Thursday, September 25, 2008

Harvard Removes Calorie Cards From Dining Halls

With all of the negative news this past week with the state of the U.S. Financial Situation, it is good to hear some good news finally. Yesterday, the Harvard Crimson published a story by Melody Hu about the bold move made by school leaders in the student dining halls that could positively impact students fighting eating disorders. I was so encouraged to read that at the request of several students and families "nutritional information, which included number of calories, serving size, grams of fat, and grams of carbohydrates, is no longer displayed alongside the food..." according to Melody.

It gives me hope that our higher learning institutions are seeing that this dangerous disorder needs to be addressed pro-actively. These are settings in which so many of our country's future leaders are currently fighting for their lives in a battle with what
Dr. Craig Johnson, director of the eating disorders program at Laureate Psychiatric Hospital in Tulsa, Okla., calls the most deadly of all mental illnesses.

I was so excited to see this courageous step by the leaders of one of our top colleges I wanted to acknowledge them for setting a great example that I am hopeful will be followed by other colleges and universities throughout the world. Here is the letter to the editor I sent the Harvard Crimson:

Dear Crimson Editor,
As a coach supporting families living with the crisis of an eating disorder I am so pleased to see that Harvard University Dining Services has removed the nutritional information index cards from the dining halls. As eating disorders have become an epidemic in our country, especially in our colleges and universities I commend all of the departments on the committee of representatives that made this decision to support students living with the impact of an eating disorder. I see this as a bold step by Harvard in taking a stand in supporting students fighting eating disorders and in addition setting an example for other institutions of higher learning to do what they can to facilitate recovery and success for students with these life threatening challenges.

There is so little positive happening in the fight against eating disorders and I see this as a brave, pro-active and positive change that a few people have implemented that may well save lives. Kudos to HUDS Executive Director Ted A. Mayer for addressing “the challenge a quiet and surprisingly large contingent of our community faces with eating disorders.” From someone who regularly sees the devastation that eating disorders have on not only the sufferers but also the family and friends I am encouraged to see this change being made and this example being set, for we have an epidemic on our hands that is affecting some of the brightest young people in our country. This brightness can carry with it the characteristic of perfectionism which consistently shows up in people with eating disorders. Therefore it does not surprise me that there is a very high ratio of students at Harvard fighting this most deadly of all mental illnesses. For, to have made their way to this tough school most students have had to utilize their perfectionism to make it this far. The sad part is this very quality can be the worm in the crimson apple.

If I could throw a lifesaver to these brilliant young people it would be; love yourself for who you BE not what you are or know and if you learn anything this year; learn to BE good enough and not perfect. The world needs your brilliant minds to solve some of our problems and that won’t happen if you try too hard to be perfect and end up being another sad eating disorder statistic that died from organ failure or suicide.

My thanks to this forward thinking committee of representatives from HUDS, the Bureau of Study Counsel, Harvard University Health Services and the College for taking this brave step in supporting this quiet population of students.

Becky Henry

With a statistic that over half of our college students are living with eating disorders, supporting these students needs to be addressed.