Combating Stigma with Eating Disorder Awareness Week

Photo by Chris Madden / Getty Images

In honour of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week in Canada, the SSMU Eating Disorder Resource and Support Center (EDRSC) hosted, for a second consecutive year, various events on the McGill Campus from February 3 – 7  to spread awareness and provide support for those in the Montréal and McGill community who struggle with eating disorders.

The EDRSC provides a “non-diagnostic, non-therapeutic, non-directional, active listening, non-judgmental, and informational space for students and peers who seek to converse about eating disorders.” Kristie Mar, a McGill U3 science student and event coordinator of the SSMU EDRSC, explained that the EDRSC was created two years ago after the realization that, “there was nothing specific on campus for eating disorders, nor support for it.”

In addition to the hosted events during Eating Disorder Awareness Week, the EDRSC plans on working throughout the year on campus. Mar anticipates future possible collaboration projects between the EDRSC and other student services and wellness groups on campus, such as SACOMSS (The Sexual Assault Centre of the McGill Students’ Society), to build an inclusive and reaching community.

“The purpose is to create an inclusive space for people that need help right then and now,” said Mar. “Half of [our services] consists of raising awareness through eating disorder awareness week and other events on campus, and the other half consists of drop-ins and support groups for people who have disordered eating/eating disorders.”

The events organized by the SSMU EDRSC throughout Eating Disorder Awareness Week were the following: on Monday 3rd, a workshop and discussion panel on Diet Culture. On Wednesday 5th, an open group discussion. On Friday 7th, an Art Hive to end the week on a positive and inspiring note.

The February 3rd active workshop on diet culture was orchestrated by registered and weight-inclusive dietician and McGill alum Lisa Rutledge. The workshop focused on debunking and demystifying the tenets of diet-culture that value weight, shape, and size over health and well-being. These beliefs are prevalent in Western societies and the media, where thinness is a central characteristic of beauty ideals.

“Because diet-culture is so loud, it is easy for people to believe what it says,” Rutledge explains. “Today, there is a lot of misinformation, assumptions, and non-science-based facts about weight, health, and eating disorders. It is important to give a voice to the other side of the coin, the more scientific side of diet culture, eating and wellness.”

As Mar explained, Eating Disorder Awareness Wellness Weak is essential to fight off the stigmas that surround eating disorders.

“I’ve noticed that whereas the term ‘mental health’ is used more and more, in the case of eating disorders, I don’t think we’re quite there yet,” Mar confessed. “Give it a couple more years and it will probably be more normalized, but for now, it is within the mental health hub but slightly isolated as it has been left out for so long.”

Mar suggests that Eating Disorder Awareness Week, while important nationwide, is especially crucial on a university campus like McGill. University can be a stressful time, not only due to the amount of schoolwork, but also because it is many people’s first experience with independence.

“Because you’re away from home, it is easy to get lost in your schoolwork while also trying to take care of yourself at the same time,” Mar underlined. “People are starting to get their own voices, learn their own individuality and make their own decisions in life, which is why university is a great place to foster the formation of healthy habits and healthy mindsets that people can carry with them for the rest of their lives.”

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