College Students Smash Scales to Raise Eating Disorder Awareness

By Valerie Tejeda 03/25/16
College students are literally smashing away the pressure to be thin in a campaign to promote body positivity.
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College Students Smash Scales to Raise Eating Disorder Awareness
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For many who suffer from eating disorders, scales tend to be a major trigger. McCall Dempsey knows this feeling all too well, as she struggled with an eating disorder for 15 years. Now, McCall is spreading eating disorder awareness through a body positivity campaign she started at southern universities.

It’s called the Southern Smash and the idea is to take a bat to a scale and “smash” the body pressure away. Dempsey spoke to the Cavalier Daily about the campaign's latest event, which took place at the University of Virginia's South Lawn on Tuesday.

“I think everyone no matter what age lives in a world where we feel so pressured to look a certain way, be a certain way, dress a certain way, and this lets us smash all of those standards,” Dempsey explained to the university's student-run newspaper.

The event, hosted by the UVA Coalition on Eating Disorders and Exercise Concerns and Durham-based treatment center Carolina House, gave students the opportunity to smash scales of their own. Some also wrote their perfect numbers (whether it was grades, calories, or weight) on a balloon and then let it go. They also wrote a “scale tombstone.” 

"It's a silent epidemic that is plaguing our country, and there is not enough discussion about them," said Dempsey. "There is so much shame and secrecy around them, so we smash scales to catch people's attention about doing something fun and then really opening the conversation and educating students."

According to ANAD (National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders) up to 30 million people of all ages suffer from eating disorders. In the competitive college environment, many don’t feel comfortable sharing their struggle with their peers, said Melanie Brede, chair of UVA Coalition on Eating Disorders and Exercise Concerns. “The reality is lots of people are struggling and being able to talk about it and have it be a common part of conversation makes it an opportunity for us all to be stronger together instead of struggling silently alone,” she told the Cavalier Daily

Following the smashing of the scales, a panel discussion on eating disorders took place on campus, where they discussed the importance of asking for help and assured students that this doesn’t have to be a lonely fight.

“You can feel kind of isolated,” said college junior, Kendall Siewert. “It is important for young women to understand their worth is not in their weight. It is never too late to ask for help. It’s never too late to find people and surround yourself with acceptance and work on that everyday.”

Future Southern Smash events are planned for colleges and universities in other parts of Virginia, North Carolina, and Illinois this year. You can view the campaign's 2016 schedule by visiting its website.

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Entertainment journalist and author Valerie Tejeda spends her days reporting on books, television, and all things pertaining to pop culture, and spends her nights writing novels for teens. Her stories have appeared on a variety of different publications, including but not limited to: VanityFair, MTV, The Huffington Post, TeenVogue, She Knows, Latina, The Fix, Salon.com, Cosmopolitan, and more. You can find Valerie on Linkedin and Twitter.

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