Athens, GA – If Ryan Gosling and Grumpy Cat say so, it must be true. And thanks to a campus organization, For Loving Yourself, those two characters are helping spread the word about eating disorders. It’s all a part of the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) Week, with events happening every day this week. Here are some funny examples:

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The next event is called #noweighwednesday, encouraging people to not worry about how much they weigh this Wednesday. Ashton Garner, the president of For Loving Yourself spent her day today putting up encouraging sticky notes in campus bathrooms and handing out buttons like the ones above. She struggled with an eating disorder herself, and wants to help others feel beautiful and confident. Having gone through it herself, she says an eating disorder can take you away from the things you love. She says you don’t have to hate your body, even though that’s the way society works.

Garner also wants to emphasize that somebody you may not know when someone has an eating disorder. “It’s not just the emaciated girl who weighs 70 pounds and is in a hospital bed. But it’s people you’re sitting next to in class every single day.” A nutrition counselor at the UGA Health Center, Angie Ruhlen echoes the same thing. “Statistics show you’re really likely to have a family member or a friend struggle from an eating disorder or even yourself.” According to the NEDA website, 20 million women suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their life.

Garner decided to plan a NEDA walk three years ago by herself, with a little help from Angie Ruhlen. Since then, it has grown, and this year, they plan on raising $7,000 for NEDA. Right now, they are about half way there. The NEDA week will end with a one-mile fundraising walk this Saturday at the UGA Health Center, all planned by Garner.

On another note, people with eating disorders may have an easier time paying for their treatments because of new Affordable Care Act guidelines. The CEO for NEDA says insurance companies must pay to cover treatments for eating disorders, but there is still a long way to go. “It’s still not going to be a cake walk, you know, they’re not going to cover somebody probably for seven months in a treatment center,” she says. 

For Garner, defeating her disorder means freedom: “When you aren’t spending hours a day worrying about how much food you ate or how much you exercised, it frees your mind up to do a lot of other really great things.” And that’s the same freedom she wants to give those who are struggling with any eating disorder or negative body image. Maybe using a little humor will get the message across.

Alexa Knowles, reporting.

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