Students were asked to build a strong sense of self and to celebrate their natural sizes during Healthy Living Awareness Week, sponsored by the Eating Disorder Committee along with the Psychological Counseling Center, Campus Auxiliary Services, Fraternity/Sorority Life and Oasis/Haven.
The week-long series of events began Monday night with an eating disorder awareness program called “Celebrate our Natural Sizes Candle-Light Vigil,” and lasted until Friday afternoon with “Fearless Friday: All Foods Can Fit,” a program where healthy eating information and food samples were given out.
Dr. Gweneth Lloyd of the Psychological Counseling Center and committee chair said the week is normally held near the end of February in conjunction with annual Eating Disorder Awareness week. But this year, New Paltz decided to change it.
Tara Sestanovich, coordinator of the First-Year Programming Center for Student Development who was in charge of making flyers and advertisements for the events, said this was her first year on the committee but she thought the week portrayed a great message to students.
“Having an Eating Disorder Awareness Committee on campus allows students the opportunity to attend healthy living events and be provided with healthy living information and materials,” Sestanovich said. “Students are also given a chance to share their stories, hear from college counselors and learn how to help themselves or someone they know who may be struggling with living a healthy lifestyle.”
The week of programs was designed to educate students on preventative techniques, according to Lloyd. She said regardless of their size, students should be able to celebrate it and break free of society’s expectations.
Lloyd said advertisements and models are not realistic portrayals of the way the world is and how people should look. She said exposure to these images can be detrimental to a student’s self image. Lloyd said college students are the target population for advertisements on television and in magazines; therefore, it is important to have a week of awareness and information.
“It’s an interesting way of developing insight to ourselves and how we are so deeply affected by the media and images around us,” Lloyd said. “When you have a person caught up in their sense of self, looking at these images makes it harder.”
Tuesday night was dedicated to helping friends in need, Lloyd said.
“Many times students come and they have concerns about a friend with eating disorders,” she said.
She said students may be worried about their friends or roommates binging, purging, having restrictive diets or not eating, and the events were a way to make them not feel so helpless.
Lloyd said the true message of the week was to help students to not be so hard on themselves. She said college students are discovering autonomy, morals, world views and educational expertise as well as combining everything they learned at home and applying it to their experiences. This results in a tough transition that’s made even harder when body image is involved.
“We’re a society that does things to the extreme, so do things in moderation,” Lloyd said. “If you want a cupcake, have a cupcake.”