and healthy lifestyles, and they learn how to improve self-esteem,” Bonifazi said. “This group of women help their sisters by educating them on eating disorders in hopes that they will stop defining their self-worth based on their appearance. They are day in and day out positive role models for this campus.”
The Sister to Sister Peer Mentor Program, along with other organizations on campus, participate in the National Eating Disorders Awareness Week on campus each year. This is the 20th anniversary of the national week.
The theme of this year’s awareness week is “Be comfortable in Your Genes.” According to the National Eating Disorders Association Web site, your genes play a large role in determining your body shape and size. NEDA is encouraging everyone to embrace their genes and to stop trying to turn the body into something it is not.
“The purpose of National Eating Disorders week is to increase awareness about eating disorders and to tell everyone to treat their bodies well,” Bonifazi said. “People tend to think that eating disorders are about vanity, which is incorrect. They are serious, psychological conditions that reflect extreme personal unhappiness. Disodered eating affects around 20 percent of college women.”
On Monday Feb. 25, there will be a multitude of events kicking off the week. There will be tables in Sykes from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. with information about eating disorders and body image. The Sister to Sister Peer Mentors and WCU Student Dietetic Association will be staffing the tables, and they will also be handing out free pins and purple awarenss ribbons.
There will be a presentation entitled “Media Madness: Dissatisfaction for Sale” given by the WCU Wellness Center at 3:30 p.m. in Sykes 210 that afternoon. At 7:30 p.m., there will be an Anorexia Nervosa and related disorders candlelight vigil on Sykes patio sponsored by Delta Phi Epsilon sorority.
The WCU Exercise Science Club will be giving a lecture on the physical and mental sides of exercise on Feb. 26 at 3:15 p.m. in Sykes 209. Later that evening at 7 p.m., the Sister to Sister Peer Mentors and the Fraternity Anti-Violence Education Project will be presenting “Us vs. the Media” in Sykes theater.
The Sister to Sister Peer Mentors will be “eating to increase awareness” and encourages all students to join them on Wednesday night, Feb. 27 at 5-9 p.m. at Peace-a-Pizza on Gay Street. Learn how yoga can improve body image the next day, Feb. 28 at 7:15 p.m. by taking a free yoga class in the aerobics room in Sykes. The class will be led by Laura Liss.
Though people may develop an eating disorder because they want to be thinner, there are many other deeper issues underlying. According to Bonifazi, people who have eating disorders feel sad with life and feel a lack of control. Boifazi wants everyone to know that help is available.
If you or someone you know is dealing with an eating disorder, make sure to seek professional help and counseling. A person can contact the Counseling Center, Health/Wellness Center and Women’s Center on campus or call the NEDA helpline at 800-931-2237. Also stop by Bonifazi’s office in room 32 of the People’s Building.
If a person has any further questions regarding eating disorders or would like to actively participate in National Eating Disorders Awareness week, visit the NEDA Web site at www.nationaleatingdisorders.com. Amanda Tingle is a third-year student majoring in secondary English education with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at AT610629@wcupa.edu.