By: Denise T. Stewart

As I walked through the grocery store proudly wearing my purple ribbon (although having forgotten it was even there) I was stopped by a young woman who inquired about its meaning. As I explained its significance as the symbol for eating disorder awareness, she tearfully shared the current struggle one of her dear friends was having with bulimia. She asked for additional information and was later given literature with suggestions on how to best support her loved one. I was so grateful for this opportunity to educate this lovely woman, whose only intention was to lovingly stop her friend from heading down such a deadly path. This was only one of many instances where we were able to bring this important issue to the forefront during this year’s Eating Disorders Awareness Week.

The theme for this year’s awareness week was “Save A Life: Join the Fight Against Eating Disorders”. Foundation for Change, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising public awareness on the cause, effect, and prevention of eating disorders, joined with Center for Change as coordinators for Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2000. The focus for this year was on the family and friends of those who are currently suffering from anorexia or bulimia, since they are so often in the position to “Save a Life” by rescuing their loved ones from drowning in a sea of hopelessness and despair. The goal of this week was to educate these individuals, and equip them with the tools needed to effectively support their struggling friends and family members and to provide hope to those who are currently victims of this awful disease.

The week began with our annual non-traditional fashion show held at Provo Towne Centre on February 12th. This “Celebration of Natural Bodies” was a high-energy display of confident women (and men) of all ages, shapes, and sizes. They were sporting attire from JC Penney, Brauns, Northern Reflections, Lady Foot Locker, Foot Locker, Standard Optical, Regis Hair and Sears. These models danced, strutted and twirled down the runway in style. Loud cheers and a general party atmosphere of balloons, confetti, and excitement lent itself to a highly successful kick-off event. Special thanks to all of our daring models; your positive body image was an inspiration to us all.

Through the support of the National Eating Disorder Screening Program, free screenings were available throughout the week at Center for Change for those at possible risk for an eating disorder. Several women took advantage of this opportunity to speak with a professional about their concerns and assess their risk and/or need for treatment. Educational information was also distributed and community treatment options were provided, many free of charge. Several women also took advantage of the confidential screening tool available on our website at www.edaw.org. (The website and online screening tool are accessible year-round; we invite you to visit this site and the Center for Change site at www.centerforchange.com for valuable information, published articles, and other support).

Our inter-mountain colleges and universities rose to the occasion by coordinating awareness activities on their respective campuses. The University of Utah, Brigham Young University, Utah Valley State College, Utah State Dixie College, Salt Lake Community College, Snow Collage, Southern Utah University, Westminister College as well as many out of state schools (Boise State University, Casper College, Idaho State University, Idaho State University, Regis University, University of Colorado at Denver, Colorado Christian University, University of Southern Colorado, University of Colorado, University of Nevada Las Vegas, Laramie County Community College, University of Wyoming) actively supported our cause by organizing awareness fairs, speaking events by eating disorder professionals and survivors, and by offering counseling services to students in need. The involvement of these campuses is so vital since studies have shown that up to 20% of college-age females are engaging in some type of eating disorder behavior.

Utah Governor Michael O. Leavitt signed the second official proclamation declaring a specific Eating Disorder Awareness Week for the State of Utah. Utah County government officials also signed a county proclamation declaring the same. We also saw the support of other government programs as local schools, businesses, and social assistance programs helped us to “spread the word” through distribution of educational materials and the offering of free public screenings and other assistance options. Center for Change professionals were also invited to several public venues to provide training and education to participants. They were also featured in several newspaper and television interviews, often with the involvement of eating disorder survivors. We appreciate the courage of these women in sharing their stories; they are such a source of strength and inspiration. We also thank the media who are making this topic a priority in their reports; they are able to reach so many of these beautiful women who may have lost hope.

The highlight of the week was the First Annual Eating Disorders Awareness Week Benefit Dinner and Concert at Utah Valley State College. After a sumptuous dinner of cordon bleu and chocolate mousse cake, the premiere of the Foundation for Change video, “Save a Life” enabled participants to fully appreciate the cause they were supporting. Sponsored by Huish Detergents, the video featured the stories of eating disorder survivors, highlighting the incredible need for preventative education, treatment, and financial support to those in need. The audience was then treated to a musical feast as Sam Cardon, a prominent composer and incredible pianist, and James Conlee, a Broadway-trained vocalist, warmed up the crowd. Peter Breinholt and his band then took the stage and delighted us with beautiful folk melodies and entertaining bluegrass harmonies. The level of talent was absolutely astounding and we feel so fortunate to have had these talented musicians donate their time to this cause. Special thanks to Western Community Bank, Utah Valley Emergency Physicians, Dermatology Clinic, Title Writers, Tanner Spencer Gould, and all other sponsors and attendees. Your support enables us to continue the activities of Foundation for Change. This is sure to be an annual event worth looking forward to.

Overall, we were so pleased with the level of support and enthusiasm shown at all of these Eating Disorder Awareness Week events. We would specifically like to thank the many volunteers who gave of their time to support us in all of our efforts; we couldn’t do it without you! We also invite you to consider Foundation for Change as your charity so that we may be able to continue reaching those who are struggling with an eating disorder. They need our help so desperately, and we are so fortunate to be in a position to lend a hand. We need you! Please contact us at (801) 224-8255 if you would like more information about Foundation for Change or any other Center for Change program.

Eating Disorder Internet Resources
Center for Change, Incorporated
www.centerforchange.com

Foundation for Change
www.foundationforchange.org

Eating Disorder Awareness Week
www.edaw.org

Eating Disorder Awareness and Prevention, Inc
www.edap.org