By Naveed Mansoori

Only 5-foot-2 and 108 pounds, Laura says she never wants to stop purging.

“If my mom noticed food missing from the house she’d look at me and say, ‘Oh, that’s where it went,’” the Porter freshman said, explaining what triggered her bulimia.	

“It started with anorexia, but then I’d get hungry. We’d go out to dinner a lot and I was pressured into eating these things,” she said. “You’d eat so much you’d have to hurl.”

Laura is one of the 10 percent of female college students who suffer from a clinical or sub-clinical eating disorder, and of the one in 100 women in America who binge and purge to lose weight.

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (NEDAW) will take place from Monday, Feb. 26 through Saturday, March 3 with various educational activities such as panel discussions and nightly movie screenings.

According to NEDAW’s website, the goal of the week is to “teach people of all ages about the importance of promoting positive body image as well as raise awareness about the dangers of eating disorders.”

UC Santa Cruz’s Health Center has an eating disorder team composed of nutritionists, doctors, nurses, and psychiatrists.

Having worked with victims of eating disorders during her graduate education and having suffered from an eating disorder herself, Dr. Susan Gulbe Walsh, a Post doctorate Fellow at the UCSC Health Center, is passionate about treating her patients.

“It’s important for people to know that they are not alone,” Walsh said. “Eating disorders are very common. [The Health Center] is a safe place, confidential, and it is used by a lot of students.”

The question of a genetic base for eating disorders is among one of the most important topics that will be discussed during NEDAW.

Tony Saiber, director of the Colorado-based Eating Disorder Foundation, explained the factors leading to eating disorders among Americans.

“We can’t blame it all on the culture and our media, although they certainly exacerbate the problem,” Saiber said. “There is a genetic link to eating disorders. The genes load the gun, and society pulls the trigger.”

Though some individuals are genetically inclined to develop eating disorders, Walsh knows from experience that anorexia and bulimia are curable.

“I know that cure is possible,” said Walsh, pausing. “Hope is a good thing to instill, people do get better.”

Saiber emphasized the importance of maintaining a positive self-image.

“Looking your best is important, but being healthy is beautiful,” Saiber said. “It’s important to teach our children good priorities and values, how to set boundaries, how to say no to something, how to dismiss something as being unreal, and start focusing on our attributes on the inside.”

Walsh reasoned that issues with shame, body-image, and identity inhibit sufferers of eating disorders from seeking help. NEDAW aims to banish the stigmas deterring those with eating disorders from seeking help.

_Look for flyers around campus detailing the times and locations of the events._