This past week was National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. According to the National Eating Disorder Association, twenty million women and ten million men in the United States will suffer from a clinically serious eating disorder at some point in their life. Eating disorders have started becoming a more public discussion after photoshop exposures and songs such as All About That Bass forced people to see the unrealistic physical appearance standards accepted in our country.
Two sophomores at Loyola, Anna Pristach and Alexandra Kramer, created a club called BIEDA, also known as Body Image and Eating Disorder Awareness, last semester. “Alex was the one who came to me with the idea of this organization. She explained how she was tired of seeing people, both friends and strangers, struggle with a disease that is so powerful, yet so easily overlooked. I immediately agreed since I am a huge promoter of positive body image,” said Anna. Since the club’s start, it has gained over one hundred members.
Girls at just six-years-old have started having concerns about body size and weight with this increasing to 40%-60% of girls in elementary schools experiencing similar concerns. For most girls, this body image anxiety will then continue on throughout their life. There are many debates about whether eating disorders are a choice or a disease. It is a topic that many people are uncomfortable discussing. Anna stated, “College organizations concerning body image and eating disorders are so few in number that it’s no wonder why people are so uneducated and uncomfortable with the subject. Sure, there are awareness weeks on college campuses, but a disease that is so prevalent and affects so many individuals deserves so much more than just a week. That is one of the main reasons starting BIEDA was so important to us.”
BIEDA has implemented their body image positivity campaign through school and community events and social media campaigns. For their first event, the members set-up a table where students in the Damen Student Center could write on a post-it note what their favorite part of their body was. This activity allowed students to formulate positive thoughts about themselves and others. These positive thoughts are continued through their social media accounts. Their instagram (@BIEDA.LUC) features #whyloveyourselfwednesday posts and positive reminders.
The co-founders’ biggest goal for BIEDA is to help both members and non-members raise awareness, spread positive body image thoughts, and encourage people to seek help. “Whether you have an eating disorder, have a loved one who has an eating disorder, or you don’t have one and just struggle to be happy physically and mentally with yourself, we want BIEDA to be the beginning of something for everyone. It’s hard to go through things alone and we think BIEDA can help put an end to that,” said Anna. The club really encompasses the Loyola student promise to care for yourself and care for others. This is a support system that all students and all college campuses should encourage.
As a newer Loyola organization, BIEDA will continue to grow over the next couple of years. “I see BIEDA bringing a new sense of confidence and unity to Loyola’s campus. By encouraging others to see themselves in a positive light, we make connections that we otherwise wouldn’t make while creating an entire community based on positivity and uplifting one another,” stated Mary Ennis, a member of BIEDA’s executive board. With the increasing public scrutiny of people’s appearance, BIEDA has established a standard for body image support at college campuses across the country. “We really hope that BIEDA will be an organization that continues to grow and reach new heights throughout its lifetime at Loyola. Whether it be partnering with larger, eating disorder-focused nonprofits like NEDA or just increasing the number of individuals it is able to reach and positively influence, we hope BIEDA and its members will always strive to make the most out of what the organization has to offer,” concludes Anna.
Support BIEDA by attending Love Your Body on Tuesday March 1 at 6:30 in the Damen Den. You’ll be able to listen and participate in a conversation with a Loyola staff member and a Loyola student about the importance of positive body image while munching on Insomnia cookies. Go hear why BIEDA thinks you should love your body!