Whether they’re aware of it, everybody knows somebody with an eating disorder.
But what would you do after learning that a friend, loved one or even a casual acquaintance needed help? Would you know what to say and how to help them?
Bastyr University student Courtney Fasano, RD, wants to make sure you can help. She is organizing a free speaker series with the theme “Everybody Knows Somebody” from Feb. 27 to March 1 during National Eating Disorders Awareness (NEDA) Week.
“We’re trying to increase awareness and prevention on a personal level,” says Fasano, who is in her second year of the Master of Science in Nutrition and Clinical Health Psychology program. “It could be an eating disorder that’s widely recognized, like bulimia or anorexia – or a food obsession like orthorexia – but everybody knows somebody.”
The third annual event is sponsored through Bastyr’s Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science and the Department of Counseling and Health Psychology.
“We want to spread the theme ‘Everybody Knows Somebody’ with the hope that awareness will result in support and treatment,” says Debra Boutin, MS, RD, chair of the nutrition department.
This isn’t the first time Fasano has organized an eating disorder awareness event. Last year she was co-chair of Bastyr’s NEDA Week event committee, and she organized similar speaker series and awareness events as an undergrad pursuing the didactic program in dietetics at University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
But this year, she’s hoping to take the “awareness” theme up to the next level by encouraging people to take action.
“We want you to able to take action and talk to a friend or a family member,” Fasano says. “An eating disorder can really ruin your life — or even end it if there aren’t supportive people around to recognize early signs and help pull you out of it.”
Fasano isn’t just offering advice that she’s learned through her studies.
“I’ve had a personal experience with an eating disorder,” she says. “It didn’t start as a body image issue or anything related to weight, just stress, and food became a way to deal with it.”
Away from home for the first time at college, Fasano wasn’t making the time to keep her body fueled, and the pounds started to fall off. But instead of being worried, Fasano found herself thrilled.
That obsession didn’t last long, though. Her first nutrition class was right around the corner, and Fasano quickly got the help she needed from a concerned and supportive professor. She admits she’s one of the lucky ones.
“It’s not always that simple,” she says. “Sometimes the signs are recognized too late or people need more help and don’t know where to go or how they’re going to pay for it.”
That’s one reason she’s hoping for a big turnout at the noon-hour discussion on Tuesday, Feb. 28, "Red Flags and Expressing Concern" by Bastyr faculty member John DeNinno, PhD, which aims to help you learn to spot early warning signs and know what to do.
"So often people don’t notice, or if they do, they just don’t say anything," Fasano says. “Too often we feel like there’s nothing we can say that will help, but there is a way to talk about it."
The series tackles plenty of other subjects, with all talks taking place from noon to 1 p.m. on the Bastyr University campus:
The week culminates with an additional talk through Bastyr Center for Natural Health’s Living Naturally speaker series: “Breaking Body Myths,” an interactive session led by Christy Hofsess, PhD, and McKenzie Zajonc, MSN, that will help participants explore their relationship with their bodies to facilitate a positive body image.
This talk takes place at the University’s teaching clinic, located at 3670 Stone Way N. in Seattle, from 10:30 a.m. to noon Saturday, March 3.
For more information about eating disorders, visit the National Eating Disorders Awareness website.