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GRC holds annual body image week

by AMANDA GRAY | Sunday, October 3, 2010

For the seventh consecutive year, the Gender Relations Center (GRC), in alliance with several other on-campus groups and offices, will be celebrating a week to increase awareness about body image and eating disorders.

From today through Sunday, Body Image and Eating Disorders Awareness Week will host events throughout campus on a variety of topics within the larger discussion.

“We want people and students talking to each other about body image,” Heather Racokzy Russell, program director for the GRC, said. “We don’t want them to be silent about these things. At the very least people will realize they don’t have to be alone in these things.”

Finding Balance in College: How to do it with your Healthy Voice is the first women-only event in the history of the week is tonight at Legends from 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. The event will feature Meredith Terpeluk, a Notre Dame graduate and president of a wellness and life coaching company. Russell said she will bring a unique viewpoint to the lecture because she knows what the environment is like on campus.

Tuesday night will feature the Mass of Healing at 10 p.m. in the Dillon Hall Chapel.

“The Mass of Healing puts a special Notre Dame spin on this kind of thing,” Russell said.

The panel, Perfectly Disordered: Eating Disorders, Body Image and College Life, is Wednesday night in the Eck Center Auditorium. The panel will feature talks from students as well as Valerie Staples, a staff psychologist from the University Counseling Center.

“This will offer a much broader perspective,” Russell said.

Russell said attitudes at Notre Dame can serve a breeding ground for body image problems and eating disorders.

“Notre Dame is an environment where competition and perfection run rampant,” she said. “We need to work together to overcome obstacles and head in the direction of recovery.”

Public service announcement put together by the Week’s organizers will run in Saturday’s football program.

“Eating disorders are serious, life threatening illness — not choices,” the announcement states. “It is important to recognize the pressures, attitudes and behaviors that contribute to the development of eating disorders and body image concerns.”

Russell said this is the first time the week has run anything in the football program, but she is hoping it will help with the cause.

“The point is for outreach to the larger community,” she said. “This is an issue Notre Dame students are concerned about.”

More than 10 million females and 1 million males battles with an eating disorder, the announcement states.

“Some people perceive that Notre Dame students have it all together and that Notre Dame students wouldn’t battles these issues,” Russell said. “It’s actually much more likely with high-achieving students to experience these issues.”

Other events this week include a poster campaign and an event with AcoustiCafe.

The poster campaign, called “This Is My Student Body,” is continued from something student government started last year, senior Mariah McGrogan said. McGrogan is co-chair of the Gender Issues Committee for Student Senate and works as a student assistant with the GRC.

“It’s an idea that takes inspiration from the Dove ‘Real Beauty’ campaign,” McGrogan said. “The ‘Real Beauty’ campaign is about not feeling anxiety about your natural beauty.”

The posters have images of students, along with quotes and Notre Dame images to make the campaign speak to the campus about awareness.

“The Week is a good healing experience for those who’ve dealt with eating disorders or body images issues,” she said. “But it’s also important to raise awareness …We need to check ourselves with our language and dieting habits.”

The AcoustiCafe event will feature the regular musicians of AcoustiCafe with songs, spoken word pieces and information about body image and eating disorders.

“The nice part about the AcoustiCafe event is we’re taking a signature staple event at Notre Dame and asking them to feature this issue,” she said. “We hope the regulars are exposed to something they wouldn’t have typically attended.”

Russell said students should talk to someone if they are experiencing problems with these issues.

“It’s so important for them to talk to one person they can trust,” she said. “Not someone who will support putting them down when they say things like, ‘I feel fat.’ They need someone who they can reach out to for help.”

The Week is sponsored through the GRC, in collaboration with the University Counseling Center, Student-Athlete Welfare and Development, Feminist Voice and student government.

Visit grc.nd.edu for more information.