By Anamika Dutta, Features Editor
Julia O’Toole ‘18, Emily Popp ‘17, and Amanda Sifferlen ‘17 hope to spread awareness of eating disorders and the importance of body positivity on the College of the Holy Cross’ campus through their Body Positivity student organization. In her freshman year at Holy Cross, O’Toole was diagnosed with anorexia. She hoped to find support at the campus counseling center, but instead was told to search for outside help. Being unable to find help on campus was frustrating and stressful, and made the process more isolating. Her two best friends, Popp and Sifferlen, stayed by her side and supported her while she fought through the eating disorder. Now, O’Toole has been in recovery for a year and a half, and wants to use her personal fight to advocate for education on, and resources for, eating disorders. With a younger brother who also suffers from an eating disorder, O’Toole has the experience of watching a loved one go through the struggle, as well as experiencing it herself. O’Toole, Popp, and Sifferlen hope the Body Positivity group will advocate for comfort, acceptance, and health in all types of body sizes and shapes.
The lack of support and resources in the counseling center for students with eating disorders is concerning. Eating disorders are serious and deadly mental illnesses, and are being diagnosed more and more often among both males and females. For women with anorexia between the ages of 15-24, the mortality rate is 12 times higher than any other cause of death. Furthermore, individuals with eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental disease. With the severity of these statistics, Holy Cross needs to offer better resources and awareness for any students who may be silently suffering. All three founders play on Holy Cross’ Women’s Volleyball team, although O’Toole is currently a redshirt, so they decided to reach out to the athletic department with their idea of promoting body positivity on campus. Body image amongst all students is a huge issue, and student-athletes also feel a pressure to look their best both on and off the court. By reaching out to coaches, O’Toole, Popp, and Sifferlen hope to create a more comfortable environment for student-athletes in regards to eating well and taking care of their bodies. They hope to branch out to non student-athletes and encourage everyone to come to Body Positivity group meetings.
The rate of eating disorders in young people is becoming alarmingly high. It is crucial that we take initiative to promote body positivity among all students on campus. As O’Toole says: “Eating disorders thrive in isolation, and die in connection.” By spreading awareness of eating disorders and encouraging body positivity on campus, O’Toole, Popp, and Sifferlen are creating an environment where students can support each other and learn to get help if they need it. They hope to complete this through their meetings, reaching out to administration and coaches to advocate for better help on campus, and hosting casual study groups where anyone who is concerned about themselves or a friend can reach out to O’Toole, Popp, and Sifferlen with questions. The Body Positivity organization will work toward reducing the stigma of mental disorders and eating disorders on Holy Cross’ campus.
Photo courtesy of the Body Positivity Group