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Eating Concerns: unnoticed and unrealistic expectations

Imagine walking through HoCo and seeing all the food around, but not feeling able to eat freely. Now imagine this is what you struggle with on a constant basis.

Many people with an eating disorder or concern experience this scenario every day. 

Here at UNH, Eating Concerns Awareness Week, a national campaign organized by the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), and is hosted by the eating concerns mentors here, to get students to know more about this topic.

“It is especially important to treat and be aware of eating disorders since it directly affects your academics,” said Maria Caplan, a nutrition educator/counselor at Health Services said.

A factor that Caplan stressed about eating disorders is that you don’t have to be diagnosed to talk to someone about a concern.

Eating Concerns Mentors (ECMs) are trained students who work with health services to provide support to others about eating concerns, eating disorders or body image issues they may have.

The ECMs are here to act as a sort of third party when treating an eating disorder,” explained Caplan, “since we use a team approach, which also includes a doctor, counselor, and nutritionist.”

“The ECMs are great since a lot of them have had experience in it, and are in recovery,” Caplan said.

Eating concerns are something that is not often talked about, and often goes undiagnosed. 

“It should be treated like any other illness,”  said Emily Berman, a eating concerns mentor and double major in woman’s studies and social work.

Berman also explained the displays around campus this week to raise awareness, which include a life size Barbie doll to show unrealistic expectations in Dimond Library, a lose your weight lies donation bin to discard “thinspiration” or negative body talk, and thrown-out jeans with messages of people’s experience strung up in the Whittemore Center lobby.

“Just listen to someone and be aware that [eating concerns] are out there,” Berman said.

Events occurred throughout the week as another way to help students be aware of eating concerns, or provide relief for someone struggling with one. 

One example was a de-stress and calming station set up on the second floor of Health Services as a way for students to relax for an hour.

“Taking care of your well-being is something that a lot of people put on the backseat and we wanted to bring it to the forefront,” Kacie McFadden, an intern at Health Services, said.

“The levels of stress are really high [at college campuses] so it’s just a time where we can take some time out of someone’s busy day to really just relax and recuperate,” added Stephanie Schmeltzer, another health services intern.

The two interns were facilitating the distress and calming event, where students could listen to music, get some spa water, aromatherapy and color.

The goal of the event was to allow students to “do an activity that allows their mind to just chill for a little while,” Schmeltzer explained.

Especially for students suffering from eating disorders or body image issues, “this is an event to realize that this does exist, and it can be a very stressful time period when someone is constantly thinking about that,” McFadden said. 

Other events included a screening of Millstone, a documentary on eating disorders in men, and “How to Help a Friend with an Eating Disorder,” for people who are unsure of how to help. 

For anyone wanting to get help, it is encouraged to visit the health services eating concerns website.

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