Body Acceptance Movement’s panel spreads message of hope

Amanda Knauer

The Body Acceptance Movement hosted a panel discussion Wednesday on body image and eating disorders.

The panel was held in honor of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Five speakers were on the panel: Suzanne Holt, director of Women’s Studies; Colleen Fitzgibbons, graduate student in the College of Public Health and president and founder of Body Acceptance Movement; Serena Widmar, senior psychology major; Maria Nicholas, junior nursing major; and Marissa Rose, junior nursing major.

“We have all experienced eating disorders, and we are all survivors,” Fitzgibbons said. “We all have different stories and come from different paths, so we are telling our story.”

The onset of eating disorders is between the ages of 12 and 24 years old. Although many eating disorders are seen as genetic, Fitzgibbons said being in college can cause eating disorders as well.

“There are a lot of triggers in the college atmosphere, like if you are going away for school and living in the dorms; there are just a lot of triggers that can set off your eating disorder,” Fitzgibbons said. “If you are predisposed to have an eating disorder, it’s most likely going to happen around the time that you are in college.”

Widmar agreed that college can set off eating disorders.

“It’s important to educate our community, especially college students because the stress and responsibilities of juggling school, work, and family can take a toll on students and will many times manifest as an eating disorder,” Widmar said.

Holt said the panel discussion received a great turnout and was a big success.

“Essentially every chair was filled,” Holt said. “Mainly were students, but one young woman brought her mother, and there were several KSU graduates.”

The panel was also a way for the speakers to tell their stories. Nicholas said she has been dealing with an eating disorder for about 10 years.

“I was medically given the diagnosis of anorexia nervosa only three years ago. I have struggled with weight and body image from a very young age,” Nicholas said. “It wasn’t until my freshman year of college that my eating disorder really took a turn for the worse. My second semester of freshman year was spent in a day treatment program where I learned a lot of valuable lessons and tried getting to a better place. I spent five days in the hospital during this time because of an abnormal heart rhythm. It was at this time that I realized how important it was for me to change and get healthy.”

Widmar shared her story as well, explaining that she has been dealing with an eating disorder since she was 12 years old.

“I started out restricting my food intake. It was one of the few things I could control in a constantly changing world,” Widmar said. “I still struggle with proper portions, but through proper education and Body Acceptance Movement, I am on the way to recovery.”

All five of the panelists agreed that it is important to talk to someone and be heard if dealing with an eating disorder.

“Talking to someone is the first step in both realizing you have a problem and starting the path to recovery,” Widmar said. “Having an eating disorder is a scary thing, and the members of Body Acceptance Movement have been there and want to help. We are a non-judgmental group and can be a safe space for those who need one.”

Nicholas hopes that everyone that attended the panel discussion became more informed and comforted.

“In sharing our stories, I hope that people who may be suffering can find the strength to speak up and not stay silent about what they are going through,” Nicholas said. “I want to spread hope and encouragement. Talking to others about my own struggles has helped with my recovery process as well, so I love the fact that I can help others and myself at the same time.”

Contact Amanda Knauer at [email protected].