On February 28th I attended an event at Grafton Stovall Theater on campus. Savannah Black Sigma Sigma Sigma’s philanthropy chair, opened up explaining that this was their 16th annual speak-out. This incredible event is put together each year to continue to honor Leslie George, who was a sister of Sigma Sigma Sigma (often referred to as Tri Sigma) who tragically passed as a direct result of bulimia in 2000. This was the largest crowd to date that gathered to come together to bring awareness to the profound impact that eating disorders and body dysmorphia continue to cast on our nation as a result of the unrealistic body standards society has created. Today, 50 million Americans struggle with eating disorders.
The first speak-out event wasn’t open to everyone and there were only 20 Sigma Sigma Sigma’s that attended. Compared to now, this empowering and important event has caught the attention of many people, particularly women, who feel comfortable in this safe place.
Kathleen MacDonald shared her story with us. She was at rock bottom when she decided to speak at the congressional conference for eating disorders in hopes to get insurance coverage for her recovery. After meeting Leslie George’s parents at this event changed her life forever. Mr. George expressed his concern for her life as he stated that she needed to get help or she was going to die because he saw it in his own daughter before she passed. Kathleen told him that she was fine, yet held back tears knowing she was far from it. This exact moment when he hugged her was when she knew something needed to change. She was extremely vulnerable and shared her life story with us. Not only was it empowering, but she made it a safe space for others to speak out as well.
It’s hard to feel supported and understood especially by your close circle. The idea of not wanting to be a burden complicates a lot when reaching out in times of need. When it feels like everything is moving around you, yet you just feel stuck, is a feeling that’s hard to shake. The most simple tasks become impossible. This important issue runs through college campuses and affects millions of people who suffer daily. “Suffering any amount is too much”, really stuck with me from attending this event. Kathleen pointed out that one missed meal, throwing up once after eating, and trying a new diet, is all too much. The actions become repetitive and harmful.
“I feel fat”
“I need to go to the gym because I ate that”
“I have a trip coming up I can’t eat that”
“I’d look a lot better if I was skinnier”
Have you ever heard these phrases? Even better, how many times have you heard someone say one of those phrases in the past week? Today? Exactly. These harmful mindsets are the exact reason the culture of negative body image and unhealthy habits continues to thrive. Society makes us think that in order to be pretty, we have to be thin. The idea that we have to maintain a certain size, and not dress for comfort, but to hide our flaws is heartbreaking.
We need to know how to heal. In order to foster a more positive attitude surrounding body image and eating habits, the speaker highlighted a variety of tokens of advice before opening the floor for sharing.
You can’t get better unless you are properly nourishing yourself.
In instances that you feel like you will purge take your pet with you, they get it and are a great source of comfort. Anytime you think something negative you must replace it with something positive.
A great deal of comparing happens from social media, yet it is unrealistic, staged, and photoshopped. So try to remember that because there is no comparing you to anyone else.
Lastly, she pointed out that Jmu has a hope team with nutritionists and therapists.
After attending this impactful event hosted on campus, my biggest takeaway is that you genuinely do not know what people’s inner battles and struggles just by looking at them. I am very grateful to have had this opportunity to attend such an empowering event and have learned to be more aware and cognizant about how I phrase things. The other females that had the courage to speak up and share their own stories are a testimony to show how impactful Kathleen’s openness is.
One thought on “How to heal”
Thank you for covering this! It’s especially important as it was during eating disorder awareness week. I’m glad that events like these happen on campus and through greek life, as sororities should empower their members!