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The theme for this year’s National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is “It’s Time to Talk About It.” The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) is stressing that it’s time to talk about eating disorders by setting aside the last week in February from Sunday, Feb. 21 through Saturday, Feb. 27 to bring attention to the disorders.
“We live in a culture that is saturated with unrealistic body-image messages,” said Linda Koenig, counselor with SSU’s Office of Counseling and Psychological Services. “This week is to attract public and media attention to the seriousness of eating disorders and the pressures, attitudes and behaviors that contribute to them.”
SSU, in collaboration with Southern Ohio Medical Center and the SSU Women’s Center, has several events planned during the week. To kick off the week, the SSU Women’s Center will host a reception to open the art exhibition, “Distorted: Body & Mind” on Monday, Feb. 22 at 6 p.m. in the University Center Atrium. This exhibition will feature student artists from Shawnee State University and will be on display throughout the week.
Associate Professor Rhoni Maxwell-Rader and Athletic Training Senior Instructor and Program Leader Tony Ward will present “Female Athletes: Triad of Eating Disorders, Amenorrhea and Osteoporosis” at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 23 in the Sodexo Ballroom East.
Athletic Training Senior Instructor Keenan Perry will present “Bigorexia: The Obsession with the Muscular Body” at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 24, in the Sodexo Ballroom East.
Additional educational events as well as screening for eating disorders by mental health clinicians are scheduled between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
According to the NEDA, eating disorders are illnesses, not choices. Eating disorders are complex conditions that arise from a combination of long-standing behavioral, emotional, psychological, interpersonal, biological and social factors.
In the United States, as many as 10 million females and 1 million males are fighting a life and death battle with an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia. Approximately 15 million more are struggling with binge eating disorder. Because of the secrecy and shame associated with eating disorders, it is very likely that many more go unreported.
While eating disorders are serious, potentially life-threatening illnesses, there is help available and recovery really is possible. It is important for those affected to remember that they are not alone in their struggle; others have recovered and are now living healthy fulfilling lives.
Prevention, education and access to care are critical. There has been a rise in incidence of anorexia in young women 15-19 years old in each decade since 1930; over one person’s lifetime, at least 50,000 individuals will die as a direct result of eating disorders. In the United States, we are inundated with messages telling us that to be a happy, valued person; we must be thin and fit our culture’s impossible beauty standards. The average age of sufferers is dropping rapidly – as young as elementary school – with peak onset among girls ages 11 to 13.
The events are free and open to the public. For more information, call Linda Koenig at (740) 351-3655. SSU’s Eating Disorder Awareness Week is sponsored by Southern Ohio Medical Center, SSU Counseling & Psychological Services, SSU Women’s Center, SSU Nursing Program, Student Government Association and Student Programming Board.