New group of students participates in walk to raise awareness of eating disorders

Adrian Wan, Reporter

Cats with Confidence, a new group of students that promotes body positivity and fights eating disorders, participated Sunday in a Chicago walk to raise funds for reducing stigma.

Co-founder Courtney Lewis said the group raised more than $3,000 and was recognized for collecting the second-largest sum of money of all participating groups. To raise funds, she said the students sold headbands and decorations and requested donations over Facebook.

Lewis, a SESP sophomore, said she created the club because she wanted to encourage students to love themselves.

“I’m interested in spreading the body positivity message to everybody because I believe everybody has a beautiful body,” Lewis said.

The group, co-founded by Lewis and Weinberg senior Sarah Goldstein, will work with Northwestern-affiliated organizations, such as Counseling and Psychological Services, as well as local and Chicago-based therapy treatment programs, such as Eating Recovery Center and Yellowbrick Consultation and Treatment Center, to provide support for those in need, Goldstein said. Cats with Confidence itself is not yet affiliated with the University.

The Chicago NEDA Walk, hosted by the National Eating Disorders Association, was held at Diversey Harbor on Sunday. Lewis said she became involved because the event — like Cats with Confidence — promotes awareness and prevention of eating disorders.

“So many people suffer (from eating disorders) in silence,” said Jessica Hickman, NEDA’s national walk manager. “They are afraid to talk about eating disorder(s) because there has been stigma associated, so we want to educate the public that you shouldn’t be ashamed of it. We want every participant to know that help is available and recovery is possible.”

The event drew about 800 participants from colleges throughout the Chicago area, and 57 teams from various treatment centers, mental health resources and student organizations, Hickman said.

NEDA aimed to raise $50,000, Hickman said, and as of Sunday evening, the campaign had totaled just over $55,000. The money raised will be used to fund NEDA’s advocacy programs to promote education about eating disorders and connect people to treatment resources.

“It’s truly great to be in a space where you can be so open and honest about your struggles with body image and disordered body image,” Lewis said.

Going forward, Cats with Confidence plans to bring a speaker to campus to discuss body positivity and create a workshop to spread awareness of eating disorders among the Northwestern community, Lewis said.

Cats with Confidence has also compiled a list of individual dietitians and therapists who can help students struggling with eating disorders and body image, Goldstein said.

“What I would like to see is for people to be better educated about what to do when they or their friends are doing anything problematic,” Goldstein said. “I’d love to teach people how to love their bodies, at least to be OK with their bodies, when normal dieting is actually becoming a problem and imposing emotional and physical risks.”

Catherine Kim contributed reporting.

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