The theme of this year’s awareness week is “I Had No Idea,” a nod to widespread lack of understanding of the prevalence and dangers of eating disorders.
The National Eating Disorders Association says it is emphasizing that “what you don’t know can hurt you or someone you love,” and is urging everyone to begin a dialogue and educate themselves on how to recognize the warning signs.
To better inform the local community, particularly teenagers, children and their parents and teachers, Frontier Health will spend the week sharing facts about eating disorders and promoting more healthy nutrition choices in area schools.
East Tennessee State University will team up with A Place Of Healing, the new eating disorder resource center at 509 E. Watauga Ave., for a roster of on-campus events to heighten understanding and the process of recovery.
NEDA said the most relevant fact to keep in mind is that eating disorders are an illness with devastating and sometimes fatal consequences.
Because people with eating disorders are skillful at hiding their illness, and because most people, including many doctors, do not recognize the symptoms, NEDA said it is important to watch for warning signs, including frequent comments about being fat or overweight; skipped meals; baggy clothing that hides the body; rigid exercise routines carried out regardless of fatigue, illness or injuries; binge eating; and unusual food rituals.
When it comes to kids and eating disorders, NEDA says studies show that as early as 6, children begin expressing concern about their weight and body shape. Forty-six percent of children ages 9 to 11 years old occasionally or frequently diet. More than half of teenage girls and one-third of teen boys use unhealthy weight-control methods, including fasting, smoking, vomiting and taking laxatives and diet pills. And girls ages 15 to 19 account for 40 percent of all identified cases of anorexia.
Faced with those statistics, the association is urging parents, guardians, teachers and coaches to be careful to give children the right messages and avoid comments on eating, weight, body shape and clothing that can become a catalyst for eating disorders.
To help prevent eating disorders among local students, Frontier Health, Earth Fare, Chick-Fil-A, Bays Mountain Park and Planetarium, Washington County Coordinated School Health, Mountain States Health Alliance and other community partners are teaming up to present a weeklong series of awareness events in area schools.
At Science Hill High School and Liberty Bell Middle School, “Madness in the Media” will be the focus of posters illustrating how the media promotes unrealistic body images. A correlating “Wall of No Shame” will be displayed in the high school cafeteria.
At Liberty Bell, Madness in the Media events planned in the school cafeteria will include “True to You” trivia sheets on the lunch tables with prizes from Earth Fare and Washington County Coordinated School Health, an “Evolution” video addressing positive body image to be shown on Tuesday and a “Food for Thought” program focused on “mindful eating” Thursday.
At Unicoi Elementary School, activities will include Jump Into Being Healthy jumping exercises on Monday, healthy body image and nutrition instruction on Wednesday and the Mountain States Health Alliance giant inflatable, walk-through Mega Heart on Friday.
At ETSU, free information from A Place of Healing will be available throughout the week at booths set up in the lobby of the Center for Physical Activity and in the Cave at the Culp Center.
“What Do You Love About Yourself?” a program that invites students, faculty and staff to write down what they love about themselves and have their pictures made will be held from 4-7 p.m. Monday in the CPA lobby. On Tuesday, ETSU storytelling students will present “Reflection in the Mirror,” a montage of poetry, song, personal narratives and facts concerning women’s body image from 6:30-7:15 p.m. and “Generation M,” a documentary on misogyny in media, will be shown from 8-9:30 p.m. in the Cave.
ETSU nutrition students will be on hand to discuss healthy eating choices and offering free samples from Earth Fare from 4-7 p.m. Wednesday in the CPA lobby. Logan Gillen, founder of Saving Hearts in Need of Embrace, will discuss her experience with eating disorders in the CPA Multi-purpose Room on Thursday from 6-7 p.m. On Friday, Sarah Gunnin will lead “Love Your Body Yoga” from 4-5 p.m. in the CPA Yoga Studio.
A full schedule of the on-campus events is available online at www.etsu.edu/students/campusrec.
Information about A Place of Healing can be found at www.healingtn.org or may be obtained by calling Laryn Hurley at 815-9511 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Open Tuesdays from 3-5 p.m. and other times by appointment, the center is the first of its kind in the Tri-Cities region and offers a library of resource materials and referrals for treatment.
More information about eating disorders from the National Eating Disorders Association can be found online at www.NEDAwareness.org or may be obtained by calling NEDA at 800-931-2237.