Press "Enter" to skip to content

Eating disorders discussed at awareness event

A group of Mills students, faculty amd guests gathered on Feb. 23 to discuss relationships with food and spirituality for National Eating Disorder Awareness week. (Bonnie Horgos)

Last week it was fair game to write on bathroom walls at Mills College.

Large sheets of colorful paper were taped throughout campus bathrooms, encouraging students to write self-accepting phrases such as “you are beautiful!”

The Mills College Office of Spiritual and Religious Life and the Office of Wellness and Community Outreach sponsored multiple events including the bathroom boosts for the National Eating Disorder Awareness week, Feb. 20-26. Titled Got Self Love? part 2, the week’s activities included a lecture on Feb. 28 in Mills Hall and a discussion on food and spirituality in the Chapel Lounge on Feb. 23. The events focused on raising awareness about eating disorders and how Mills can provide support.

The idea for “Got Self Love?” began last semester when Residential Assistants Isabel Cortes and Gena Cardona organized “Got Self Love? part 1” for their halls. Students discussed various issues about eating disorders at the event. In addition, Mills students Keeley Driscoll and Liliana Gonzalez separately approached the Office of Wellness and Community Outreach last semester, proposing that the college organize events for National Eating Disorder Awareness week.

Kim Baranek, Director of Wellness and Community Outreach, said she hoped Mills would become more responsive to eating disorders, boosting care already provided including the Mills Counseling Center.

“One of the things I’m going to take away (from these events) is how the environment can be more supportive,” Baranek said.

Laura Engelken, director of Spiritual and Religious Life, said one way Mills could provide support for students with eating disorders is to host more events such as the discussion on Feb. 23 about eating and spirituality.

“In terms of my role, I’d like to help create those connections and dialogue about how spirituality impacts all different areas of our lives,” Engelken said. “We all bring our (issues)… Hopefully, ideally, because there are some shared experiences we may be able to talk about our issues more.”

And that’s exactly what happened in the Chapel Lounge on Feb. 23. A group of 16 students, faculty and guests gathered to discuss how food and religious philosophies relate, a common theme in recovery programs.

Three people shared stories from overeating to undereating including Dr. Joi Lewis, Dean of Students and Vice Provost for the Division of Student Life. Since she began working at Mills in the summer of 2007, Lewis has lost around 100 lbs. thanks to facing her lifelong issues with food head-on.

“I know it’s a God-sized hole that can’t be filled up with food,” Dr. Joi said, referring to her struggles with eating.

Dr. Joi now weighs and measures her food, eating three meals per day with no snacks in between.

“(Food) really is a drug for me. If I want to be numb, don’t want to feel anything, I go for the food,” Dr. Joi said. “It was about the food but it was also about this spiritual awakening; I wanted some peace and serenity.”