Feb. 21 to Feb. 27 was National Eating Disorder Awareness (NEDA) Week and to spread awareness, Sacred Heart University hosted two events that talked about the different aspects of eating disorder awareness and how they can affect college-aged students.
The first event was coordinated by Sacred Heart counselors Kathleen Early and Michelle Pagnotta and took place on Monday, Feb. 21. The event featured eating disorder coach and NEDA representative, Orianna Laflamme.
“I started building a relationship with Orianna last year,” said Early. “We were really trying to find ways to support more students and be able to have more conversations surrounding eating disorders.”
During the presentation, Laflamme talked about her time working with the National Eating Disorder Awareness organization and her own experience with suffering from an eating disorder.
“After the birth of my second son I decided to go on a diet and I never chose to have an eating disorder, but an eating disorder chose to have me,” said Laflamme. “What we do know is that eating disorders are non-selective and my diet crossed the line.”
According to a study conducted by NEDA, “Those who dieted moderately were 5x more likely to develop an eating disorder, and those who practiced extreme restriction were 18x more likely to develop an eating disorder than those who did not diet.”
The second event of the week was moderated by the director of the human clinical nutrition program, Prof. Patricia Grace-Farfaglia, and featured a panel of experts who talked about the different kinds of eating disorders and how they affect college students.
Prof. Lisa Smith, a psychology professor at Sacred Heart, was the first of these panelists and gave a general overview of some of the most commonly diagnosed disorders as well as the different types of treatment. According to Smith, the three most commonly diagnosed eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating.
The second panelist was Brianne Brathwaite, a dietician nutritionist therapist. She talked about the good versus bad mentality in terms of eating and how people with eating disorders are impacted by this mentality.
“Feeling guilty for eating when you’re hungry is like feeling guilty for breathing when your lungs need oxygen,” said Brathwaite. “We literally have been taught to be ashamed of our basic human needs.”
The final panelist of the event was Prof. Alicia Stannard, the assistant professor of exercise physiology. Prof. Stannard focused her time on talking about the athletic perspective of eating disorders and the obstacles of athletes being able to recognize and treat their eating disorders.
The biggest takeaway of the week was that there are resources available for people who are suffering from an eating disorder, whether it be themselves or someone they know.
“Our counseling services are always available to the students,” said Prof. Stannard. “Students who are on campus can utilize the resources we have here.”
Apart from the counseling center at Sacred Heart, there is also the NEDA helpline that students can call to talk to someone about eating disorders.
If you missed any of the events during National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, there are still things students can do to spread awareness, such as participating in a NEDA organization walk or starting a NEDA chapter at Sacred Heart. Students are also welcome to volunteer for answering the NEDA helpline to help people who are seeking help for their eating disorders.
For more information on eating disorders, contact Sacred Heart’s Counseling Center or go to the NEDA website at www.nationaleatingdisorders.org or call or text their helpline at (800) 931-2237.