By: Bhavisha Dave, Contributing Writer
Towson Coordinator of Eating Disorder Services Jamie Kaplan and pre-doctoral intern Ashley Wood advised that students learn to recognize and offer help to peers struggling with eating disorders Tuesday, as a part of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week Feb. 21-27.
According to the National Eating Disorder Association website, approximately 30 million Americans suffer from a “clinically significant eating disorder” within their lifetime.
At least 10 million of those people are male, according to the site.
“You don’t choose to have an eating disorder,” Wood said.
Wood talked about actress Kat Dennings, who was famously quoted saying, “I tried to be anorexic for four hours and then I was like, ‘I need some bagels.’”
Wood said that quotes like these are especially harmful because they glamorize eating disorders by normalizing them.
Warnings signs that someone might have an eating disorder include rapid weight loss in a short amount of time, isolation and lack of participation, food rituals, frequent trips to the bathroom, feeding others but never themselves.
The goal of the discussion, entitled “Friends Don’t Let Friends Fat Talk,” was to “educate people on what eating disorders look like… That they’re not something to normalize and glamorize,” Kaplan said.
They also wanted to give people the knowledge to correctly and effectively help friends who are struggling with eating disorders. According to Kaplan, the main thing students can do to raise awareness is educate themselves about why people develop and struggle with such disorders.
“You can also be a model by promoting positive body acceptance and not talking about yourself [and others] in way that are degrading and [judgmental],” Wood said.
To start helping a friend, Kaplan and Wood recommend setting aside time to talk about concerns. They said talking to one’s friend can be most effective with “I” statements rather than “You” statements, to prevent one’s language from becoming accusatory.
You can “support your friend even if you don’t support their situation,” Wood said.
Often, the person struggling is not looking for a solution from someone else, according to Wood.
“They just want to know you’re there,” she said.
Students attempting to help should also make sure that they have their own support system as well.
The Counseling Center at TU is open weekdays from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. There is no cost for most services and Counseling Center facilities are located on the second floor of the Health Center at Ward and West. Students can call 410-704-2512 with questions or to make an appointment.