The Office of Multicultural Affairs hosted Purpose of the Plate, an event focused on opening up a discussion of healthy eating and exercise habits, eating disorders, body image and diet culture. The event was led by Xavion Huff, a freshman psychology major from Marion, but it also featured Vanessa Rivera, a senior dietetics major and nutrition educator as a guest speaker. Open discussion among the participants was encouraged.
The event was hosted on March 30, right at the end of Women’s History Month. Huff said he originally wanted to host Purpose of the Plate during Feb. 21-27, which is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. However, he moved it to March because eating disorders often affect women.
This was Huff’s first time hosting an event. Huff said he deeply cares about how eating disorders affect people, as he has friends who have suffered from them.
Rivera led the first discussion, talking about basic nutrition. She suggested having half of one’s diet consist of fruits and vegetables and to shift to more lean protein options. She said having junk foods was still acceptable, but people should have them in moderation. Rivera also recommended 75 minutes of high intensity exercise, or 150 minutes of moderate activity.
“When it comes to exercise, find something that you enjoy. It can simply be taking a 15 minute walk every single day,” Rivera said. “That’s easier (so) you can actually stay a little bit more consistent with it.”
After a break for dinner, Huff led a discussion regarding diet culture, eating disorders, healthy exercise and more. The participants brought up how social media can affect one’s body image, as well as the different reasons people have for exercising. Trends on TikTok such as the “Brazilian butt-lift” or “BBL’s” for short, as well as hurtful comments people leave came up multiple times.
“TikTok is a very open space for people to just say things,” said Amber Yates, an ambassador for the Office of Multicultural Affairs. “Watch your compliments. Be careful what you’re saying because you don’t know what (someone is) going through.”
Students related their own personal experiences into the discussion as well. Yates talked about a girl she knew in high school whose mother would not allow her to wear bikinis unless she lost a certain amount of weight. One student even spoke about her own experience with an eating disorder.
Huff related his familiarity with eating disorders as well. Due to having friends who struggle with eating disorders, he knows some of the signs that someone might have one. Some examples mentioned were counting calories on food labels or picking at one’s food.
Huff and the students said if one suspects someone has an eating disorder, they should do their best to be supportive and spread awareness about the topic. Additionally, they shouldn’t badger a person to get help, saying that the afflicted person needs to realize the issue for themselves.
“A really good thing to do with someone that has an eating disorder is to not always remind them of (it),” Huff said. “Don’t put too much emphasis on it, because it’s just going to make them nervous. Be there to support them.”
Huff said that due to the large turnout, he would like to host more events similar to Purpose of the Plate. He said the next event might go into more depth about one of the topics discussed, such as eating disorders. At the moment, another similar event is not scheduled.
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