A new campus organization helps spread awareness about eating disorders

Students Helping Acquire, Promote, and Enhance Self-Esteem wants to change the way that college students feel about their bodies.

Colleen Baker couldn’t stop giggling.

Overwhelmed by nervousness and excitement, the senior psychology and communications duel major prepared for the first big event of one of Syracuse University’s newest campus organizations.

The organization, Students Helping Acquire, Promote, and Enhance Self-Esteem (SHAPES), hosted a film screening and panel discussion on body image and eating disorders as part of National Eating Disorder Awareness (NEDA) Week.Baker founded the group in the fall as a means of combating the vicious cycle of self-hate and eating disorders, and the organization aims to work within SU to promote positive self-image and convert low self-esteem into confidence and self-love. More than 10 percent of college-aged women suffer from eating disorders, but, through SHAPES, Baker hopes to battle that statistic at SU.

Events honoring NEDA Week took place all over the country February 24 through March 2, but the night before SHAPES' panel, Baker frantically called her friend, worried because the pair hadn’t had time put up the last promotional flyers.

“I don’t want it to be embarrassing,” she confessed. “Like, if no one shows up.”

A few less flyers apparently didn't make a difference, however. The NEDA event kicked off in front of good sized audience with three short documentaries by Jesse Epstein: Wet Dreams and False Images, The Guarantee, and 34x25x36, each of which touched on different perceptions of good and bad body images.

Wet Dreams and False Images zooms in on Dee Dee, a barber in Brooklyn, NY who is infatuated with the images of voluptuous women dressed in bathing suits (or less) wallpaper the walls of his shop. Once he learns that the pictures have been professionally retouched and airbrushed, however, he feels betrayed by the beauties he lusted over.

The second film, The Guarantee, is the story of a male ballet dancer excluded from a dance company because of the hump in his Italian nose. An artist pencils each scene with detail and the dancer narrates the film himself, navigating the audience through a rarely told, but certainly not rare, story.

The last of the films, 34x25x36, is a behind-the-scenes look at a mannequin factory that highlights how creators must sculpt the pieces into “perfect beings.”

After the documentaries, the four person panel discussion began. Baker, her SHAPE co-president and senior marketing major, Hannah Stofcik, associate magazine journalism professor Harriet Brown, and psychiatrist John Manring took the stage. All shared one thing: a personal connection to an eating disorder or related illness. Baker battled and defeated bulimia; Stofcik continues to fight low self-esteem; Brown struggled as her oldest daughter suffered from anorexia; Manring struggled with obesity as a young boy.

The panelists’ experiences made the discussion insightful and engaging, junior advertising major, Rose Picon, said. The personal stories added sincerity and value to the discussion, which was held before and with a mixed-gender audience. (Although eating disorders are most often associated with women, up to 10 percent of college males combat them as well.).

Although the panelist’s stories were diverse, the overarching impact of the night was to highlight the importance of nurturing an open dialogue about eating disorders and to help individuals view themselves in a more positive way. The chance that some of the 60 or so audience members already have been affected by an eating disorder is relatively high. About 30 million Americans, both men and women, will suffer from an eating disorder in their lifetime, according to the National Eating Disorder Association. The most common diseases are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating. Although called eating disorders, these illnesses go far beyond food: anorexia nervosa, for instance, has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder. Nineteen percent of people will die from it, Manring pointed out during the discussion.

Statistics like these, coupled with her own experiences and those of her friends, moved Baker. “I decided something needed to happen on campus,” she said.

As she sat with her co-president Stofcik on the Herg’s intimate stage on Thursday night, she used her personal experience battling and beating bulimia as a candle to empower those suffering in the darkness of the disease. She no longer spoke with nervousness, though, at times, the mental wounds from her experience fluctuated her otherwise happy tone. She didn’t need to be a doctor to understand or explain the mental and physical toll overcoming an eating disorder had taken on her. The event would be a success, she said, if at least one person in the audience left with a new, positive view of him or her self.

When the event ended and the remaining audience members trickled down the auditorium stairs to speak with the panelists and inquire about SHAPES membership, Baker was beaming,

“I feel really good,” she said.

Really Great article and a

Really Great article and a subject of big importance!!!

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