Support in many forms

MCT

It’s no secret that many girls struggle with their weight.

Senior Liza Huber understands. In high school, she spent a month in the hospital undergoing treatment for anorexia. In addition, she spent a year and a half in out-patient treatment.

“It’s not like a cold where you have it and you get over it,” she said. “It’s like you are always recovering. I don’t have an eating disorder right now, but I will always be a recovering anorexic.”

Though not too many people knew about it, the last week in February was Eating Disorders Awareness Week. And ironically, almost all of the young women on campus are directly affected by it.

Judy Blackstone, a counselor at UW-Eau Claire’s Counseling Services, said it is very hard to tell the exact number of Eau Claire students who struggle with eating disorders as many do not come to Counseling Services, and instead work with outside sources or don’t tell anyone.

Both women and men come through their door for treatment, Blackstone said, although right now, especially on college campuses, it is overwhelmingly women.

Eating disorders are definitely an issue on our campus, said P.J. Kennedy, director of Counseling Services. He said Counseling Services offers a very helpful screening instrument on its Web site that allows students to see if they are at risk for an eating disorder or other mental health issues.

“I would really like to increase student awareness of that,” Kennedy said.

Blackstone agreed. She said the screening self-test is a good tool for students who are not sure if they need counseling for their eating disorder.

Although Counseling Services is there to help, Blackstone said someone battling an eating disorder may need additional help from a psychiatrist, physician or a dietician, along with the regular counseling or group work.

“All of us in college are worried about if we are going to be successful in life and it is so unclear,” Blackstone said. “Everything I see, whether it is video, or television, the only women that are going to be successful are thin.”

Blackstone added it’s very easy for someone to believe the one thing they can control is their weight, then things will get better for them.

“Of course this is false – just go to the mall and you can see people of all shapes and sizes are happy,” she said.

Huber said when she came to Eau Claire she joined the former Students Against Eating Disorders campus organization. She said it was a way for her to find a support group since she didn’t know what kind of an effect college would have on her eating disorder.

In response to the high number of women facing eating disorders and negative body image, a Web site campaign was created in 2004 called Experience Project, said Sarah Silverman, Social Cause Marketing Manager of Experience Project. Silverman said the Web site allows people to connect and share life experiences.

Creators of the Web site also launched the More to Me campaign, standing for “there is more to me than my body.”

The More to Me campaign is concentrated on addressing womanhood, body image and eating disorders, Silverman said.

“The campaign is helping to initiate this change from physical appearance in terms to all the areas that make up who we are, everything from relationships to interests and hobbies,” she said.

Silverman said the campaign, which went into effect at the end of January, was officially created for Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

Huber agreed the site would be a good way for people to find that support group as long as it stayed positive and veered away from a place where people felt eating disorders are a lifestyle and give tips and tricks.

The More to Me site contains an online petition seeking support for body image education in elementary schools, such as the DARE program, because kids are very vulnerable at that age, she said.

“It is kind of like taking that proactive step,” Silverman said.

Huber said she feels negative body image is affecting children of younger ages and having body image education in elementary schools would be beneficial.

“I have a younger sister who goes to Girl Scout camp,” she said. “I was a counselor there and you have fourth grade girls at the beach sucking their stomachs in to be thinner.”