Editor’s note: This article contains discussions of eating disorders.
The Eating Disorder Awareness Club (EDAC) was founded by Julia O’Grady, a senior at Saint Mary’s College, during the summer of 2021. Since then, the club has expanded to include a Notre Dame chapter led by junior Mollie McKone. The Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame chapters work together, and EDAC represents the tri-campus community.
McKone explained that the mission of EDAC is to build a community with those afflicted by eating disorders.
The mission of EDAC is “to make a place where people can find resources and find other people who may have struggled in the past and have a community and a network of people they can talk to,” McKone said.
O’Grady said previously, there was no organization on campus allocated for eating disorders, and she formed the club to be a place for education.
EDAC was formed to “advocate for those who have experienced, are experiencing or may be at risk for experiencing an eating disorder,” she said. “The goal is to educate and break down stigmas that are associated with eating disorders and to promote awareness about the proper way to go about educating about eating disorders.”
MccKone seconded the need to destigmatize eating disorders.
“We saw a need for an organization that advocated [for] and recognized that there needs to be a culture shift on college campuses about the way we look at eating and the way we have discourse about eating and exercising and recognizing that there is a real problem,” McKone said.
McKone explained that eating disorders are prevalent on college campuses due to people attempting to gain control over their lives during a time of change.
“Unfortunately, food and exercise are really easy things to grasp on to [and control], and a lot of people find themselves in an unhealthy situation,” McKone said.
EDAC hopes to bring attention to the resources that are available on campus for those who may be struggling with an eating disorder, McKone said.
“The University Counseling Center (UCC) has a [few] therapists that specialize in eating disorders. But, they were seeing such an influx in cases of not only people who are being diagnosed with eating disorders, but people who are coming back from residential treatment reintegrating into Notre Dame,” McKone said. “The UCC doesn’t have the resources for [this demand].”
O’Grady explained that EDAC hopes to supplement the services offered by UCC with its own events. The club plans to host a mindfulness yoga event to work on developing healthy coping mechanisms. EDAC will also plan weekly trips to the grocery store to provide people with a safe space and extra support while grocery shopping.
Another initiative is the body positive project which is being led by sophomore Bella Henriques, McKone noted.
“[The movement] was started through Stanford research which talks about how food insecurity creates eating habits and how the way we talk about diet culture affects eating disorders,” she explained.
The goal of the project is to train people to run discussion sessions and equip them with the necessary resources to talk about eating and exercising. These sessions will be free for anyone to attend, whether they are a part of the club or not, McKone said.
In addition, EDAC is looking forward to participating in National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (NEDAwareness Week). NEDAwareness Week takes place the last week of February and is a campaign to educate people about eating disorders and support those affected by eating disorders.
Last year for NEDAwareness Week, EDAC partnered with Active Minds for “In Our Own Words,” a student-led conversation where students sent in submissions about their experiences with eating disorders and shared their stories. Other events included conversations about body image and a candlelight vigil at the Grotto, McKone explained.
Although EDAC is a relatively new club, they are looking to gain new members and form a Holy Cross chapter, McKone said. Anyone in the tri-campus community is welcome to join the club or attend any of the events.
O’Grady said the most memorable part of being involved with EDAC has been getting to know people from the tri-campus.
“[I enjoy] getting to know girls at St. Mary’s that I probably wouldn’t have crossed paths with otherwise. They have been so supportive in my recovery journey,” she said.
EDAC has group meetings every month and more information can be found on EDAC’s Instagram @ed_awareness_club.