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Week of events focuses on boosting body image

Celebrate Every Body Week provides open space for discussion, education on eating disorders

Annie Buffington, Health Services’ registered dietitian, said she still gets chills when she recalls a patient saying, “I feel a weight has lifted.” Buffington’s patient, who suffered from an eating disorder, gained weight in the recovery process but actually felt lighter afterward, Buffington added.

Celebrate Every Body Week, a series of events sponsored by Brown Health Education, aims to create safe spaces for students to discuss body image and eating disorders. The events, which kicked off Monday, end today and coincide with National Eating Disorders Awareness Week.

Brown Health Education has hosted a similar program for over 15 years, said Cynthia Ellis, psychotherapist at Psychological Services. During her time at Brown, the program has expanded from just a table promoting awareness to various speakers and finally to a week featuring a variety of events, including a fun ­—­ and sweaty — Zumba party, Buffington said.

The week also featured a panel Wednesday entitled “I Had No Idea: Understanding Food, Body, Self.” The community expert-led panel discussed topics like the relationship between food and bodies and the available resources for treating eating disorders. The panel incorporated an anonymous question-and-answer portion due to the sensitive nature of the discussion.

Yoga classes sponsored by the Yoga and Mindfulness student group were also offered throughout the week, and inspirational quotes were posted on mirrors in the Stephen Robert ’62 Campus Center and Jonathan Nelson ’77 Fitness Center. A health education and affirmation table at the Sharpe Refectory provided students with free buttons and awareness bracelets.

Buffington said she is constantly reminded through her work with Health Services why it’s important to discuss eating disorders and body image, adding that she advises a range of students, including athletes and males, who are not typically associated with body image-related problems.

Though athletes may appear to be the fittest, healthiest students on campus, some have exercise disorders, said Caitlin Taylor ’14.

“I see some students using this valuable tool of self-care as a form of punishment for what they’ve eaten or (as a way) to earn calories,” Buffington said.

The Zumba party — attended by between 50 and 70 people — reminded students of how enjoyable exercise can be, said Camille Garnsey ’17.

Covered mirrors encouraged participants to be goofy and less self-conscious, Garnsey said. “You can’t help but smile when you are moving your body in enjoyable ways.”

Eating disorders are not just a medical, psychological or social problem, Taylor said. Their diverse nature requires a multifaceted solution, which Celebrate Every Body Week achieves by offering a wide array of events and incorporating various campus outlets, she said.

Active Minds ­­— a national mental health advocacy, education and awareness organization — is hosting a safe space in the Underground next Thursday at 7:30 p.m. for open discussion about body image and eating disorders, said Julia Lynford ’14, co-founder of Brown’s Active Minds chapter. This week, the group covered campus with positive notes about body image in honor of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, she said.



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