Eating two quarts of ice cream, not eating for two weeks, eating for two hours straight and vomiting immediately after. These are all images of the extreme measures taken by victims of eating disorders. Those with eating disorders often suffer from body dysmorphic disorder and don’t always see the truth in the mirror. Although disorders such anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are talked about most, what is less known is how many people actually suffer from the consequences of such deadly diseases.
Eating Disorder Awareness Week, which began on campus Monday, Feb. 28, was designed to help those dealing with eating disorders to raise overall awareness about the diseases. RUBI (Respecting and Understanding Body Image) is a student organization on campus concerned with body image and eating disorders responsible for organizing the week. RUBI planned the activities in accordance with the National Eating Disorder Awareness Week also being recognized.
[today] On campus, the highlight of the week for the last five years has been Take Back Your Body Tuesday, which took place in the Wonders Hall Kiva from 7 to 9 p.m., Tuesday, March 1. The event was open-mic style and students freely shared their stories and experiences. Many women and men at all stages of illness and recovery, and also supporters, spoke to the group of almost 90 about their many struggles and hopes.
Ronda Bokram, nutritionist at Olin Health Center and advisor for RUBI, said this event is always the most powerful one of the week. “Students are free to go up there and open up about how they feel,” Bokram said. “It’s OK to just let it out and cry and know that everyone in this room is there to listen and support.”
Kinesiology sophomore Jakki Waldecker was one such student who had an emotional breakthrough and shared a powerful message about her battles with anorexia and bulimia. “Maybe one day I’ll stand up here and tell you how great it is to live,” she said. “Today is not the day.”
Others, like recovering bulimic, Leah, a hospitality and business junior, spoke about their difficulties of living with the guilt and shame that come with the illness. “You lie to people that you love,” Leah said. “You spend energy thinking about things that you don’t need to be thinking about. We aren’t treated as victims of illness – it’s like we are just people that are out of control, extremists.”
Tina Metropoulos, first-year osteopathic medicine student and president of RUBI, commented on the goals of the organization. “Some people who are struggling with a disorder or poor body image are helped by knowing that there are others out there in the same place,” Metropoulos said. “Also, we try to reach those who know someone who needs help. It’s important to spread the message that eating disorders are a big issue, not just to people who deal with them, but to the general public.”
[victim] Other students not only spoke about eating disorders, but also about issues they were having or have had about body image. Quite a few men showed up to the forum, which Borkam said was the biggest male turnout the event has seen in the five years the night has been taking place on campus.
During the last event of the week, Wednesday Without Worry, on March 2, RUBI distributed about 20,000 Twix bars on campus from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Each bar had a positive message stuck to it. The message and small snack were passed out in an attempt to promote guilt-free eating, or in this case, just snacking.
RUBI worked very intently on spreading the message that, while taking care of your body is important, so is overall wellness, and above all, being happy with yourself. Bokram said this event was another important one for students to seek out and enjoy. “It’s fun because it’s a day to not worry about those numbers and to just enjoy a little snack.” It is also in an effort to reach out to those on campus who have not yet heard of RUBI, as this event is often the most remembered one.
According to the National Eating Disorders Web site, as many as 10 million females and one million males are fighting a life and death battle with an eating disorder. Eating disorders are plaguing young women and men across the country, especially college-age students.
For the past few years organizations like RUBI and respective advocates of the cause across campus have been attempting to target the MSU community and raise their concerns for eating disorders. Most students, when asked, had heard of the week but weren’t sure about MSU’s involvement. However, they did feel the contribution was a great idea and something that should be made a “bigger deal.”
Crystal Jackson, humanities and pre-law sophomore, said she’s happy MSU is targeting the community. “People make a bigger deal about their weight than they should,” Jackson said. “I believe that not everyone is meant to be a certain shape or a certain size.”
Beyond raising awareness, the week can also help people learn to help themselves or a friend. Bokram and Metropoulos both hope the awareness week will become increasingly successful each year and more people will be willing to take part in helping those who need help, as Waldecker said, learning to live.
For more information about Eating Disorder Awareness Week, visit the national Web site at www.nationaleatingdisorders.org.To contact Ronda Bokram please call (517) 355-7593 or e-mail her at ronda.bokram@ht.msu.edu. To contact RUBI visit their Web site at www.msu.edu/~RUBI.

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