By: Denise T. Stewart

A recent People magazine article profiled the shockingly disordered eating behaviors of several female celebrities and their “ideal” bodies. The alarming aspect of this story was the fact that none of these women seemed to recognize any kind of dysfunction in their lifestyles, and they certainly denied struggling with anorexia or bulimia. Although the etiology of eating disorders is known to be more complex than the single desire to be pin-thin, we see the incidence of these disorders soar among our young people as they look to pop icons as role models, failing to see the damage they often do to their bodies in the process. A recent study conducted by Foundation for Change among Utah Valley high school students showed that approximately 6-13% of those surveyed have already developed a diagnosable eating disorder. Another 30-35% of these students were found to have attitudes and beliefs about food and weight that fall into abnormal ranges and put them at risk for eventually developing an eating disorder. The sheer number of sufferers and the realization that so many of these disorders remain untreated, unrecognized, or misunderstood creates a phenomenal need for public education and support.

One of the goals of Foundation for Change is to raise public awareness about the cause, effect, and prevention of eating disorders, and to involve the community in eating disorder awareness activities. The Foundation has joined Center for Change, with the support of Eating Disorders Awareness and Prevention, Inc., as coordinators for this year’s Eating Disorders Awareness Week (EDAW), scheduled for February 12-19, 2000. Since millions of women with anorexia and bulimia are drowning in a sea of hopelessness and despair, “Save A Life: Join the Fight Against Eating Disorders” has been chosen as the theme for this year. Families and friends of those currently suffering from eating disorders are in the position to spare their loved ones from the fear, obsession, self-hatred, and pain of an eating disorder and may literally save a life by educating themselves and encouraging those who suffer to get the help they so desperately need. The goal of this week is to educate these individuals, equipping them with the tools needed to effectively support struggling friends and family members. We also aim to provide hope to all who are involved in the constant fight against anorexia and bulimia, sending the message that recovery is possible! Several events have been planned this year to fulfill these goals:

A non-traditional fashion show at Provo Towne Centre will kick off the week’s festivities on February 12th at 12:00 p.m. Titled “A Celebration of Natural Bodies”, the show will celebrate the diversity of women and promote positive body image by featuring models of all ages, shapes and sizes. This event was highly successful last year and proved to be a refreshing change from the traditional stick-thin model shows. Several area stores are sponsoring the event including JC Penney, Brauns, Northern Reflections, Lady Foot Locker, Foot Locker, Standard Optical, Regis Hair, Sears and other mall stores. Educational materials on eating disorders will also be available to those in attendance.

In conjunction with the National Eating Disorder Screening Program, Center for Change will sponsor a free screening to those who think they may be at risk for an eating disorder. The program includes an educational presentation on eating disorders and/or related topics (body image, nutrition, etc.), a written screening test and the opportunity to meet one-on-one with a health professional. It also provides individuals with information about how to help friends or family members who may be suffering from an eating disorder. The screening will be available to the public Feb. 14-18 at Center for Change. A confidential screening tool is also available on our web site at www.edaw.org. Dr. Paul Harper will be conducting the screening at the Center and may be contacted personally for more information. Dr. Harper will also be able to provide treatment options to those needing further assistance.

Under the direction of Foundation for Change and Center for Change, several colleges and universities in the intermountain area (Utah, Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada and Montana) have joined as coordinators for this year’s EDAW to promote awareness among their students. Often sponsored by the college’s counseling center, awareness fairs may include such fun events as scale bashing pinatas, free massages, no-diet information booths and fortune-telling bathroom scales. Speaking events on campus will include eating disorder professionals and eating disorder survivors sharing their experiences with both professors and peers, answering questions and encouraging open dialogue between sufferers of eating disorders and those family, friends, or teachers who may be there to support them. Screenings and educational materials will also be available at these school awareness campaigns; many university counseling centers provide outpatient services to students free of charge. The EDAW website (www.edaw.org) has a complete list of all campus coordinators.

One of last year’s EDAW highlights was Governor Michael O. Leavitt’s signing of the first official proclamation declaring a specific Eating Disorder Awareness Week for the state of Utah. On January 26, 2000, Governor Leavitt signed the proclamation declaring Feb 12-19 as Utah’s Eating Disorder Awareness Week for the year 2000. Proclamations will also be signed at the local levels of government, with city and county government programs supporting our efforts through distribution of educational materials and advertising screenings in local schools, businesses, and social assistance programs. Eating Disorder Awareness Week representatives and eating disorder survivors will also be appearing on local talk shows and in newspaper interviews throughout the week to bring greater media coverage to this important cause. Center for Change professionals will also be available throughout the week for public speaking engagements on the subject of eating disorders. These individuals appear throughout the year at various out-of-state workshops, colleges, high schools, church settings and youth groups to provide awareness and education to these participants.

The First Annual Eating Disorders Awareness Week Benefit Dinner and Concert is scheduled for Saturday, February 19, 2000 at 7:00 p.m. in the beautiful Utah Valley State College Ballroom. With entertainment provided by Peter Breinholt, featuring Sam Cardon and James Conlee, this evening promises to deliver fabulous music combined with fine dining. All proceeds are tax-deductible and will be contributed to Foundation for Change for awareness activities. The cost is $25.00 per person; tickets may be purchased at Center for Change or through the EDAW website (www.edaw.org).

We look forward to working with many of you during this busy week. Please contact us at Center for Change (801) 224-8255 if you would like to schedule a professional speaker, donate to Eating Disorders Awareness Week, or participate in any of the above activities. Your talents and energy are always appreciated. This is such a worthy cause and we are so fortunate to have the opportunity this time of year to alert the public to this growing problem. Save a Life! Join the fight against eating disorders.