Next week, Saint Mary's annual Love Your Body Week will educate students on how to maintain a healthy and self-accepting lifestyle in connection with National Eating Disorders Week.
Sophomore Kelly Gutrich, co-chair of Love Your Body Week, said 2011 alumna Christina Grasso inspired the planning committee to incorporate eating disorder awareness into the Week's events. Grasso co-founded the New York chapter of Project HEAL: Help to Eat, Accept and Live, which promotes self-acceptance and positive body image.
Grasso said members of Project HEAL work as mentors and consultants to diminish society's obsession with body image, which is a common cause of eating disorders. Only one in 10 of the approximately 24 million Americans suffering from eating disorders receives the necessary treatment, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders.
As an undergraduate at the College, Grasso helped begin Love Your Body Week in 2011 and spoke about her own battle with anorexia at one of the first events.
"I am more than willing to get a little uncomfortable in front of a crowd disclosing parts of my own experience for the good of others," Grasso said. "I battled an eating disorder for 10 years, and it gives great meaning to my journey to know that I have made the lives of others even slightly easier."
This year's events related to Project HEAL's mission will begin Monday with a panel discussion titled "Biting Back" at 7 p.m. in Madeleva Hall. Assistant professor of phsychology Bettina Spencer and 2011 alumna Gina Storti will speak Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Vander Vennet Theatre in the Student Center, presenting their research in a talk titled "Love your body? Body image at SMC compared to ND." On Wednesday, assistant professor of communication studies Terri Russ will lecture on "Beautiful Body Battles, Why Are We All Chasing Unicorns?" at 7 p.m. in Carroll Auditorium in Madeleva Hall.
These events are in keeping with the Project HEAL mission to promote positive mental and physical approaches to body image among women.
"As an organization, we strive to raise awareness about eating disorders and raise funds to provide scholarships to send applicants to eating disorder treatment," Grasso said.
Grasso said Project HEAL assists women who cannot afford treatment for these disorders. This treatment costs between $500 and $2,000 per day and is not usually covered by health care, according to the South Carolina Department of Mental Health.
"Since our launch five years ago, we have raised over $200,000 and sent seven applicants to treatment, all of whom are doing well and reclaiming their lives" Grasso said. "Inpatient and residential treatment for eating disorders are often imperative for survival and recovery.
Visit theprojectheal.org for more information on Project HEAL. For more information on Love Your Body Week, visit saintmarys.edu/love-your-body-week