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OC raises awareness of eating disorders

Oklahoma Christian University is recognizing Eating Disorder Awareness week on campus through a variety of events.

Psychology professor Tina Winn said that eating disorders area prevalent issue in society and need to be talked about.

“Eating disorders are a serious issue,” Winn said. “They cause a lot of physical harm as well as psychological harm and so awareness of that and awareness of getting help and preventing them is really important.”

On March 6, students were able to watch “Killing Us Softly,” a documentary, created by Jean Kilbourne, that addresses how women are objectified and sexualized in mass media advertising.

“It’s something we’re all aware of at some level,” Winn said. “But these media messages are just out there so much that we don’t pay attention to them.”

According to Winn, although it seems like the objectification of women in advertisements and media has become a sudden issue, it began a long time ago.

“You can look back even in early media,” Winn said. “Women were objectified in how they looked, how they presented themselves, how they took care of their families. That started with the very beginning of mass advertisements.”

Winn said that society has a strong impact on young adults and confuses them with mixed messages on how they are supposed to view and take care of their bodies.

“They’re told on the one hand that they should be healthy and love themselves,” Winn said. “But on the other hand they’re supposed to look this way, and there’s so much attention given to people who do look that way.”

Adults also reinforce societal messages to look a certain way, according to Winn.

“Even adults can put pressure on younger girls and boys to go ahead and diet, to be so focused on their bodies,” Winn said. “It overshadows other areas of life.”

On Tuesday, junior Gabby Bridgeman spoke in chapel, sharing her personal experience with eating disorders, to raise awareness of their detrimental physical and psychological effects.

Students gathered on Tuesday night to break and beat their scales in the Forum at “Smash the Scale.”

Students smashed scales with hammers to "free" themselves from bad self-image. Photo by Abby Bellow
Students smashed scales with hammers to “free” themselves from bad self-image.
Photo by Abby Bellow

Junior Jenna Nichols and Spiritual Life Coordinator Summer Lashley created the event to remind students that they are worth more than the number on the scale.

“I thought this would be a great way to educate others and get people to talk about eating disorders,” Nichols said.

Nichols said she first experienced the event during her personal eating disorder therapy at Ohio State University in 2013, and she wanted Oklahoma Christian students to have the opportunity to experience it as well.

“My main goal is I hope that people who are struggling will talk or speak up, or just be aware of others around them and be supportive of those who are,” Nichols said.

The topic of eating disorders does not get enough attention, according to Nichols.

“I feel like mainly the reason we don’t talk about it is because people feel ashamed about it, like it’s a source of failure,” Nichols said. “People look at it like it’s a disease and it’s not.”

During the event, students brought their own scales and smashed the scales to “free themselves” from the pressure to weigh a certain number.

Sophomore Remi Hetherington said she came to the event to offer her support for those who struggle with eating disorders.

 “It’s a problem because a lot of girls are worried about getting judged for the way they look,” Hetherington said. “They’re worried about trying to fit in and look a certain way.”

 By smashing scales, students are able to demonstrate that they are more than their weight, according to Hetherington.

“The event tells you that numbers don’t matter, just love yourself,” Hetherington said. “Don’t worry about how others see you, just accept who you are, embrace it and don’t let your weight control you.”

According to Nichols, students should take advantage of the opportunities offered on campus to raise awareness of eating disorders this week.

“Coming to the events is a great way to show your support and feel more involved,” Nichols said. “As an OC community, people need people, especially in recovery. You can’t do it alone.”

Nichols said she hopes that both the male and female students on campus recognize that they are more than the measures they define themselves by, and that those who do struggle with an eating disorder have courage to ask for help.

“You are more than just a number on a scale,” Nichols said. “You have so much more worth than what you tell yourself. You are a much better person when you’re not alone. You can accomplish so much more with the help of others.”

On Wednesday, March 9 Lashley will speak in chapel, followed by the “I Am Enough” event on Thursday, March 10.

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