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Resources, misconceptions to be aware of during National Eating Disorder Awareness Week

March 2, 2023
<p>Michigan State University campus is frozen over after a winter storm on Feb. 23, 2023.</p>

Michigan State University campus is frozen over after a winter storm on Feb. 23, 2023.

Photo by Jack Patton | The State News

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, or NEDA week, takes place from Feb. 27 to March 5 this year. The week serves to promote education and awareness around the topic of disordered eating.

There are many available resources for students at Michigan State University who are seeking information about or help with eating disorders. 

Registered dietitian and MSU Health Department nutrition program coordinator Anne Buffington said NEDA Week serves to educate people about the disorder and different resources available for them. 

“The nice part about having a week dedicated to awareness around eating disorders, (is that) it helps to educate people about eating disorders, about the different resources that are available, especially here on campus for students who are experiencing any concerns around food or weight, or body image or nutrition or anything like that,” Buffington said.

Buffington said the University Health and Wellbeing Unit has several resources for students through different avenues. 

Student Health Services provides various medical assesments for students for symptoms that can be caused by disordered eating. The department also provides Health Promotion, a service where students can see a registered dietitian and get indivudal nutrition counseling free of charge. 

CAPS counseling and psychiatric services provides an opportunity for students to connect to a therapist or psychologist. 

“Eating disorders are very complex psychological conditions, so it’s very important that somebody gets connected in that capacity,” Buffington said. “There’s also a specific group that is run through CAPS dedicated to individuals who are seeking support for eating concerns or body image recover.” 

The Peer Body Project is an evidence-based group program that works to promote body acceptance and challenge societal beauty standards. Groups consist of six to 12 undergraduate students who participate in workshops led by peer leaders. 

Spartans Empower Body Acceptance, or SEBA, is a registered student organization dedicated to promoting eating disorder awareness.  Psychology senior and SEBA president Jessica Skaff said the group aims to promote body acceptance on campus by dismantling myths perpetuated by diet culture.

One of these misconceptions is the idea of who is usually affected by eating disorders. 

“I think we've come a long way as a society and how we view eating disorders, but I think it is still seen as a thin white girl disorder,” Skaff said. “I think it's very important, especially in weeks like this, to really push that this is not just something that affects women, it's not just something that affects white people, it affects every race, every gender, every sexuality.”

Skaff said the idea of what eating disorders look like can also be misconstrued. 

“It’s also seen as if, like this emaciated kind of look, when in reality, there's binge eating disorder, for example, that affects more people, at least in the United States than anorexia, or bulimia, for example,” Skaff said. “People don't really talk about that.”

SEBA Treasurer Paige Helfen said people have a tendency to ignore other forms of eating disorders. 

“I feel like our society ignores it on accident, almost,” Helfen said. “It’s not really required for people to get education about nutrition or eating disorders at all and I think that's why people think you only have an eating disorder if you're not eating, which is so untrue.”

Buffington said NEDA Week also works to promote visibility for those affected by eating disorders. She says it serves as a reminder that society should be constantly promoting body acceptance during every time of the year. 

“For those who this is their lived experience, it's very important that this is something that we are consistently trying to promote — body acceptance," Buffington said. "We are trying to challenge diet culture.”

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