By Melanie De Lima and Jamie Swinnerton
Active Minds and IC Feminists United brought together three on campus experts last Wednesday to discuss eating disorders, and what we can do as a community to help address these issues.
Cathy Soloff-Coste is a professional nutritionist who lends her expertise to the college. She brought up some of the prevalent myths around eating disorders.
“Sometimes people feel that it’s a choice, that it’s a lifestyle choice. But in reality people don’t choose to have eating disorders. It is a psychiatric illness. It has a very high mortality rate. Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness.”
All three members of the panel, which also included Dr. Vivian Lorenzo from Hammond Health Center, and Alice Meilman, a social worker from CAPS, mentioned the need for all three of their specialties to be involved in a person’s recovery.
Unlike getting better from a broken bone or infection, they agreed that recovery for an eating disorder is a process.
“Many people when they’ve achieved their normal, healthy weight range, and their in recovery for an eating disorder, people around them feel like they are cured. But that’s far from the truth. That’s like the first phase of recovery in some sense.”
Meilman runs a weekly discussion group called “Making Peace with Food” for anyone that feels anxiety around eating.
She started it about twelve years ago when she saw a lack of conversation around eating disorders.
“It’s so prevalent on college campuses it’s really prevalent in our society and that’s not something that’s always talked openly about so I wanted to offer a safe space for people to begin to talk and get support and help”
One of the major points the speakers focused on was how to help someone who might have an eating disorder.
Meilman’s first piece of advice was to tell them how you’re feeling. If you start by talking about yours elf, using “I” statements, they will be less likely to get defensive. But the best thing we can all do is to just start talking about them.
“The secretiveness around it often perpetuates the disorder itself you know often people will once they’re ready to talk about and come to treatment will talk about how the very fact of talking opens them up to change and recovery.”
Marissa Framarini is a senior at Ithaca College.. who has a history of battling an eating disorder. She says it started when she was around seven years old. It wasn’t until she was fourteen that she recognized the problem for what it was.
“To the point where I couldn’t eat anything until I weighed myself, I felt so uncomfortable. Eventually I just broke down and called a friend and explained it all. She was so helpful in recovering. I was really, really happy to have her with me, bind that struggle.”
Having someone listen to her, instead of try to take over her recovery, was important.
“So I know when I came forward to a lot of people, it got to the point where it was actually more hurtful. People would be like “Why don’t you just eat a cheeseburger” or “Why don’t you, you know, just eat that.” When food becomes the main topic of conversation with another person you just came forward to, it confirms your idea that food is the center of your world. So I think always seeing it through a physical angle is a very negative way to react.”
During National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, Framarini works to draw attention to this issue on social media and personally reaches out to her friends.
Both the panel and Framarini say education around eating disorders is necessary to alert people to their existence and combat misconceptions that surround them.