Awareness week aspires to destigmatize eating disorders

By Andie Chilson | Reporter

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, this Monday through March 7, serves as a time to highlight the dangers of eating disorders and the stigmas attached to them.

Spreading awareness this week is particularly important on college campuses, because they are some of the most common places to find eating disorders.

According to the National Eating Disorders Association’s website, this week is a time to raise awareness about eating disorders and support those who suffer from them.

Erin McGinty Fort, the coordinator of eating disorder services at the Baylor Counseling Center, works alongside her team of eating disorder specialists to highlight the risks of eating disorders and the resources available to those affected.

McGinty Fort said college-aged students are among the most at-risk demographics to develop eating disorders.

“The most common age of onset for eating disorders is between 18 and 21 years of age, which means that a lot of college students do struggle with them,” McGinty Fort said.

Two major issues the eating disorder awareness community is working to highlight during this week is that anyone can develop an eating disorder–they are not limited to a certain race or gender, and size is not indicative of health. You cannot determine if someone is suffering from an eating disorder based on their physical appearance or their body size alone.

Regina Mastin, a certified eating disorders registered dietitian at the Baylor Counseling Center, said eating disorders do not discriminate, and anyone can fall victim to them.

“You cannot and should not judge a person’s health based on the size of their body. Health does not have a size. People who suffer from eating disorders can live in large or small bodies, they can be black or white or rich or poor,” Mastin said.

Eating disorders are incredibly diverse. Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are the most highly publicized forms of the disease, but there many other variations that people suffer from.

The Baylor Counseling Center celebrated NEDA Week by hosting a “Movie Monday” at the Waco Hippodrome Theatre downtown where they screened the documentary film “America the Beautiful,” which examines messages in the media concerning beauty standards. There was a discussion panel following the film.

McGinty Fort said the Counseling Center is planning a bigger event for NEDA Week 2021 called “Celebrate Every Body,” which will endeavor to educate people about eating disorders and serve as a chance to discuss the stigmas around different body types. The event will also offer a yoga class where participants can feel free to move their bodies in a judgement-free zone.

Like Mastin, McGinty Fort believes the biggest issue plaguing the eating disorder community is the false perception that eating disorders are unique to one demographic–young, white women.

“If you’re a human being of any gender, race, ethnicity, size and sexual orientation, then it’s possible for you to develop an eating disorder. We have to have a broad idea of the people impacted by eating disorders, otherwise people get missed and don’t get the help they need,” McGinty Fort said.

If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder and is ready to seek help, the Baylor Counseling Center offers free assessments, short-term treatment and group therapy sessions.

If you would like to seek outside assistance, the NEDA offers extensive resources and a list of treatment centers across the country.