SRU’s Active Minds organization challenged myths about people with eating disorders by inviting an anorexia nervosa survivor and a panel of students and faculty to raise awareness for National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.
Junior philosophy and psychology major, Ivey Shorts, 20, spoke on her struggle with anorexia Monday at 7 p.m. in Advanced Technology and Science Hall (ATS) to educate people on eating disorders, and challenge common misconceptions about them.
“People generally think of anorexia as being a ‘rich white girls’ disease,” Shorts said, “but it affects people of all ages, races, and occurs in men as well.”
After being diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, Shorts had to take a semester off from Thiel College, where she received inpatient treatment to battle her disease.
“A lot of people think that if they relapse, then they’re failures,” Shorts said. “Relapsing is a part of the process, and it’s okay. You just have to keep going.”
The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) reports that anorexia has the highest mortality rate among psychiatric illnesses, which Shorts said is a shame, because if it’s caught early, it’s very treatable.
As an advocate for NEDA, Shorts said that it’s important to reassure people who suffer from anorexia that they are beautiful for what they have on the inside, and people who are trying to help should not compliment them based on their physical appearance.
“I realized I needed help when I started isolating myself from my friends and lying about my behavior,” Shorts said. “Recovery is far from unicorns and rainbows, but I had a great support system who was there for me no matter what.
Active Minds also held a panel discussion on Tuesday during common hour in the Smith Student Center called “Dude, get your weight up,” which was a discussion on body dysmorphia, and eating disorders among men.
Panelist Dr. Gerard Love presented statistics that said 38% of men would give up a year of their life to have the perfect body, and that 80% of men worry about their body image and hair, which was 5% more than women worried about those things.
“There’s been a movement for women in body acceptance, and so women are more comfortable talking about those issues” Love said. “Men don’t have that same type of support system.”
While coordinator of wellness at the ARC, Brian Mortimer said that men compare their body types to those of movie stars and models, and revolve their workout routines around getting bigger and more muscular, often using supplements to move them toward that goal.
“I call it the ‘GNC Effect,’” Mortimer said. “Ergogenic aids and supplements have become the norm, but they weren’t around when I was in college. People use protein powder and creatine to push themselves, and often times the supplements they’re using are unregulated, and don’t have any actual impact on muscle gain. In the worst case scenario, they can actually harm you.”
Associate athletic director, Torry Rollins said that body pressures for males often manifest while they’re playing sports, and trying to compete to the person who is next to them.
“In wrestling and swimming especially, athletes are always trying to become leaner, either to maintain their weight class, or become more agile,” Rollins said. “With constant pressure being put on how much an athlete weighs, their eating behavior could lapse into anorexia.”
Senior public health and psychology major, Qaadir Anderson-Perry, 21, said that he injured his spine trying to compete with other athletes in high school.
“I’ve fallen victim to that kind of behavior,” Anderson-Perry said. “I competed in four sports in high school, and I wasn’t being cautious about how much I was lifting, and I hurt myself. It’s sad to see that people jeopardize their health for the sake of looking impressive to other people.”
On the topic of competing with the person next to you, Anderson-Perry also said that that kind of behavior deters unfit people from going to the gym.
“There are Vines and posts on Twitter that show unfit people at the gym using machines incorrectly, and people laugh at them,” he said. “It’s a shame that people can’t go to the gym to try and improve their body image without fear that someone is going to make fun of them.”