U.Va. kicks off Every Body Week
Women's Center, Coalition on Eating Disorders and Exercise Concerns recognizes National Eating Disorders Awareness Week
Monday marked the start of the University’s Every Body Week, a campaign organized by the Women’s Resource Center in association with the University’s Coalition on Eating Disorders and Exercise Concerns.
The groups are seeking to promote body positivity and raise awareness about eating disorders around Grounds. The event coincides with National Eating Disorders Awareness Week.
“Body image is a part of daily life, even though we may not speak about it regularly,” said second-year College student Kristina Brown, an intern at the Women’s Resource Center. “We’re trying to make it a more positive thing to talk about, rather than a negative one.”
At a student media meeting last Tuesday, University President Teresa Sullivan said the University has room for improvement in dealing with eating disorders.
“I don’t know if we do a good enough job intervening [with eating disorders], or if we even know about them,” Sullivan said. “I think that’s an issue that at least some segments of the college-age population struggle with. But it’s a good subject, and I think the more we can discuss it publicly, the less stigmatized it feels.”
National Eating Disorders Awareness Week aims to provide education and resources about disordered eating and body image concerns. An estimated 30 million people in the United States will be impacted by an eating disorder at some point in their lives. With such education and awareness initiatives, groups around the nation hope to help reduce this number by providing people with the help they need.
“There are a good number of resources and a large variety of counseling options,” Student Health Nutrition Educator Melanie Brede said. “One is CAPS — Counseling and Psychological Services. There’s [also] counseling offered through the women’s centers, and that is available to both men and women.”
But the most pressing issue facing the student body is awareness, Brede said. Students are unaware of both the problems faced by so many of their peers, and the resources available to them, she said.
“There is also a student organization called HOPE, which stands for Hoos Open to Preventing Eating Disorders,” she said. “They do a lot of outreach as well as regular [meetings]. They have a lot of students who understand what it means to live with an eating disorder, or see someone very close to them go through it. They are very supportive.”
Brown agreed increasing awareness is the most important step the University can take.
“[The biggest thing the University can do is be] more cognizant and more educated about signs,” Brown said. “[We need to] make people more aware that there are different ways to approach issues and struggles. It’s better to reach out if you are unsure of how to approach a situation.”
Every Body Week will center around two main events — a jeans exchange and a drop-in Zumba class.
The jeans exchange will take place Monday through Friday in the Aquatic and Fitness Center and in Newcomb Hall. Students and University faculty are encouraged to exchange old jeans for a body empowering t-shirt. All pairs of donated jeans will be given to a local shelter.
“We know that a lot of people hang onto clothing that they’re hoping to fit back into, and ultimately this can be a trigger for some unhealthy dieting behavior,” Brede said. “The focus of the event is to promote body positivity and send the message that people should wear what’s comfortable … [and practice] sustainable healthy behaviors.”
The Zumba class will be held Wednesday at 8 p.m. in the AFC.
“It’s a drop-in group exercise class that focuses more on a dance style that will get people moving [and] having fun without seeming like a boot camp militant class,” Brede said.
Free and confidential eating disorder screenings are offered year-round at the Women’s Center for those who are concerned about their health.