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Students seek to raise awareness for eating disorders

SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

Over 30 million Americans suffer from eating disorders each year, but the Celebrating EveryBody: A Walk for Eating Disorders Awareness wants to change that.

The walk, which take place Sunday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Raymond James Stadium, aims to educate participants about the prevalence of eating disorders and provide a community for those who are currently struggling.

The event is organized by two USF students in the College of Public Health who used to have eating disorders. It benefits the Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness.

Alliance CEO Johanna Kandel founded the organization 16 years ago, when she was recovering from an eating disorder.

“I was very dismayed that people weren't talking about it,” she explained. “This was in the late 1990s, beginning of 2000 and I really wanted people to know that not only is this not a disorder of choice, but eating disorders are serious psychological disorders and they are not about vanity.”

The walk will feature events and live music for those who don’t want to walk the one-mile loop around the stadium. One such event is a “scale smash.”

“People can write their thoughts on a scale and actually get the opportunity to smash the scale.  Registered participants will get to participate in the scale smash following the walk,” Melanie Marshall, one of the event organizers, said in an email.

Kandel hopes the walk will lead to a productive conversation about eating disorders that can help those suffering to know that they are not alone.

“I think it’s time for us to all come out and to recognize that this is a significant psychological disorder,” she said. “With proper education, awareness and treatment, we can absolutely work towards a day sometime down the road where eating disorders are no longer the psychological disorder that has the highest mortality rate.”

The goal of the walk is to raise money to provide free professional-led support sessions for people with eating disorders in Tampa Bay.

“It’s my hope that the walk … starts to create conversation, that it shatters the shame and stigma surrounding eating disorders and I hope that it brings the community together to say that it’s OK to talk about it, it’s OK to get help and that there is recovery,” Kandel said.