Eating disorders and problems with body acceptance are complex, national health issues, but Bradley is addressing campus concerns through four resources: The Wellness Program, the “Bodyworks” nutritional clinic, Health Services, and The Body Project.
Wellness Program reaches out
An estimated seven million females and one million males struggle with eating disorders, according to the National Eating Disorders Association and Screening for Mental Health. The average American woman is 5 feet 4 inches and 140 pounds. The average fashion model is 5 feet 11 inches and 115 pounds. Is it no wonder that 80 percent of women are dissatisfied with their appearance?
“Very few people look like the media portrays,’ says Melissa Sage-Bollenbach ’94 MA ’97, director of the Wellness Program and a licensed clinical professional counselor. “Actually no one looks like that with all of the airbrushing they do.”
In an effort to dispel today’s unrealistic beauty standards, The Wellness Program co-sponsors an annual spring Body Image Makeover Fair with The Body Project. Pamphlets with information about various issues, and resources available to help students deal with them, are distributed.
Health Services Counseling hosts a National Eating Disorder Screening Day every spring in collaboration with the Wellness Program. Health Services subscribes to an online Eating Disorder Screening Program students can view at mentalhealthscreening.org/screening, using the keyword, “Bradley.” In addition, Health Services also participates in the National Eating Disorder Awareness Day and offers screenings as part of the program.
The Wellness Program’s newest project was introduced in Fall 2007. It is a presentation facilitated by Bradley H.E.A.T. (Help Empower And Teach) peer educators called “Nuts About My Body.” The concept is gender neutral and mainly focuses on body image. While the program addresses eating disorders and looks at the media’s role in how students view themselves, Sage-Bollenbach says it encourages students to feel healthy.
“Bodyworks” clinic offers balance
Bradley’s “Bodyworks” nutrition clinic helps students and faculty analyze their diets and establish healthy eating patterns based on their lifestyle and individual needs, as well as analyze their body composition to design strategies for improvement.
Senior dietetics majors run the clinic under the supervision of Dr. Jeannette Davidson, a registered dietitian and director of the dietetics program. The clinic is a free service. The students who work in the clinic analyze body composition and help clients by educating them on how to make healthy food choices.
While many clients seek to improve their body image, Davidson says the clinic generally does not deal with eating disorders because that is more of a specialized medical nutritional issue. She has, however, worked with several students Health Services has referred to her.
“Bodyworks” also concentrates on body fitness and tries to avoid using the word “diet.”
“There’s a stigma associated with diet. It implies that someone prescribes what you can eat,” explains Davidson. “We want a balance of what you eat. We would never prescribe anything. We look at your eating habits and decide from that what is best for you.”
Health Services brings help to campus
The programs that Health Services has in place to help students deal with body image issues can best be described as evolving, says Dr. Janine Donahue, director of counseling.
Donahue says Health Services is aware that students are suffering from disorders and dissatisfaction with body image, and her group is working to create programs.
In 2006, Donahue gave a presentation to residence hall advisors and directors about signs and symptoms of eating disorders and how to refer for help during the National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Lisa Fix-Griffin of the OSF Saint Francis Eating Disorder Clinic spoke to sororities that same week. In February 2007, Health Services operated an information booth in the Student Center again and encouraged students to attend a new eating disorders support group.
Health Services expects to add another mental health advisor to its staff in 2008, and Donahue would also like to host a representative from the OSF Saint Francis Eating Disorders Clinic to help students who struggle.
Along with Donahue, Dr. Christina Nulty, medical director of health services, continues to advocate for funding to bring a therapist and nutritionist from the OSF Saint Francis Eating Disorder Clinic to Bradley University Health Services once a week.
The Body Project challenges standards
While Health Services’ plans are underway, Donahue encourages students to take advantage of BodyTalk, started in January 2007 with funding from a Bradley Special Emphasis Grant. The group is supported by Health Services and The Body Project, and led by Fix-Griffin. The weekly session allows participants to talk about any issues they or their friends may be facing in relation to body image.
The goal of The Body Project is to sponsor a wide range of activities to reach out to students, faculty, and staff about body image. The Project has teamed up with other resources on campus to host events for students. The Body Project has brought speakers to campus including Dr. Susan Alexander, professor of sociology at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana, and Stacey Prussman, a professional actress and comedienne. Visit Web Exclusives to learn how Prussman overcame her eating disorder.
Dr. Jackie Hogan, assistant professor of sociology, initiated The Body Project as a way to help her students — both those who suffer from eating disorders and those who do not. Hogan is seeking funding to continue the program.
“The goal of The Body Project is to challenge current beauty standards — which are very unrealistic — and to work toward healthy body acceptance,” explains Hogan.
Hogan has been contacted by faculty from other universities looking to establish similar programs. “I feel fortunate to be at a university that cares enough about the health and well-being of its students, faculty, and staff to invest in a program like The Body Project,” says Hogan.
Visit thebodyproject.bradley.edu for more information.
Visit Web Exclusives to learn how Stacey Prussman, a professional actress and comedienne, overcame her eating disorder.