UC Santa Barbara’s Active Minds and Health and Wellness Program co-hosted their annual Eating Disorder Awareness Week from Feb. 26 to March 1, aiming to increase awareness about eating disorders and aid those who are struggling with body image.
The organizations held “Mirrorless Monday Selfies,” yoga workshops, discussion panels, interactive campaigns and on-campus “Love Your Body” carts to highlight the issues and combat the stigmas surrounding mental illness.
Active Minds is an on-campus organization dedicated to raising awareness, overcoming issues and combating stigmas about mental illness.
“As part of Active Minds and in my life in general, I like to spread body positivity and bring awareness to any and all mental disorders,” said Dana Quandt, co-president of the organization and second-year psychology and brain sciences major.
Throughout the week, cards with body-positive notes were distributed to students by individuals involved with Active Minds.
The week started off with “Mirrorless Monday Selfies,” a social media campaign dedicated to shifting the focus from individuals’ physical appearances to the unique characteristics they possess. Students were asked to cover their mirrors and then take a selfie of themselves.
The organization also held a yoga session on the lawn near Ellison Hall promoting body positivity for students on-campus.
On Tuesday, Active Minds held a panel in the Student Resource Building to discuss the truth and common misconceptions about eating disorders. UCSB’s Associate Director of Public Health, Betsy Malear, asked the audience to describe the “perfect body.”
After countless comments from the audience about being “thin” or “proportionate,” she explained how these ideas were systemic and written in the media.
“Hollywood and media aren’t real,” Malear said in an email. “1 in every 3 women have behaviors consistent with eating disorders, and 1 in 4 men, the same.”
According to a panel with Dr. David Botsford, a Clinical and Sport Psychologist at UCSB’s Counseling and Psychological Services (C.A.P.S.), eating disorders exist on a continuum and even individuals who do not exhibit severe symptoms can display unhealthy eating behavior.
According to Botsford, this continuum can range from exhibiting regular healthy eating patterns to having perpetual eating disorder symptoms.
Between these two extremes, there exists individuals who are concerned with eating patterns, some that are preoccupied with food obsessions and some with disturbed eating accompanied with distorted body image.
Student athletes are largely affected by eating disorders and scrutinizing body image throughout their college careers, Botsford said.
“With athletes specifically, the things that contribute to [eating disorders] are participating in aesthetic- judged sports,” Botsford said. He said that the athletes can be physically judged in terms of appearance or in terms of body function related to weight.
According to Botsford, this can increase the risk for individuals developing some kind of disordered eating behaviors.
UCSB’s Health and Wellness program held their “You Are Beautiful Campaign” on Wednesday by holding up posters that relayed messages about inner beauty. The posters were lined up along the bike path near Pardall to display positive messages to students heading to class.
Michael Takahara, a Health Education Specialist at the UCSB Health and Wellness Program, said that as you pass by people who are telling you that “you are beautiful or this quality about you is beautiful beyond physical looks… people start to smile.”
Active Minds also held an event titled “Redefining the Scale” to further open discussion about body positivity and promote beneficial “self-talk.”
The week ended with a “Love Your Body” cart on Thursday that was filled with snacks, pins and information that advocated awareness of eating disorders. Students affiliated with Active Minds monitored the cart and passed out notes with compliments as students passed by.
Malear and Botsford said that UCSB provides a variety of services, such as Student Health and C.A.P.S., to help students from all walks of life with eating disorders and disordered eating.
“Know that you are not alone, first and foremost,” Quandt said. “Please reach out because there is always someone who is willing to listen.”
Correction: A previous version of this article inaccurately said Dana Quandt is the president of Active Minds. She is in fact co-president, alongside Eleanora Shulman. The event “Mirror-less Monday” was in fact organized by Health & Wellness, and while Active Minds is an organization housed under Health & Wellness, that event was primarily created by the department itself.