Shaw Wellness Institute Organizes Eating Disorder Awareness Week

The Shaw Wellness Institute, located on the first floor of the 113 Broad Street Complex, observed Eating Disorder Awareness Week (EDAW) last week as part of a nationally recognized effort to promote discussion and understanding of eating disorders. 

Shaw’s recognition for EDAW mainly took the form of an Instagram campaign (@shawwellnessinsttitute). The Institute took to the social media platform to share facts, statistics and support resources. 

“The main goal is to bring awareness to how common eating disorders are and to showcase all the resources both on and off campus available to students who may be struggling,” Allison Bowers, Colgate University’s registered dietician, said.

The Shaw Wellness Instagram posted a new prompt each day, with ideas such as “Share a photo of you or friends trying a new food or meal” or “Share someone who you look up to in your life or who inspires you.” If students wanted to participate, they could tag @shawwellnessinstitute and use the hashtag #EDAW2023.

“Eating disorders and disordered eating often go hand-in-hand with other conditions, such as anxiety, depression and substance use disorders,” Bowers said. “They can also develop as a result of trauma or feelings of inadequacy or not being seen.”

Bowers said Shaw serves as a safe space to provide counseling for students to find belonging and comfort at Colgate.

She also pointed out that eating disorders are the second deadliest mental illness, so students should be made aware of how serious they can be, “despite often being encouraged by social media and diet culture.”

Shaw led a “photo challenge” via Instagram Stories to spread positivity regarding eating and healthy living. Different days of the week corresponded to different photo challenges, like sharing photos of trying new meals with friends or posting one’s go-to comfort food.

Senior Abaigeal Donaldson, a Shaw Wellness ambassador, created the Instagram campaign. When asked about any challenges she faced during the process, she noted that keeping the Instagram positive and supportive was important.

“The biggest challenge was trying to ensure that no one with an eating disorder would be upset by seeing these posts every day — I tried to keep the color scheme and text really positive and spent a lot of time emphasizing that we’re all part of a greater, supportive, community,” Donaldson said. 

Senior Amanda Faust, Shaw’s integrated health and wellness liaison, shared her thoughts about the Instagram series. 

“I think the Instagram series was a great way to get students, athletes and staff involved in EDAW,” Faust said. “It can be hard to stay aware of healthy eating at such a rural, small school. But we all are constantly on our phones and social media, so I think the combination of those ideas to do a social media campaign for EDAW was an ideal way to get students involved in this process and more aware of healthy eating habits and disordered eating.”

Many students engaged with the Instagram series by liking, following and sharing the account’s posts.

“Awareness doesn’t end with one week, but I think highlighting this week on social media was really beneficial for the campus in terms of educational purposes and sharing support,” Donaldson said.

Donaldson also shared her gratitude for Bowers.

She brings a new light and energy to the Shaw Wellness Institute and is so committed to keeping this campus healthy, happy and accessible to everyone,” Donaldson said.

Donaldson said that Bowers is also the reason why students have access to food pantries on campus now, making free food accessible to all students in a confidential manner. 

“I think she, and the rest of Shaw, really embody this commitment to healthy eating and support for EDAW,” Donaldson said.