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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

The National Eating Disorders Association has implemented a new online program to serve college students dealing with body image confidence.

A survey conducted by the association, as a part of its Collegiate Survey Project, found that greater resources are needed to educate, screen, refer and treat students.

Proud2Bme On Campus was launched as a nationwide initiative to combat eating disorders and spread awareness. By bringing students, faculty and campus services together, Proud2Bme plans to fight the eating disorder epidemic at multiple colleges and universities across the nation.

Shannon Johnson, a UF dietetics senior, said programs like this would make a difference for students.

“A lot of college students already have this pressure from the society, media and culture around them to look a certain way,” Johnson, 22, said.

The online program features a variety of services, including screenings, how-to guides, toolkits, professional advice and forums.

Early detection could be a problem solver, said Christine Moreno, a UF microbiology and cell science senior.

“It’s nice that from the privacy of your own home, someone can check if they are at risk for an eating disorder,” Moreno, 22, said. “Then they can go from there to prevent the disorder from getting out of hand.”

If students are struggling with food or exercise issues, they are urged to take an eating disorder screening on the website, which is kept confidential at all times.

Dr. Amelia Davis, a physician at the UF Health Eating Disorder Recovery Center, wrote in an email that the screenings could be a good way for someone to see if their symptoms may be consistent with an eating disorder.

“(The screening) can then hopefully encourage that person to seek an evaluation and possible treatment from an eating disorder specialist,” Davis said. “The longer someone suffers, the more the thoughts and behaviors become ingrained and more difficult to treat.”

Proud2BMe strives to offer eating disorder education, resources and support on all college campuses to help students with eating and body image concerns.

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The initiative hopes to empower individuals to make changes in their lives and inspire communities to create healthier role models for others struggling with eating disorders.

With the online component of Proud2Bme, the National Eating Disorders Association is in the process of developing on-campus programs that could appear in colleges as early as February.

“By providing education in the community and increasing general awareness, there is greater likelihood that someone will recognize someone (either themselves, a close friend or family member) who has an eating disorder and help refer that person for help,” Davis said.

GatorWell encourages students coping with an eating disorder to reach out for help and contact the UF Counseling & Wellness Center’s eating disorders program.

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