National Eating Disorder Awareness Week provides support on campus

Televisions across campus promote signs to raise awareness about eating disorders. Monday, February 21, 2022. (Photo by: Xander Ordinola)
Televisions across campus promote signs to raise awareness about eating disorders. Monday, February 21, 2022. (Photo by: Xander Ordinola)

Written by: Maynard Wheeler III

Southern Adventist University is observing National Eating Disorder Awareness Week from Monday, February 21, to Friday, February 25. The awareness week was created to support the community by providing help and awareness to those that need it, according to Tami Navalon, a professor in the Graduate Professional Counseling Program.

According to an article written by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, eating disorders affect at least 9% of the population worldwide. Over 28.8 million Americans will have an eating disorder during their lifetime. Eating disorders affect every race and gender.

The theme for the week is about becoming an advocate for people going through these issues, according to Navalon. 

“We will have social media posts with information about eating disorders and ways students can be advocates throughout the week,” she said. “There will be an ongoing art installation, three giveaways and a booth that will be at the Bietz Center on Wednesday, the 23rd.”

The booths will allow students to gain information about treatment options, speak with counselors, submit questions about mental health and enter to win the giveaways. 

“Our goal is to provide each student with the knowledge and awareness to become an active advocate for others and themselves,” Navalon said. “This avenue provides a safe space for students to express their feelings that they might not have expressed up to this point in their life. It is amazing to see how Southern has put an emphasis on mental health, and creating this event will hopefully give hope to students needing love and support.”

John Kent, social work and junior international development studies double major, opened up about his battle with an eating disorder.

“I experienced anorexia nervosa my senior year of high school, and it took me about a year and a half to return to normal eating habits,” Kent said. 

Kent discussed how anorexia impacted not only his physical life but also his social life. 

“I became more withdrawn, and I didn’t hang out with my friends as much when, originally, I was involved in extracurricular activities like SA and was very friendly with everyone,” Kent said. 

Another aspect that Kent addressed was the stereotype that men don’t have issues like anorexia or other forms of eating disorders.  

“No one took the time to address how I had changed significantly and how I had become quite thin,” Kent said. “This might have resulted from me being male, and teachers and other people not making the connection of what I was experiencing.” 

Although Kent faced difficult times, he said he wants everyone to know how much has changed since that period. “I eat [a] plant-based diet, and I am also an endurance athlete,” Kent said. “I run a lot, and I did a 50-mile race last semester and came in second. … I just want people to know that they can really change their lifestyle and not have to worry about how they look or how ‘fit’ they are; it just takes a little time.”

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