While this is relatively unknown to many, this upcoming week marks the 2020 National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, starting on Monday, Feb. 24 and going till Sunday, Mar. 1. The week is spearheaded by the National Eating Disorders Association which is, according to their website, “the largest nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting individuals and families affected by eating disorders.”
NEDA’s national theme for this year’s NEDAwareness Week is “Come as You Are: Hindsight is 20/20,” which focuses on looking back at the progress and positive steps made in battles with eating disorders. The goal is to reduce negative self-talk in people with eating disorders and focus more on positive and uplifting thought patterns.
While NEDA is doing wonderful work across the country, there is another widespread and connected group to highlight, and this group is directly working with Drexel University with this NEDAwareness Week: The Renfrew Center.
The Renfrew Center has been in operation since 1985, and their focus is towards “empowering adolescent girls and women to change their lives.” On the national level, The Renfrew Center is a network of treatment facilities.
The Renfrew Center of Philadelphia in Center City is one of the many Renfrew Center locations around the United States — including one of two centers in Philadelphia. The Center City Renfrew Center offers a judgement-free and completely focused place of help, and according to their website, their range of services include “a comprehensive range of services including day treatment, intensive outpatient and group therapy.”
The Center City Renfrew Center is very aware of their location in relation to college campuses like Drexel, Penn, Temple, University of the Arts, University of the Sciences and Thomas Jefferson University, and so they tailor their practices to fit the needs of the community. They have an Eating Disorders Group for College Students which meets on Mondays from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., and they go over everything from campus life to exercise culture to social care and more.
For this year’s NEDAwareness Week, The Renfrew Center is participating by tackling the issue of negative self talk, with their campaign of “Beyond the Mirror.” They hope to tackle negative self-talk practices with pushing your goals and measures of success to be found in other places. The Renfrew Center is shipping out mirror clings that say “Love What You See” to Drexel and also have them at their offices.
The Triangle had the opportunity to interview Kristin Szostak, the Site Director of The Renfrew Center of Philadelphia in Center City. She was able to not only elaborate on The Renfrew Center’s goals but also provide information on eating disorder prevalence and food for thought moving forward.
Szostak said that The Renfrew Center is “looking to challenge the community” when it comes to the “Beyond the Mirror” campaign. “Over 30 million Americans suffer from an eating disorder at any given time,” Szostak explained.
While there is a strong focus on fighting negative self-talk with the 2020 NEDAwareness Week, but the general awareness towards discussing eating disorders in a normalized setting is the main goal.
“Awareness is the real success,” Szostak said. “The more it’s spoken about, even if it’s just among families, the more it’s going to spread out across all forms of the community.”
This goes along with the idea that many people will admit to having eating disorders but not without first being prompted. Szostak explained that the difficult reality of eating disorders is thinking you’re alone. “Eating disorders themselves thrive in secrecy,” Szostak insists, “and we want to show that there is no shame in asking for help.”
As more and more awareness spreads, The Renfrew Center, NEDA and everyone working to help those affected by eating disorders believe that education and advocacy on the issue will continue to grow.
Look out for the “Love What You See” mirror clings over the next week on Drexel’s campus, and next week, keep in mind how important it is to discuss eating disorders in a normal and comfortable setting.