North Texas Daily

Third annual eating disorder awareness walk moves to the Square, raises more than $3,700

Third annual eating disorder awareness walk moves to the Square, raises more than $3,700

Third annual eating disorder awareness walk moves to the Square, raises more than $3,700
February 23
17:38 2019

More than 200 people gathered at the Denton County Courthouse and raised a total of $3,753 for the third annual National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) Walk on Saturday morning in honor of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week.

The funds, down from last year’s $7,000, will go toward supporting research related to eating disorders and advocating for laws relating to eating disorders.

For the last two years, the NEDA Walk was held at UNT. Coordinator Steffanie Grossman, who is also a body image services specialist for UNT’s Counseling and Testing Services, said she was hoping to reach a wider audience by having the walk at the courthouse.

“[The walk] highlights that you’re not alone if you’re experiencing eating disorder symptoms, and it shows that we have resources for you,” Grossman said. “One of the biggest parts about eating disorders is it makes it hard to get out, it’s isolating.”

According to the NEDA website, 30 million Americans struggle with an eating disorder at some point in their lives. Grossman said that eating disorders can affect anybody but when looking at college students, about one in five have an eating disorder.

“If we have almost 300 people who come to this walk, that’s 300 people whose lives have been touched in some way, shape or form by an eating disorder,” Grossman said.

Grossman said having UNT students who are currently in recovery as speakers would help show the audience that there is hope to recover.

Grossman contacted Active Minds, a UNT organization that aims to educate peers on mental health resources, to table at the walk along with other UNT and local organizations. Along with other members, Active Minds president Macy Faust, a rehab studies freshman, and vice president Gabriela Cauton, a psychology sophomore, prepared a vision board with body positive messages to display at the walk.

Annetta Ramsay, a local eating disorder expert who also spoke at the walk, said eating disorders are influenced by biological, psychological and social factors.

Grossman said social media could lend itself to comparison for individuals with eating disorders, especially in younger people. In order to educate their team, Faust and Cauton showed culturally relevant videos, such as how filters on Snapchat contributes to body dysmorphia.

“It shouldn’t be romanticized,” Faust said. “It should be taken seriously. It’s not something that’s bad, but it’s not something that you should be scared to talk about.”

Both Cauton and Grossman emphasized that people of any gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation can be affected by mental illness.

“You never know that the person sitting next to you in class might be suffering from something,” Cauton said. “Just being aware that it exists and being aware that you know there are people who are struggling with this.”

Communications junior Brittany Wierman, one of the two student speakers, first heard about the NEDA Walk when it was recommended to her on Facebook last year, and ended up attending.

“I felt like I really had no hope because I was like, I have to go to college and I can’t afford this,” Wierman said. “But luckily with resources like UNT, with their Body Image and Eating Awareness Team, I was able to manage my life and my schoolwork and still recover.”

Members of the Denton community participate in the third annual NEDA walk. The event took place at Denton square. Image by: Mallory Cammarata.

Wierman, who is a proponent for social justice issues, said treatment can be financially challenging.

“I think it’s important that we pay attention to increasing treatment options for people especially of a lower a socioeconomic background, people of color and people with larger bodies.”

Wierman said she exhibited signs of anorexia as early as her sophomore year of high school, but thought her behavior was nothing out of the ordinary.

It was during her freshman year of college through a Skype conversation with her boyfriend that she realized something was wrong as he questioned why she was measuring out her cheerios at 7 p.m., she said.

Warning signs for eating disorders include a preoccupation with weight, food and calories, as well as withdrawal from usual activities and extreme mood swings, according to the NEDA website.

“It became my only way of getting through my day, [I] was focusing on what I could eat and how much I would be exercising,” Wierman said. “I was at a point in my life where I felt very depressed and I had nothing else to look forward to.”

Near the end of her freshman year, Wierman said something that helped her choose a road to recovery was thinking about how her eating disorder would effect her in the future, like if she were to have kids or work an office job.

Wierman said she found out about UNT’s Body Image and Eating Awareness Team through a poster for a dietician and later set up her first appointment.

“Every time I felt very resistant [to recover], I would say, this is not normal to me and there’s no way that this could last forever because it will kill you,” Wierman said. “When I say UNT saved my life … it saved my life.”

Featured Image: Steffanie Grossman introduces the third annual NEDA walk event. Grossman is the walk coordinator and also works at UNT’s Counseling and Testing Services. Image by: Mallory Cammarata.

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Michelle Nguyen

Michelle Nguyen

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