NEDA Week Brings Awareness to Eating Disorders

By Abigail Cloutier

The Youngstown State University community held weeklong events for National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, or NEDA week, to educate students about eating disorders and help combat these issues.

The events were sponsored by YSU’s Student Counseling Services and the Andrews Student Recreation and Wellness Center. A panel discussion Feb. 24 educated students on various eating disorders and encouraged discussions on difficult issues involving eating disorders. 

Lindsey Bechter, a senior in the coordinated program in dietetics, helped bring NEDA week to campus.

A NEDA Walk T-shirt is covered by several positive affirmation cards. Photo by Brian Yauger/The Jambar

“Last year, I bumped into a friend of mine who also worked [in the rec center] and graduated,” she said. “We felt that hopefully the following year we were able to bring NEDA into campus rec a little more. So it’s nice that this year we were able to bring in some activities.” 

Currently, YSU does not have a National Eating Disorders Association chapter on campus and Bechter said it “requires a lot of people on board to make it work.” 

“The person that helped me bring [NEDA week] to the campus rec last year tried to get it started a couple years ago,” she said. “Unfortunately, she wasn’t successful. … It’s a huge organization.” 

The rec center’s wellness programs website aims to offer students with eating disorders “an opportunity to share their stories, see themselves in others’ stories, and recognize that their experiences are valid and welcome, no matter where they are in relationship to food or their bodies.”

Ryan McNicholas, associate director of campus recreation, said it’s important to help all students become educated on the topic. 

“We want to make it as successful as we can, whether it’s expansion of the programs or moving the week to have more of an establishment on campus,” he said. “Just helping as many students as we can. …  We’re open to suggestions.”

While some of the events focused on eating disorder awareness and education, other events such as Pink Gloves Boxing and a bouldering competition at the climbing wall in the rec center focused on wellness and physical health.

Positive messages are laid out on a table during a NEDA week event. Photo by Brian Yauger/The Jambar

“A lot of people talk about using [exercise] as a coping mechanism. It kind of serves as an outlet, and it can be used in a negative way, unfortunately,” Bechter said. 

“But from the experiences that I’ve had, it has served as great stress relief and a way of expressing yourself,” she added. “You find people who went through the same thing — it’s a bonding thing.”

Mason Edmunds, YSU alumnus and prevention specialist at Meridian HealthCare, said the rec center is already looking at ways to improve NEDA week in the future.

“Eating disorders or just those two words put together, they don’t necessarily scream, ‘Hey, come to this event,’” he said. “So it’s about pivoting the marketing and telling students that they’re in a safe place when they come to these events.” 

The rec center is also looking at ways to include more interactive and creative events and possibly incorporating them into Welcome Week at the beginning of each semester.  

Other events, such as an “Exploring Your Relationships with Food” discussion and “Shop w/ the Registered Dietician” informing students on how to grocery shop on a budget, took place the week of Feb. 24.