ISU's 'Be Comfortable in Your Genes, Rock Your Body' spotlights eating disorders

AMES, Iowa -- Ten percent of all college-age students across the country have been diagnosed with an eating disorder, and about 30 percent suffer from an unhealthy relationship with food and body image. Increasingly, more and more men grapple with the illness, says Michelle Roling, counselor and eating disorders coordinator at Iowa State University's Student Counseling Services.

"In fact, the number of men struggling with eating disorders is increasing faster than that of women. The gender gap is closing," Roling said.

Student Counseling Services will present a weeklong series of events, "Be Comfortable in Your Genes, Rock Your Body," during National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, Feb. 22-28. Events will be held throughout the week on campus and in Ames (see sidebar).

Although eating disorders can affect anyone at any age and are a common concern, services are available to support people through recovery, Roling said.

At Iowa State, Roling works with five other senior counselors who provide eating disorder treatment through individual counseling and group therapy. At any given time, about 40 students are being treated for eating disorders at ISU.

"People who are struggling, and feel alone, isolated and ashamed, think that everyone else has it together. We want to let them know they can access help and services that can support them through recovery," Roling said.

Student Counseling Services has sponsored National Eating Disorder Awareness Week activities for about 15 years, Roling said.

"We make a dent one individual at a time," Roling said. "Every time someone can shift how they're feeling about themselves and reflect that out into the world, that's significant."

"Be Comfortable in Your Genes, Rock Your Body"

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week at ISU

All events are free and open to the public.

Monday, Feb. 23

  • "Mirrorless Monday"
    Mirrors in buildings across campus will be covered with paper to remind people to value themselves from the inside out. People are asked to write positive affirmations on the paper.
  • "America the Beautiful"
    Film by Darryl Roberts
    7 p.m., Memorial Union Sun Room
    The 2008 social documentary considers America's obsession with beauty and physical perfection, and follows the life of a fashion model on the verge of stardom at age 12. A year later, her career ended because the industry considered her hips to be "too wide." Film critic Roger Ebert describes the film as "pulsing with barely suppressed rage."
    Filmmaker Roberts, who has been featured on the "Today Show," "Good Morning America" and PBS' "NOW," will attend the showing and participate in a Q&A panel following the film. He will be joined by Leigh Cohn, coauthor of the first book on bulimia; Dr. Denise Styer, clinical director, Alexian Brothers Behavioral Hospital, Chicago; and nutritionist Sharon Johnson, Park Nicollet Melrose Institute, Minneapolis.

Tuesday, Feb. 24

  • "Let's Talk About Men's Bodies (and Women's Too)"
    Multimedia presentation by Leigh Cohn
    7:30 p.m., Memorial Union Sun Room
    Cohn, coauthor of "Making Weight: Men's Conflicts with Food, Weight, Shape & Appearance," will give an entertaining and motivational multimedia presentation. He will discuss the objectification of men and women, which can lead to eating disorders and low self-esteem. And he will provide solutions, including media literacy, understanding the influences of heredity, healthy eating and exercise. A book signing will follow.

    Cohn also coauthored "BULIMIA: A Guide to Recovery" (1980), and "Self-Harm and Eating Disorders" (2004). He is the editor in chief of the peer-reviewed journal, Eating Disorders: The Journal of Treatment and Prevention.

Wednesday, Feb. 25

  • "Don't Fight Your Genes; Change Your Jeans"
    9 a.m.-2 p.m., Memorial Union main hallway
    Drop off old jeans for donation to charity. Jeans can also be donated at other events listed here.

Thursday, Feb. 26

  • Lied Recreation Facility Open House
    3-5 p.m.
    Free smoothies and health information. Cosponsored by ISU Wellness, ISU Dining and the student nutrition club.

Saturday, Feb. 28

  • Presentation and Q&A
    1 p.m., Borders Books, Ames
    A counselor from ISU's Student Counseling Services will discuss eating disorders.
    Additional information is online.