UK groups spread awareness of self-image



By Ashley Beckham

As weight-loss reality shows and exercise equipment infomercials take over America’s television sets, some young people take the message to the extreme.

The UK University Health Services, Counseling and Testing Center and Student Health Advisory Council came together to raise awareness this past week for National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

Raising awareness about body-image issues among college-age women is important, said Panhellenic President Catherine Chin, because eating disorders are usually pushed to the background of concerns in our country.

“The subject is often discarded because it is hard to pitch the idea in an effective way to a large audience,” Chin said. “We really need to get the word out and try to make the topic more effective to all.”

Emelie Taylor, director of correspondence for Delta Gamma sorority, said this week’s focus hit home with her family.

Taylor’s younger sister, currently a senior in high school, suffered from severe anorexia nervosa and has been in and out of hospitals for three years.

Taylor, a sociology junior, said watching her sister battle an eating disorder made her more aware than the average person of the damage it can cause.

“Having lived with my little sister throughout has made myself, as well as my family, grow stronger as a unit, and having done so I have gained a better understanding of myself and other people,” Taylor said.

Taylor attended DePaul University in Chicago until the fall of 2009. But she left DePaul, transferring to UK, because of the severity of her sister’s illness.

Taylor’s sister began her disorder early in her sophomore year of high school. Her sibling was a strong soccer player, with the chance of a bright future in the sport ahead of her.

“She weighed 128 pounds, and within three months she dropped to 87 pounds,” Taylor said.

Things went downhill from there, Taylor said. Her sister was in and out of therapy and hospitalization. She suffered starting with anorexia and then bulimia.

“It caused her liver to fail,” Taylor said. “She then was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and hepatitis.”

Although the desire to be physically fit may have sparked the disorder, Taylor believes the media plays a role in giving young women unrealistic standards of body image.

“The media and societal ideas definitely played a part in my sister’s image,” she said. “It was like a strive for perfection.”

Jill Kindly, a UHS dietitian and sponsor for Awareness Week, said weight loss in America is tied to the stereotype of beauty as portrayed in the media.

“Culture does have an extreme makeover mentality to an idea of an image, which does constantly change,” Kindly said. “I want people to learn to accept their body and understand we all have dissimilar genetic make-up, making us unique. If we all were the same, we would be boring.”