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Smashing the Stigma: A look at eating disorders on college campuses

A broken scale from the "Smash the Stigma" event on EKU's campus in March
Keenan Miller
A broken scale from the "Smash the Stigma" event on EKU's campus in March

Eating disorders are a common occurrence on college campuses. Health officials say these could lead to some serious health concerns now and later in life. The National Eating Disorder Association says around 9% of the US population will deal with an eating disorder at some point in their life. Some at EKU, are looking to help them out.

Eastern Kentucky University hosted a Smash the Stigma event with the purpose to raise awareness of eating disorders. Students gathered at the event to literally smash the stigma. Scales were provided and smashed with bats to show support for the cause. The event was hosted by Jillian Cupp, the nutrition associate manager with Aramark. She said her goal is to let students know they have support. She understands how college can affect individuals and wants people to know that she is a resource to discuss their concerns.

In addition to the scale smashing, a table hosted at the event provided students with more information and resources for eating disorders. Cupp said that she hopes that students can identify the different resources if they have questions or are seeking help themselves.

Students at EKU participating in the Smash the Stigma event in March
Hope Kerns
Students at EKU participating in the Smash the Stigma event in March

Julia Day is an Exercise Science Major with a minor in American Sign Language. She is currently recovering from eating disorders of her own. "I struggled with different forms of eating disorders. The main one was anorexia. I suffered with anorexia severely for about a year and I have been in recovery from that for a year now," said Day.

It was her mother that encouraged her to seek help. Julia was aware of her complicated relationship with food and exercise. She said, "it was everything I did, said, thought about. It controlled every waking moment of my life."

The effects of her eating disorder became overwhelming. She said that she would skip out on social events because she didn't want people to see what she looked like and did not want to eat around others.

Dr. Joshua Turner, a clinical psychologist on campus, said this is an example of eating habits that are warning signs of an eating disorder.

"Generally around eating disorders, if people are eating food in secret. If there is any hiding food or if you find yourself eating different in front of people versus when you are alone.

Dr. Turner also added that college is a time where eating disorders can affect individuals who may struggle with their eating habits. He said that college is a time where college students really see their eating disorders progress due to stress. Overcoming an eating disorder is specific to the individual. For Julia, choosing recovering was not always easy.

Dr. Turner provided some options on how someone going through an eating disorder may make steps towards treatment. He said there is an individual therapy as well as alternative options that range to residential facilities that provide treatment.

Julia began to work with a physician, dietitian, and a therapist and didn't feel that it was working for her. With the support of her friends and family, her recovery was based off of self-education, such as podcasts as well as expert information.

"I really just decided that I just needed to go all in. Like I could keep doing the half in, half out. One foot in the eating disorder, one foot in recovery. I just needed to wake up and choose recovery everyday even though it was... it was hard."

Ultimately, Julia committed to recovery despite the challenges she faced. She said she is currently doing much better while in her recovery. She recognizes the problem and combats it by not allowing herself to lose. Julia has been resilient in her recovery. She identifies her eating disorder ideas and acts within the interest of her recovery.

Dr. Turner said that you can visit nationaleatingdisorders.org to get more information on the different types of eating disorders, the symptoms to look out for, and potential treatments. He recommends talking to a therapist, for those who are unsure of their eating habits.

More information about how to get help with eating disorders can be found here.

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