Alissa Heath, senior in Nutrition/Dietetics and president of AUBIE-EDA, smashes a scale on No Weigh Wednesday.
This week, the newly-relaunched Auburn University Body Image Education and Eating Disorder Awareness organization, led by College of Human Sciences Nutrition/Dietetics students, held events on campus to promote healthy eating and body positivity. AUBIE-EDA’s Love Your Body Week was held in conjunction with the National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.
Alissa Heath is a senior in Nutrition/Dietetics and president of AUBIE-EDA. She said after graduation, she would like to work professionally with eating disorder awareness and care.
“I actually suffered from an eating disorder, so it hits really close to home. After going through it personally, I know I can help so many people, and that’s exactly what I want to do,” Heath said. “My main goal is to get the word out there that it really doesn’t matter what your weight is, and that weight does not define you.”
Each day of the week hosted an event aimed at improving self-image, health and overall well-being. On ‘Mirrorless Monday,’ students were encouraged to write what they loved about their body and post the notes on mirrors. On ‘Talk About It Tuesday,’ participants were encouraged to share their stories of recovery. Wednesday’s theme was ‘No Weigh Wednesday,’ where the Auburn community was invited to smash scales.
“Weight is not the best indicator of somebody’s overall health,” said Jamie Case, representative for the Alsana Eating Disorder Treatment and Eating Recovery Center that sponsored the event. “We’re trying to get rid of that myth, and help people understand that health is not just about a number.”
The Alsana Eating Disorder Treatment and Eating Recovery Center in Birmingham focuses on comprehensive treatment of eating disorders, and aims to improve clients’ total health and well-being in the recovery process.
“What we do is help people – men and women – recover from eating disorders. And it’s important because there’s not a lot of awareness out there, even though eating disorders have been around for a very long time,” Case said. “A lot of people don’t understand the impact that [eating disorders] have on lives.”
According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 20 million women and 10 million men in the U.S. will suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their lives. Those struggling with an eating disorder are also more at risk of having depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety.
Abbigail Hickey is Auburn University’s registered dietitian and coordinator of nutrition services. She said college students are an important audience to speak to when talking about body positivity.
“We actually see that body image negativity or dissatisfaction actually goes up in individuals that are in college. We do see that people gain weight when they enter college – for many reasons, but most importantly, because they aren’t kids any more. They are growing, it is biologically appropriate that they are gaining weight,” Hickey said. “We all hear about ‘the freshman 15’ and all that, but that’s actually very normal and necessary for survival and health.”
Hickey said a person’s weight is not an accurate indicator of their overall well-being. Instead, focus should be placed on a balanced intake of nutrients, which can be achieved by incorporating fresh vegetables, fruits and lean proteins as the basis for a person’s daily nutritional needs.
Dietitians/nutritionists like Hickey are available to help individuals find the right amount and types of foods they should be consuming each day. This kind of education can enrich social awareness, both for their personal life and their professional conduct. Hannah Brown, a senior in Dietetics, said what she learns now about eating disorders will one day make her a better, more well-rounded pediatric dietitian.
“Our bodies are a lot less judgmental of what we eat than we are, and I think that’s something that has really [made an impact on] me,” Brown said. “Listen to what your body’s telling you to eat, and not necessarily what the number on the scale is showing.”
The week ends with All Foods Fit Friday, where members of the organization will be handing out chocolate inscribed with inspirational quotes on the wrappers. For more information on healthy eating and improving your body image, schedule an appointment with Abbigail Hickey in the Auburn University Health and Wellness office. Find out about additional resources at Health Promotion and Wellness website.