“Being comfortable sharing my story was a big sign for me in terms of being recovered,” said Arey, an Embody co-chairwoman.
Embody Carolina seeks to educate students about the signs of an eating disorder and how to support someone who may have one. This week, it is partnering with other campus organizations to localize National Eating Disorders Awareness Week at UNC.
MacLean, an Embody co-chairwoman, said the theme of the week is “I had no idea,” and the group’s goal is to make people more aware of the statistics and misconceptions about eating disorders.
“Eating disorders don’t discriminate based on race or gender or age,” MacLean said.
“There’s definitely stereotypes about it that it’s just white females, but I know Hispanic females, black males with eating disorders, older women, older men.”
Cristin Runfola, a clinical assistant professor at the UNC Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders, said eating disorders are extremely serious.
“They are the most deadly of all psychological conditions,” she said. ” People die from medical complications as well as suicide.”
She also stressed that having an eating disorder is not a choice made by individuals.
“They are diseases and really, really serious conditions,” she said.
College is a particularly risky time due to the stressors that come with the transition from high school, Runfola said.
Lauren Metzger, a clinical instructor with the center, said the loss of normal social support can also contribute to the onset of eating disorders in college students.
“College comes with a whole new system of feeding yourself,” Metzger said. “You’re having to make your own choices.”
MacLean said Embody usually hosts four trainings per semester. She said the information comes from students, but experts are available to answer questions and help those who may need treatment.
Runfalo said most patients at the center choose outpatient treatment, which typically consists of individual or group therapy.
MacLean said a large part of Embody’s work involves referring students to these services. Arey said Embody helps people start conversations about treatment and recovery to help address the secrecy and shame those who suffer from eating disorders may feel.
MacLean said realizing she did not have to be ashamed of her struggle was significant for her.
“(It) was really just an eye-opening experience for me just to take something that was such a negative in my life and make it into something positive in the sense of helping other people.”