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Project HEAL promotes healthy living

| Monday, September 22, 2014

Saint Mary’s senior Mackenzie Woods has seen Project HEAL make a difference on campus since it was recognized as a campus organization last spring. HEAL stands for Help to Eat, Accept and Live, and the Saint Mary’s chapter is one of several in a larger national non-profit organization that aims to contribute to education about eating disorders and support for those who struggle with such diseases.

Project HEAL Pic SMCPhoto courtesy of SMC Project HEAL
Woods said eating disorders affect roughly 30 million Americans, yet the diseases are often overlooked, especially on Saint Mary’s campus. Project HEAL is a resource for those who are faced with unhealthy body images and eating disorders, providing women with a positive outlet and support system, she said.

“Project HEAL’s national goal is to provide scholarship funding for people with eating disorders who cannot afford treatment, to promote healthy body image and self-esteem and to serve as a testament that full recovery from an eating disorder is possible,” Woods said.

Woods said it is estimated that 25 percent of college students suffer from eating disorders.

“Those statistics are staggering, and I believe these are issues we must bring to the limelight, especially on an all-women’s campus,” Woods said.

Woods fully understands the struggles brought on by eating disorders, as she herself has faced the challenge of overcoming anorexia.

“As a recovered anorexic, I know all too well the feelings of loneliness and unworthiness that accompany an eating disorder,” Woods said.  “Saint Mary’s is a tight-knit sisterhood, and we need to be empowering and building each other up. You never know what your fellow sister may be going through.”

As the founder and chapter leader of Project HEAL at Saint Mary’s, Woods has big plans for the semester, including fundraising and awareness events. On Wednesday, the Five Guys franchise located on Eddy Street will host a Dine and Donate night for the chapter.

“Mention Project HEAL SMC [at Five Guys on Wednesday] and a portion of the day’s sales will be donated to our organization,” Woods said.

The Saint Mary’s chapter of Project HEAL also plans to contribute to the national scholarship fund for treatment, which is made possible through donations of more than thirty Project HEAL chapters.

“Each quarter, [the national chapter of] Project HEAL reviews applications for the scholarship and grants money for treatment to a qualifying individual,” Woods said. “Since its founding in 2008, Project HEAL national has raised over $400,000 and has sent eleven applicants to residential and intensive outpatient treatment.”

Woods said Project HEAL hopes to host guest speakers, screen documentaries and open-forum discussions to educate and promote healthy body image and self-esteem.

The chapter also plans to sell merchandise on campus and offer a canvas-painting event to create awareness of Project HEAL’S mission.

As interest grows from Activities Night and by word of mouth, Woods said she hopes to expand the mission into an awareness certification program to reach the larger community.

“… Members of Project HEAL learn how to lead by example in being positive in their comments toward others and refraining from body bashing,” Woods said.

Woods said more information on Project HEAL is available on the club’s Facebook page — Project HEAL Saint Mary’s — or on Instagram @projectheal_smc. Students can also get in contact with the chapter at saintmarys@theprojectheal.org.

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About Haleigh Ehmsen

A senior at Saint Mary's, Haleigh is majoring in Communication Studies and English Literature & Writing. She serves as the Saint Mary's editor and enjoys coffee, guacamole and good books.

Contact Haleigh