University hosts panel on supporting those with eating disorders

By Grace Ostuni
Staff Writer

University faculty and interns said there are spiritual, psychological, nutritional and neurobiological aspects to eating disorders during a panel discussion in the Gentile Gallery on Feb. 28.

The Rev. Jonathan St. Andre, TOR, began the discussion with a spiritual and faith-based perspective. His said that taking care of the body is necessary for having a healthy soul.

“If you have an eating disorder, you have no less chance of being a saint, of being holy. The Lord knows what you are dealing with and He knows your heart,” said St. Andre.

Matthew Burriss, director of the Baron Health and Wellness Center, spoke on the psychological perspective of eating disorders. He gave a summary of the main types of eating disorders and debunked some common myths about them.

“Eating disorders are a type of behavior addiction such as gambling or pornography,” Burriss concluded.

Clare Eckard, a mental health counseling intern, was the third panelist. She spoke on her personal experience with eating disorders and her path to healing.

“I want you to know you can overcome this prison and finding meaning amidst the struggle,” said Eckard.

Afterwards, Jaquelyn Neves, a dietetic intern, spoke on the nutritional aspects of eating disorders, including their negative physical consequences.

“Intuitive eating and mindful eating is really important,” Neves said. “We need nutrients to fuel our bodies.”

Neves added that eating disorders have one of the highest mortality rates for any mental disorder.

Dr. Joseph Pathakamuri, a professor of biology at Franciscan, was the final panelist and spoke on the neurobiological perspective of eating disorders.

Pathakamuri said studies have found a link between eating disorders and stressors in life. He added that this is why it is important to have healthy coping mechanisms.

Pathakamuri also added to Neves’ examples of negative physical consequences associated with eating disorders. He especially stressed the positive link between fats and fertility.

“Fats give you more energy per gram than carbs or protein,” said Pathakamuri.

Junior psychology major Paul Marlowe said of the panel, “Clare’s testimony on her own experience with eating disorders was powerful and gives hope that healing exists.”

The event was hosted to bring awareness to National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, which goes on from Feb. 27 to March 5.