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Panel explores body image, eating disorders

| Friday, February 28, 2014

Students gathered in the Student Center on Wednesday night to hear panelists discuss struggles with body image as part of Love Your Body Week at Saint Mary’s.

Junior Sam Moorhead, Social Concerns Committee chair for the Student Government Association, said the idea of having a panel present at Love Your Body Week was inspired by the positive results of a panel at Support a Belle, Love a Belle week in the fall.

“Essentially it is to promote dialogue on issues that are so seldom talked about,” Moorhead said. “Throughout the school year we have one week where we focus on body related issues … [and it] is such an important issue that so many people struggle with but not many people talk about.”

Junior Mackenzie Woods started the night by sharing her experience with anorexia. She named her eating disorder “Ed” and said that Ed chose her.

“Ed is the voice that lives inside me, pushing me to embody perfection in its most extreme form,” Woods said. “You could say I was destined to develop an eating disorder from early on. The eating disorder was never something that I chose. Quite the contrary, in fact, Ed chose me as one of his victims.”

Woods said she was determined to be the best anorexic. But eventually she made the choice of life over death and a healthy life over Ed. Woods recovered five years ago and has stayed healthy with the help of family, friends and her faith. Ed was a gift, Woods said.

“It may seem strange that anyone would want to toy with death and experience such loss and pain,” she said. “However, in my mind Ed was a gift.

“He was much less about food and the desire to be thin and much more about my emotional, spiritual, mental and creative hunger. He was a disguised opportunity for me to learn more about myself and the inner strength I never knew I had.”

Woods is in the process of creating a chapter of Project HEAL at Saint Mary’s. HEAL stands for Help to Eat, Accept and Live. Project HEAL sponsors a scholarship program for people who cannot afford treatment.

“I’m hoping to raise awareness of eating disorders on campus,” Woods said. “I’m hoping to really get people talking about them because it’s often taboo and under the rug.”

Junior Abby Roggemann shared her emotional and ongoing battle with anorexia. Roggemann said her best friend ¾ her eating disorder ¾ became her worst enemy.

“Once I realized how good I was at starving myself, it got out of control quickly,” she said. “I never thought an eating disorder could happen to me, but it can happen to anyone.

“I was counting every single calorie that entered my body. It felt so good that I just couldn’t stop. It was a rude awakening when I had to admit to myself that I had a problem. I couldn’t go any longer and was scared for my future.”

Roggemann said the road to recovery is a continuous journey. There is no fast fix or cure-all for an eating disorder.

“I want to give you an ending with rainbows and unicorns and glitter but it’s my story, its not over yet and it wont be for a really long a time,” Roggemann said. “I’m still not really sure what the term recovery means.

“Honestly I’m not recovered, but I hope my constant work will help my disordered thoughts and behaviors grow farther and fewer. There is no fast fix or cure-all for an eating disorder.”

Sophomore Bridget Dedelow, who has cerebral palsy, discussed her body image issues as well. Dedelow said she noticed something was “off” with her when she was six years old.

“People everyday compare themselves to models and actresses and in high school I did the same,” Dedelow said. “But when I looked in the mirror I didn’t see anything. I didn’t see confidence, I didn’t see a good body image, I basically saw nothing.

“And I was basically angrier at that time. Angry for having something this thing that I couldn’t really control, angry for being awkward around other people, angry for other people that were being constantly reminded that they were normal and I wasn’t and angry at the scars that were on my body. “

Dedelow said it was not until she came to Saint Mary’s that she began working on her own body image. She said her story is still ongoing with the help of supportive friends and family.

“I learned to talk about my feelings instead of hiding them,” Dedelow said. “My favorite Beatles quote is ‘Tomorrow may rain but follow the sun.’”

Moorhead said the event was great because she was able to hear personal Saint Mary’s stories.

“It was obviously such a great experience for the people here and them because it takes so much courage and I’m so proud of them for doing it,” Moorhead said.

A mass in Le Mans followed the panel. The chosen passages related to God’s image and body image in some way.

“We have not had a mass in the past, but being a Catholic women’s college we thought we should add faith to it and the week,” Moorhead said. “We decided to have that faith component because a lot of people rely on faith in order to get them through their struggles so we thought this was a great opportunity to do that.”

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About Alex Winegar

A junior at Saint Mary's, Alex is a Communicative Sciences and Disorders major. She serves as the Saint Mary's co-associate news editor. Alex enjoys traveling, food and spending time in "The Mitten."

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  • Dr. Kathleen Fuller

    This part of Wood’s quote touched me, ” a disguised opportunity for me to learn more about myself and the inner strength I never knew I had.” I believe that the truth will set you free. I write about ED and hope to help educate about the many aspects of this deadly problem. I’ve posted about how acute cancer can be like anorexia from my personal experiences. The 15 posted intuitive drawings are shocking but beautifully honest. These drawings I hope will help raise awareness too.