Students and administrators are collaborating to increase awareness about eating disorders on campus this week as part of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week.
Spearheaded by sophomore Taylor Turkeltaub, the week aims to promote meaningful conversations about Duke’s attitudes concerning mental health and push against a superficial approach to dealing with eating disorders. The events are jointly sponsored by Counseling and Psychological Services, Student Health, the Women’s Center, Panhellenic Association, Athletics, the Student Wellness Center, Do Something! and the WHO Speaks campaign.
“The thing that is most damaging about [some] campaigns is that they promote and spread that eating disorders are superficial,” Turkeltaub said. “Those campaigns are what cause the statements: ‘You’re pretty—why don’t you just go eat a sandwich?’ It’s way more complicated than that.”
NEDA Week aims to take a more personalized approach to addressing eating disorders as opposed to the general and limiting scientific dichotomy of bulimia versus anorexia, Turkeltaub noted. By having events ranging from talks on helping friends who are struggling with eating disorders with speaker Nancy Zucker, director of the Duke Center for Eating Disorders, to displaying provocative pictures of people who once had eating disorders at a gallery in the Bryan Center, the organizers of the event are hoping to get more students talking about the sensitive issue.
Approximately 40 percent of students seeking services at CAPS are identified as having some form of distress in their relationship with food and dissatisfaction with their body image, Kelly Crace, director of CAPS, wrote in an email Sunday. It is more complicated to determine the rate of eating disorders among students due to the way CAPS tracks and obtains clinical information, the multiple agents involved in diagnosis and treatment of the disorders and the tendency of eating disorders to be underreported.
Paula Scataloni, coordinator of eating and body image concerns for CAPS and adviser for NEDA Week, believes many students develop eating disorders based on specific discouraging mentalities.
“If we have a climate at Duke where vulnerabilities are not allowed and students are so busy that relationships become secondary, it can become easy for one to begin to have a relationship with food instead of people, or to feel deficits in their relationships with people and use food to curb those deficits,” Scataloni explained.
Scataloni believes the issue has kept many students silent or in the dark about what disordered eating actually is.
“This issue has particularly a lot of stigma,” Scataloni said. “The way people eat here is so normalized that they don’t even know they have eating disorders.”
Junior Flora Muglia, Panhel executive vice president, said this issue has a large impact on Duke sorority life.
“It’s a really big issue for a lot of women, and as the largest organization of women on campus, we thought that this could be a real tangible way to make a true impact on campus,” Muglia said.
She added that she hopes new sorority members learn about the prevalence and impact of eating disorders sooner rather than later.
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Kate Pilewski, a dietitian at Student Health, said she hopes students engage in important conversations on the topic.
“Talking about a healthy body image and how to properly nourish your body is important so that we can foster a healthy, supportive environment here at Duke,” Pilewski wrote in an email Feb. 12.
Scataloni said she also hopes to see the trend of actively involved students continue, and for students to become aware of all of the resources available to them for dealing with body image concerns.
“No one wants to confront someone with a disorder. The problem is that if you don’t confront them, you’re enabling them,” Scataloni said.