By Stephanie Morales, Contributing Writer
For people who struggle with their body image and eating concerns, it often feels as though there is no light at the end of the tunnel. But Body Monologues 2014 wanted to leave its audience with this important message: Recovery is possible.
Body Monologues has been a part of “Love Your Body Week” for five years. UNH students and community members performed monologues based on their personal experiences with body image and eating disorders. In these monologues, the performers shared their stories of resilience that were mixed with heaviness and hope. The event was an empowering celebration of loving your body and accepting yourself.
This event, sponsored by Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention Program (SHARPP) and eating concerns mentors (ECMs), had over 150 people in the audience. There was also an artwork gallery on display in the Strafford Room, with pieces done by students who expressed themselves in art rather than words. The audience watched as the performers on stage revealed their innermost thoughts on their view of body image and the definition of beauty itself. One of these performers was Olivia Hastings, a senior at UNH.
“Performing was a healing experience. I was nervous about it because it was the most honest thing I’ve ever written but also really excited to open up,” said Hastings.
Hastings’ advice to anybody who is struggling with issues was to not be afraid to ask for help and to realize that there are many people out there that are willing to listen. According to Hastings, disordered eating and body image are stigmatized to the point where people feel “ashamed” and “embarrassed” about their own mental health issue.
“Recovery isn’t really a destination or something that comes easily; it’s more of a journey,” Hastings said.
According to Maria Caplan, a nutrition counselor and eating concerns mentor adviser who opened the Body Monologues, 24 million people are currently suffering from an eating disorder in the United States. That staggering number does not include the many who endure their illness in secret; this mental health issue is among one of the most under diagnosed illnesses. In particular, college-aged women are more likely to have some sort of eating disorder.
Caplan was in shock at how “amazingly well” Body Monologues 2014 went. The event had never had so many people in attendance before. Caplan believed it’s important to spread more awareness about body image on the UNH campus.
“When I asked the question about who has been affected or knows someone affected by an eating disorder, almost all hands went up in that room,” Caplan said. “Health Services is trying to provide as many resources as we can like nutrition counseling, eating concerns mentors, mentorship for people struggling and clinical care.”
If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, please contact an eating concerns mentor at www.unh.edu/health-services/ecm or Maria Caplan at 603-862-3823.