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Monday, October 2, 2023


Clinicians, dietitians visit for National Eating Disorder Awareness

The week’s activities included presentations from clinicians, dietitians and CAPS counselors. | Claire Andersen/The Cougar

Local clinicians and dietitians visited campus this week to provide an understanding of eating disorders and guidance for healthy eating to University of Houston students in an effort to bring attention to National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

UH is hosting events throughout the week that promote awareness of eating disorders and display resources available on campus for students to receive help. Rebecca Wagner, the clinical director of the Eating Recovery Center, spoke on the causes and treatments of eating disorders at CAPS Monday. Wagner addressed the myths that often surround eating disorders, particularly the idea that eating disorders simply stem from the desire to be skinny.

“There’s so much more underneath going on that maintains the eating disorder,” Wagner said, “that it really does eating disorders a disservice to think that it’s all about looks.”

As an ambassador for eating disorders, Wagner strives to redefine how society thinks about eating disorders and those who suffer from them. Wagner stressed the importance of understanding that eating disorders are not just a physical illness. Instead, eating disorders are commonly rooted in deeper issues, like the need to control emotions.

UH dietitian Danielle McFeron spoke about the importance of a balanced diet and mindful eating on Tuesday afternoon. McFeron emphasized that dieting is neither a beneficial or healthy way of eating. Instead, mindful eating, or eating with close intention and pleasure, is a way to maintain both mental and physical health.

McFeron also discussed the psychological effects of healthy eating and its ability to relieve anxiety and balance moods. Echoing Wagner’s lecture on Monday, McFeron shared that eating is not just a physical function but also an emotional act. While society glorifies fad dieting that assigns shame to specific food groups, McFeron said, dietitians are trying to show that eating should be an enjoyable and confidence-boosting experience.

“It’s time to bring some pleasure and satisfaction back into the routine of eating,” McFeron said.

Wednesday’s event focused on busting another common myth about eating disorders: that only girls are affected by these illnesses. Elizabeth Marcum, a CAPS counselor, shared a documentary that featured several men who struggle with various forms of eating disorders.

“People who struggle with eating disorders are hesitant (to come forward), especially with our society and with the stigma,” Marcum said.

Marcum spoke to shatter the stereotype that an eating disorder is only a “female’s disease” and to establish the truth that eating disorders are mental illnesses to which no one is immune. Beyond spreading awareness, Marcum and the staff at CAPS work to provide resources for students seeking help.

The week’s events will continue with a mindful meditation hour at the Wellness Center on Thursday and a “Love Your Selfie!” event on Friday in the Cougar Village courtyard.

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