In an effort to promote body positivity around campus, Embody Carolina hosted its first Diversity and Inclusion Panel on Eating Disorders and Body Image Tuesday.
The organization planned the event to have panelists representing a variety of identities including: people of color, men, LGBTQIA+, Jewish individuals and those struggling or recovering from binge eating disorders.
Embody Carolina is an organization providing students with helpful strategies to serve as effective allies to those struggling with eating disorders. This is the first organization of its kind on any college campus across the nation, the Embody Carolina website says.
Megan Neff, event coordinator for Embody Carolina, wanted Tuesday’s event to focus on promoting the inclusivity of the organization, as well as its commitment to all identities within the UNC community.
“We have had some people tell us they didn’t think we were diverse enough,” Neff said. "We wanted to make sure that everyone at UNC kind of understood that eating disorders are not just a white girl problem.”
With this inclusivity panel, Neff hopes students can better recognize that eating disorders can, and do, affect more than just one group of individuals.
“It’s not just rich, white, female women,” Neff said. “They can affect anybody of any religion, race, sexuality, socioeconomic status.”
Katie Regittko, social media coordinator for Embody Carolina, served as one of the panelists during Tuesday’s event.
“What we’re trying to do is trying to uplift more less-spoken voices in the eating disorder recovery community and also body image in general,” Regittko said. “In a lot of marginalized groups, eating disorders are actually more prevalent, but it’s not talked about a lot because the people that receive treatment are usually thin, young, white girls.”
According to statistics from the National Eating Disorders Association, Black teenagers are 50 percent more likely to binge and purge than white teenagers. Additional research by the NEDA showed a trend towards an increasing prevalence of binge eating disorders in all minority groups.
“Eating disorders are also a social justice issue,” Regittko said. “They’re seen a lot more in communities that struggle. For example, there are a lot of eating disorders in the transgender community because of the lack of access to healthcare, and then also feeling unsafe in their own environments.”
As a panelist during the event, Regittko wanted to call greater attention to these environmental factors contributing to eating disorders and remind students eating disorders aren’t only affecting one identity.
Sarah Letchworth, a member of Embody Carolina, planned to speak during the Q&A session following the panelist discussion. Letchworth wanted students to learn to be comfortable talking about different eating disorders and hoped Tuesday’s event will support that change.
“I hope (the event) shows people we aren’t afraid to talk about it, and I believe that is a message of inclusivity, as well,” Letchworth said. “Having that message is so important because there’s so much stigma and fear around eating disorders in general."
By fostering a message of inclusivity and support as a member of Embody Carolina, Letchworth hopes to raise awareness for eating disorders and ultimately create social change.
“(Embody Carolina is) for anybody who has experienced something where they feel like body positivity can help them at the end of the day, which I think everyone can,” Letchworth said.
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