This Sunday begins the annual National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (February 26-March 4) in the U.S. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 70 million people worldwide will suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their life. The reality of that statistic is that you either know someone who is dealing with an eating disorder, or are dealing with one yourself. We don't like to believe these things. I didn't like to either, until I found myself in the middle of my own eating disorder.
You may be surprised to learn these disorders don't develop from a desire to be thin; they develop from a need for control. We live in a fast-paced world fueled by stress, perfection, and comparison. We all deal with those pressures differently, and for some people that means paying close attention to the things they can control, including food and body weight.
I don't remember when I started not liking myself, or the way I looked, or when I started counting calories. All I remember is stepping on the scale every morning. I would weigh myself and then look in the mirror at my soft stomach and say, "Still not good enough," even though I was 25 pounds lighter in January than I had been in August.
I remember days of having to take a break on my way to class because I was so hungry I felt like I was going to pass out. But I was wearing a size 4 and weighed 125 pounds, so it was worth it to me. On the inside, I hated everything about myself. I was working, taking 18 hours of classes, serving as an officer in my chapter, and I didn't understand how I couldn't do it all perfectly. I wouldn't tell anyone I was struggling because I wanted to maintain my reputation as someone who could handle anything. People would ask me how I had gotten so skinny, and I developed a story about how I had started running every day. Then they'd compliment me and that would be enough to get me through another day. In my eyes, if I couldn't control anything else, I could at least control the number on the scale.
Looking back on it, I was grasping for any sort of affirmation I could get. Every comment on my size was another reason to keep going because I was doing something right if people noticed, right? I couldn't see the problem, even when I found myself lying on the floor of my Theta dorm room one night while a friend took care of me because I'd not eaten properly in months and my body just gave out.
After doctor appointments to fix what I had ruined by not taking care of my body and a year of weekly visits with a therapist and nutritionist, I was finally able to put things into perspective. No one understood why I let things get so far out of hand and, honestly, I'm not sure either. I look back at photos of myself from that time and see how small and sad I seemed. I was small in size and small in self-worth.
Every day I have to make a conscious effort to not engage in negative self-talk. Sometimes I still see the same tendencies in myself from that season of life. I'll catch myself eating really small bites so it feels like I'm eating more, or I'll push myself too far at the gym for the gratification of seeing more calories burned. Just like an addiction, an eating disorder never fully goes away. I'll always hear a tiny voice telling me I shouldn't eat dinner or that I should run an extra mile, but for the most part I can tone that voice out. It takes extra effort on tough days, but it is always possible.
I spent over a year of my life counting calories and hating myself. I wasted an entire year of college trying to understand why I couldn't measure up, when in reality I had developed a distorted self-image. I realize how lucky I am to have spent only a year dealing with an eating disorder, while some people suffer for much longer. I understand how difficult it is to admit that something is wrong and to ask for help. I feel for every single individual who has looked in a mirror and hated the image staring back at her, and I hope that if you are currently dealing with an eating disorder you can find the strength to face it and fight it. Because you are good enough and you've never been anything less.
If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, you are not alone! Visit the National Eating Disorders Association website or call their hotline at 1-800-931-2237 (1-866-633-4220 in Canada) for more information.
While Valentine's Day provides a scheduled opportunity for families, partners, and friends to shower one another with love, affection, and cheap candy, I enjoy celebrating the unofficially titled "Galentine's Day" on February 13. To me, this day serves as a chance to reflect on the impressive and vibrant women I have crossed paths with in my life and who I continue to emulate and admire each day.
I spent the last week working with fellow ELCs, Fraternity volunteers, HQ staff, and alumnae at Gamma Kappa Chapter's reestablishment at George Washington University. As I met new member after new member and saw friendships budding between the overwhelmed—but enthusiastic—women, I was continuously overcome with emotions of excitement, sincerity, and love as I thought about these women beginning their experience with Kappa Alpha Theta.
Bettie, Hannah, Alice, and Bettie sparked the original Theta bond. Today, the love I have for the Fraternity and its members is due in part to our founders, but also to the contemporary women who have shaped my own Theta experience. Love can present itself in different and often unexpected ways, but the love that exists in the Fraternity appears in many facets of my life.
It is pride for the international organization of which I am a part and my constant effort to better the chapters I work with while traveling around the continent.
It is my excitement for the Gamma Kappa charter members and all new members who have yet to realize the impact Kappa Alpha Theta will have on their lives and my gratitude for the exposure to new cities, good eats, fresh ideas, and worldly perspectives.
It is support of and from my peers who continue to pursue the widest influence for good in all their endeavors, and it is my appreciation for the brilliant, creative, authentic, hardworking, talented, conscientious, thoughtful, and inspiring members of Kappa Alpha Theta who are unapologetically themselves.
Each February since 2000, the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) has celebrated the Month of the Scholar. Through resources such as the Academic Excellence Handbook, NPC promotes academic excellence within the Panhellenic community.
As Thetas, scholarship is our highest aim. Although receiving high grades and test scores remains important, Thetas strive for more than that. We are involved in student government; we are conducting research; we are being invited to join honor societies. Thanks to progressive chapter programming, Thetas across the US and Canada continue to maintain impressive grade point averages, hold prestigious extracurricular positions, and remain engaged with their Theta chapters.
As we celebrate NPC's Month of the Scholar, we reflect not only on how we can improve our chapter's scholastic efforts, but also on how we can achieve as a Panhellenic community. Before we are Panhellenic women, we are students. In order to maintain the high scholastic reputation our chapters hold, scholarship must remain the focus of our endeavors.
Share with us in the comments below how your chapter is promoting scholarship this month!
How lucky are we to belong to a sisterhood of women that has not just lasted but thrived for the past 147 years? I often think about the strength, determination, and resilience of our four founders on that long-ago 27th day of January in Greencastle, Indiana. At a time when college was not a place where women were welcomed, these four leading women, wearing their badges, walked proudly through the doors of the Asbury chapel despite the male students who scoffed at and mocked them.
Founders Day is celebrated in several ways. Whether at a brunch, an afternoon tea, or another type of event, I ask that you take a moment to reflect on the efforts and strengths of the women who have come before us. Imagine the fortitude and passion of women who had to fight for the right to an education, not only for themselves but for all who would come after them.
Founders Day is a time to remember that belonging to Kappa Alpha Theta is truly an honor and a privilege. It is a time to be grateful for our ability to receive a college education and have a place to call home; women to call our sisters; and an organization to empower us to be our best selves academically, morally, and socially.
In my time traveling as an educational leadership consultant (ELC), I have been inspired by the quality and accomplishments of the women who represent Kappa Alpha Theta. Every Theta I come to know reminds me that I am honored to be a part of such a remarkable organization. In my time as a based consultant reestablishing the Epsilon Nu Chapter at Virginia Tech, I am already so impressed by the caliber of women who are pursuing the opportunity to join our sisterhood.
Thank you to Bettie Locke Hamilton, Alice Allen Brant, Hannah Fitch Shaw, and Bettie Tipton Lindsey. We would not be who we are today with your leadership and love.
At the end of this semester, I will have traveled to 17 states to visit 23 college campuses. Why am I telling you this? I'm telling you these facts to show that I have seen many different Panhellenic communities, each different and wonderful in their own ways.
Sororities were created to bring women together in academic environments to aid them in their educational successes. Think about Bettie Locke Hamilton, Alice Allen Brant, Hannah Fitch Shaw and Bettie Tipton Lindsey. These women came together to create a meaningful organization that would help women on many campuses to succeed in their future endeavors and to find a group of like-minded, brilliant, kind and ambitious women. This is why sororities exist. It's not finding friends to party with, or a way to own lettered shirts. It means much more.
Many other organizations were created with these principles that our founders were passionate about. There are currently 26 NPC organizations, each with their own set of values. Think about Pi Beta Phi, Kappa Kappa Gamma, Phi Mu, Delta Gamma and Alpha Chi Omega. These are just a few of the wonderful organizations whose values are similar to that of Kappa Alpha Theta.
We all value personal and intellectual growth, we want to advance women to become leaders, we believe in a lifelong commitment, we value service to our communities, we foster friendships and provide hope. We have so many things in common!
So why is it that sometimes we don't get along? Why is it that we become competitive during recruitment instead of supporting each other? Aren't we all in this for the same reason? While spring recruitment is happening, think about these things. Be happy for all Greek organizations who gained members. Celebrate their successes and support them in their losses. Be women that support women. Let's advance sorority together!
It's a new year and a brand-new semester here as an educational leadership consultant. As I reflect on 2016, I can't ignore the profound impact that being an ELC has had on me. Here are my resolutions for the coming year:
- Be present. With so many distractions, it's easy to find myself planning my day or lost in thought about the next item on my to-do list. However, my favorite and most meaningful connections with collegians and alumnae have happened unexpectedly; in all instances I have been unplugged and fully engaged.
One of my favorite memories of Epsilon Theta/Stetson, the chapter I established with my based partner, was from Theta Thanksgiving where we provided the members a Thanksgiving meal before they left for break. As I chatted with the members and looked around the room, I was filled with gratitude for the opportunity to spend time with them. This is a moment I would have missed had I been checking my email or worrying about my next move. In the year ahead, I will stay fully present.
- Stay thankful. One of the special characteristics of this job is the connections I'm able to make with collegians, mentors, and friends. When I reflect on the past semester, I am so grateful for the opportunities I have had to see so much of the country, different campuses, and Theta experiences. Seeing two chapters become installed was one of the most meaningful experiences I've had as a Theta. Each day I will remember how special it is to be able to have these experiences as an ELC.
- Say "yes" more. Some of my favorite interactions during my time as an ELC have happened during unstructured time when I have said yes. Whether it has been an unplanned conversation, meeting, or opportunity, I have enjoyed seeing what makes each campus unique. I will continue to say yes to new opportunities.
- Take care of myself. Like many college students today, I sometimes forget to slow down and take care of myself. Whether it's treating myself to a warm cup of coffee in an airport, or carving out time to go on a walk, in this new year I will take time for myself. I know when I return, I'll be energized and ready to be fully present.
I'm so excited to see what this new semester as an ELC will bring. What resolutions are you making for the new year?
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