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Friday, Feb. 23, 2024
The Observer

Saint Mary’s eating disorder club raises awareness on campus

Editor’s Note: This story includes mention of eating disorders and self harm. A list of resources can be found on the National Eating Disorder Association website or through their helpline.

After suffering from an eating disorder and working toward recovery, Saint Mary’s junior Julia O’Grady wanted to start a club for her peers at the College struggling with similar issues. Last semester, O’Grady decided to start the Saint Mary’s Eating Disorder Club. 

“I noticed that being at an all women’s college, eating disorders are really prevalent. The toxic diet culture is so rooted in college-aged girls. It ranges from thinking about how much you’re eating compared to your friends, to the harmful language used around campus when it comes to food,” O’Grady said.

After O’Grady’s recovery journey she realized the importance and urgency to start up a club on campus and break the stigma.

“Last semester when I was going through recovery and fully able to reflect on my environment, I realized that there are major changes that need to be made at Saint Mary’s and in the tri-campus community,” said O’Grady. 

During her recovery process, O’Grady notes that she didn’t begin seeking help until she had noticed major physical consequences as a result of her eating habits. 

“I didn’t understand what eating disorders were or how to spot them. I think that if I had an outlet like an organization on campus to help educate me or to provide me with resources, I would have gotten help a lot sooner,” said O’Grady.

The club’s general mission is to educate, prevent and promote awareness surrounding eating disorders and other comorbid disorders that eating disorders may bring about. However, one of O’Grady’s biggest goals in starting the club is to ensure that no other student has an experience similar to hers: waiting too long to seek help. 

When O’Grady was working to gauge interest in the club last semester, she decided to post about her idea on social media, sparking many Saint Mary’s students to respond and ask questions. “So many people reached out to me saying that they related to my experience and loved the idea of a club. It was eye-opening. So many girls were going through the same thing,” said O’Grady. “It was disturbing and reiterated exactly why this club is needed.”

O’Grady wants her fellow students to be able to look to the club for resources, education and help when it comes to battling their eating disorder(s). During the first week of classes this semester, she met with members of the Saint Mary’s administration to finally get the club off the ground. "Ideally, I’d like to make posters with resources to hang up in places where eating disorders most commonly thrive, like the dining hall, the gym and bathrooms,” mentioned O’Grady. “We’re hoping to also host events alongside the Health and Counseling Center including a possible support group.” 

She also noted the lack of eating disorder support generally throughout the tri-campus community. “A few Notre Dame girls reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in making the club a tri-campus organization,” said O’Grady. Currently, there is a team of students working to get the club approved at Notre Dame so that the Eating Disorder Club can widen its reach. 

“We want as many people as possible to know that we’re here. We want to educate people and we want them to know that there is always someone there for you,” said O’Grady. “You are not your illness.” 

If you are interested in learning more about the Saint Mary’s Eating Disorder club, fill out this interest form to add yourself to their emailing list.