“You won’t have a problem having kids, thanks to your big hips,” is just one of the things college undergraduate Kim (pseudonym) would hear from her family on a daily basis.
Kim, a former member of the eating disorder support group, Healing Relay, shared her experience of bulimia.
In high school, Kim developed a vicious cycle of starvation, binging, and eventually throwing up in efforts to lose weight. Kim confessed that for two years in high school, she would sneak away from her friends after meals to throw up in the bathroom.
Things only got worse when Kim entered college. Eager to start the glamorous college life that she had always dreamed of, Kim lost 10 kilograms with the help of some diet pills. However, to maintain her new figure, Kim started throwing up again, at first weekly, then daily.
“It went on to the point where it interfered with my daily life,” she said. “In the end, I lost everything including my grades, friends, relationships, and hobbies.”
Like Kim, an increasing number of people are developing eating disorders. According to the latest analysis from the National Health Insurance Service, the number of people suffering from eating disorders jumped to 13 thousand in 2012, 20 percent higher than the figure in 2008.
To tackle this problem, Enactus Ewha, a community of student leaders at Ewha committed to using entrepreneurial action to improve the society, established I’m On Your Side to counter the eating disorder epidemic.
Project runner Shin Ji-ha, an Economics major, said that she was surprised by the size of the eating disorder community.
“There are online eating disorder communities with more than 25 thousand subscribers,” Shin said.
Currently, one of every 20 female university students is suffering from some kind of an eating disorder.
Established in 2014, I’m On Your Side strives to change the way eating disorders are perceived in the society by changing the unrealistic standards of beauty and pressure to be thin in society. By seeing eating disorders as a social issue rather than a personal one, I’m On Your Side tries to make eating disorders an open topic for discussion.
One way I’m On Your Side tackles eating disorders and extreme dieting fads is by organizing small forums and publishing articles.
“‘Eating and Throwing Up: How much do you know about eating disorders?’ was the first of many articles to be published over this coming year,” said project manager Kwon Eun-jung. She explained that I’m On Your Side and the plus size fashion and culture magazine “66100” partnered to promote awareness of the dangers of eating disorders, and will be releasing numerous articles in 2016.
Alongside their efforts in publicizing the dangers of eating disorders, I’m On Your Side also operates Healing Relay, which is focused more on the treatment of these disorders. The Healing Relay is a support group for people suffering from various kinds of eating disorders. It works with professionals from the Maum & Maum Mental Health Clinic to counsel and help the members of the support group. From January to February, I’m On Your Side conducted its second season of the Healing Relay.
I’m On Your Side’s Healing Relay is unique in that it is not primarily operated by a specialist, but by the participants. People suffering from eating disorders come together and talk freely about their experiences and thoughts. This unique project has been receiving tremendous amount of praise internationally, regarding its effects. Meeting this expectation, I’m On Your Side has shown fantastic results, with a 70 percent recovery rate from their first members. During the group sessions at the Healing Relay, participants write and share their bucket lists, give advice and ideas about what they can do instead of binge eating, and much more. A specialist comes in only once a week, to help with the group therapy and check the meal logs of each member.
“During the Healing Relay, we were continuously told ‘It is not your fault,’” Kim said. “These words really helped me a lot. I used to constantly blame my appearance and personality for my eating disorder, and the more I blamed myself, the worse my eating habits became. I now realize that it was my surroundings that made me so, and I wish that other people going through the eating disorders would realize that it is not their fault, and find courage within themselves once more.”