By: EMILY YUSSUM
February is Eating Disorder Awareness Month and an upcoming campus event will focus on bringing eating disorder awareness to IU South Bend students and the surrounding community.
IUSB will host “What Are You Hungry For? An evening of Theater, Education and a Call to Action” for the IU South Bend community from 6:30 to 7:45 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 11, in Wiekamp Hall 1001.
Sponsored by the IUSB Women’s and Gender Studies Program and the Feminist Student Union at IU South Bend, the event will be hosted by Marybeth Saunders, local South Bend playwright, performer and advocate, and moderated by April Lidinsky, director of Women’s and Gender Studies.
The event will feature Saunders’ performance of excerpts of her one-woman show, “My Family’s Just Like Yours,” a piece about her and her family’s journey through mental illness and eating disorder. Her vision is to have an event “that uses creativity and education together.”
“There’s hardly a better environment in which to do a social justice theatre than a university; people are so curious and open to exploration,” said Saunders.
Eating disorders are often seen as a taboo topic. Although it’s a huge issue on all campuses, but has so much shame and criticism surrounding it, no one wants to talk about it.
“Disordered eating is a difficult topic to talk about. People who should go to this event—which I would argue would be all of us—we all either have a disordered eating behavior or know people who do,” Lidinsky said. “But often I feel people are like, ‘Oh, this feels so sad, so dark,’ but we can’t address this problem until we know about it, unless we talk about it.”
Eating disorders affect people of all ages, but are especially prominent among college students. According to the Multi-Service Eating Disorders Association (MEDA), 15 percent of women between 17 and 24 have an eating disorder behavior and 91 percent of female college students have attempted to control their weight through dieting. Although this is often reported to be because of media marketing, there is also a pressure on men of the same age, with one percent to seven percent of male college students having an eating disorder behavior.
“We are seeing disordered eating among boys, that this is a hideous equality that none of us want,” Lidinsky said. “The requirement for boys to have a six-pack, to be built, means that now boys are participating in unhealthy behaviors that can have a life-long impact on health.”
Saunders’ discussion will be accompanied by a panel of local mental and nutritional health experts: Laura Burkett, Valerie Staples, Melissa Freer-Smith and Valerie Hinkle, a counselor on the IUSB campus, who will invite people to help overcome the problem.
“You’re not alone. Without frightening people, there can be long-term and serious consequences for people if they don’t get help,” Lidinsky said. “But the good news is, there’s help everywhere. Our work is to make it easy for people to find those resources. For students, there is immediate help. People can heal.”
For those struggling right now, there are resources available on the event’s Facebook page.
“Please come to the event; you are the reason I wrote the show; you are the reason the compassionate, generous, wise panelists will be there to offer insight and questions,” Saunders said. “We—all of us— need each other and we’ll have such a great conversation full of hope, power, laughter, and options.”