Redefining food mindsets

Fifty-four percent of women would rather be hit by a truck than be fat, according to Thursday night’s interactive discussion entitled “Breaking Free: Loosening the Chains of Food and Body Obsession.”

This conversation was a part of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, five days devoted to raising awareness of eating disorders and distorted body image at SPU. The event, spanning the week of Feb. 23 through 27, was sponsored by the Student Counseling Center, Sophia, National Alliance of Mental Illness and What is Normal?

“As we grow up, we go from pure delight and enjoyment with food and the body to chains. This week is about breaking free from those chains,” said Erinn Koerselman, a counselor at the SCC.

The groups hosted different events throughout the week. Each event focused on a specific approach to healthy mind-body images.

The week was organized to approach eating disorders from several different perspectives, said junior Jenny Gist, co-president of Sophia.

“The food chains I see on campus are dieting … emotional eating … and then lots of food rules,” said Sara Rehberg, a dietician at SPU. Food rules are any restrictions placed to sculpt some foods as “good” or “bad,” as well as rules about when or when not to eat, she said.

Rehberg said these food rules are examples not only of “chains,” but also of disordered eating on SPU’s campus. Eating disorders and disordered eating may not always make visible appearances in students, but the problem is more prevalent than many may believe.

“A lot of people will think, ‘Oh, I don’t have full-blown anorexia or bulimia, so I don’t have any problems,’ but that’s not the case,” Rehberg said.

An eating disorder is a medically diagnosed “disordered relationship with food and body that leads to emotional, relational and psychological (consequences),” Koerselman said.

Disordered eating, on the other hand, is a mentality that is unable to be medically diagnosed, she said.

According to Julie Church, a registered dietician and guest speaker at a NEDAW event on Wednesday, one in five American girls has a medically diagnosed eating disorder. It was reasonable to guess that at least four out of five girls suffer from disordered eating, she said.

This is why Rehberg believes that NEDAW is such an important event for students, especially young women.

“I feel like we brought awareness, and we empowered students to make a difference and start changing the food and body obsessed culture that we have here at SPU,” she said.

The week began with a cooking demonstration led by the Nutrition Club. It concluded with a healing vigil on Friday afternoon aimed at reconciling students to their bodies through interactive experiential prayer stations, such as a large body outline students could write on.

Tuesday night featured a documentary and panel, focusing on the media’s presentation of beautiful bodies and how it affects body image.

“Our body is this object outside of us,” said Caleb Mitchell, clinical marketing representative of Remuda Ranch. As such, we judge it as though it is not part of who we are, he said.

Throughout Wednesday, there was an interactive exhibit, looking at the inside of the mind of an eating disorder. Church said it demonstrated a continuum with someone’s relationship with food and body.

Thursday evening featured the discussion led by the week’s co-coordinators, Koerselman and Rehberg, who focused on developing healthy body image and loosening the bonds of food obsession.

“Your identity is not wrapped up in food and body issues. It’s wrapped up in who you are in God,” Rehberg said. “You say, ‘I am an image bearer of God. That’s my identity.’ Faith gives you so much more to live for, and true hope in healing.”

This is obviously an issue that is campus-wide, Koerselman said. Most students do not know how to confront a friend whom they suspect has a problem, she said.

The SCC, an important tool that helps students dealing with mind and body image issues find a new identity outside of food, advises students to be supportive of friends with eating disorders, respecting them if they push you away.

“It’s super important to have friends and family who respect the fact (that you are struggling),” said junior Rachel Willey, co-president of Sophia.

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Title: Redefining food mindsets | Author: Briannan Mandrell (news writer) | Section: News | Published Date: 2009-02-25 | Internal ID: 5952