AuthenticallyU smashes eating disorder stigma

Campaign is Queen’s first Eating Disorder Awareness Week; will end by smashing scales on Friday

Peer Support Centre Director Cara Chen speaking at the AuthenticallyU talk on Wednesday.
Image by: Alex Pickering
Peer Support Centre Director Cara Chen speaking at the AuthenticallyU talk on Wednesday.

The first Eating Disorder Awareness Week (EDAW), hosted by AuthenticallyU, started with personal stories and will go out with a smash hit.

The week, which began Feb. 2 and ends Friday, ran in alignment with the Canadian National Eating Disorder Information Centre’s (NEDIC) campaign of the same kind.

EDAW began with an “Education and Experience Evening” on Monday, which featured a presentation by nurse Amanda Shamblaw and two student speakers, Leandra Keren and Erin Roach, who shared personal stories about their own experience and recovery from eating disorders.

On Wednesday, AuthenticallyU held a talk titled “How to Help a Friend With an Eating Disorder”, which featured presentations from Peer Support Centre Director Cara Chen, social worker Cathy O’Brien and student speakers Dani Keren and Daniel Meyers.

The final event will be an all-day “[weight] scale smash” on Friday, which Meyers said would be a step in breaking the tie between negative body image and a resulting negative self-worth.

Daniel Meyers, AuthenticallyU’s sponsorship coordinator, said the committee’s goals are to create awareness about eating disorders and reduce associated stigma, while promoting body positivity in general.

“Whether or not you have an eating disorder, you have a body image, you have perceptions of yourself and you’re either happy about that or not happy about that or somewhere in between,” said Meyers, ArtSci ’15.

“I guess its goal is not trying to quantify yourself numerically, by the weight on the scale, how tall you are, how strong you are — that type of thing.

“We’re having a scale-smash so that people who are really attached to their scales and are using it to measure their weight literally, but their self-worth figuratively, have the opportunity to bring those in and physically destroy them so they’re releasing that tie they have to their scale,” he added.

The committee had a booth on campus each day of the week with a poster and pamphlets to give students information about AuthenticallyU and EDAW. The group is also running a photo campaign.

Meyers said that so far, AuthenticallyU has received a lot of positive feedback from students. “People are coming by and saying ‘I really appreciate what you’re doing here’ and offering their help in any way,” he said.

“We’ve actually hired a number of volunteers based off people’s interest just from seeing our booth, so I think the response has been really good.”

Leandra Keren, who was responsible for marketing EDAW, told the Journal via email that she sees both men and women engage in disordered eating and negative self-talk on a regular basis, and would like for that to change.

“We already speak about what we eat, how we exercise, and what we don’t like about their bodies,” said Keren, Comm ’17.

“I think the point of AuthenticallyU is to change that dialogue to one that honours our bodies, allows people to feel comfortable in their own skin, and, even better, feel confident in it.”

Keren said the great thing about EDAW is that it’s effective in educating people without eating disorders about what it’s like to live with one, and how they can help those who do.

“I want to see the conversation continue and see people continue to educate themselves,” she said. “Most importantly, I want to see that girl or boy I saw at the gym yesterday, or at CoGro, feel like they are not alone, and that something is being done to help.”

This article has been updated to reflect the following clarification: Dani Keren was a student speaker at AuthenticallyU’s “How to Help a Friend With an Eating Disorder” talk. Unclear information appeared in the Feb. 6 issue of the Journal.

This article has been updated to reflect the following correction: Amanda Shamblaw, who presented at the “Education and Experience Evening” on Monday, was misidentified as Alison Lynne and as having a PhD. Shamblaw is a nurse and clinical psychology master’s student. Incorrect information appeared in the Feb. 6 issue of the Journal.

The Journal regrets the errors.


Activism, Mental health

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