Rutgers Eating Disorder Organization returns to campus after period of inactivity
Representatives from Aerie will be coming to a meeting later this month to talk about body positivity
Twenty-million women and 10 million men suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their lives, according to the National Eating Disorder Organization.
At Rutgers, the Rutgers Eating Disorder Organization (REDO) is back after a period of inactivity last year, said Holly Chok, the organization’s president and School of Arts and Sciences junior.
"We are looking to promote awareness about eating disorders, advocate for resources, let students know about the resources available on campus and destigmatize it in general," Chok said.
Chok said that it was difficult to get the organization active again, and the process included sending a lot of emails and a lot of waiting, but the group was able to make a return at the involvement fair this fall.
“It’s a bit of a process because you have to have three members who will definitely be in the e-board. Then you also need to have at least 10 members who will guarantee that they will be there,” said Prachi Biswal, the organization’s treasurer and a School of Arts and Sciences junior.
Chok said that the goal of the organization is not to directly provide therapy, but rather to point students and people in the right direction toward receiving help.
Biswal reiterated that concept, and said people get the wrong idea when they see eating disorders in their name — many thinking that their meetings resemble Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, which it really is not.
“We don’t have the authority or the qualifications to provide therapy or anything. We just want to promote awareness, we want people to know what are myths and what are facts. I think that’s a big challenge,” she said.
In order to begin their fight against mental health stigma, the group has some events planned for this semester.
Chok said they plan to participate in the Central New Jersey National Eating Disorder Association walk in Belle Mead. So far the organization has raised more than $300 and plans to encourage as many people as possible to participate in the walk.
Both Chok and Biswal also said that representatives from Aerie will attend their meeting on Oct. 24 to talk more about body positivity.
“They came on campus a few weeks ago with the pop-up shop and everything, it was great. So we spoke to some of the organizers of that event and then they reached out to us and said we would love to collaborate,” Biswal said.
The meeting is open to anyone who wants to come, Biswal said.
She also said that the organization frequently posts about body positivity and new resources for mental health services on social media sites like Facebook. Spreading awareness and promoting resources is what REDO is really focused on.
“In the end, it all comes down to loving yourself, learning to accept yourself as who you are and learning to accept others for who they are,” Biswal said.
Chok noted that there are many misconceptions about eating disorders, which make destigmatizing it more difficult.
“There are so many different types of eating disorders, there are ones that don’t even have a label to them and people don’t know what they are,” Chok said.
She said that a common misconception is believing that people with eating disorders are thin and have to be previously diagnosed with an eating disorder in order to have one.
Another misconception she comes across is people thinking that eating disorders do not affect men, Chok said.
“People think that eating disorders don’t affect boys too, and that’s why one of our big goals is to recruit guys. Because it happens but often in different ways,” she said.
Biswal said that the organization has plans to continue growing and to continue fighting against mental health stigma.
She said that she wants the organization to be there for any group that works to take down mental health stigmas and that she hopes to see more people talking openly about eating disorders and mental health in the future.
“We want Rutgers Eating Disorder Organization to be a part of every major Rutgers milestone," Biswal said. "This year I want the organization to have its own dance team at the dance marathon."
Ryan Stiesi is a sophomore in the School of Arts and Sciences. He is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.