By Brandon Scalea
The resounding message at a Delta Phi Epsilon (DPhiE) event on Feb. 12 was that everyone should love themselves no matter what.
In its annual vigil, DPhiE’s goal was to spread awareness about Anorexia Nervosa and other Affective Disorders (ANAD), the sorority’s philanthropy. ANAD also works to spread messages of body positivity and self-acceptance.
An eating disorder is defined as an extreme or disordered form of dieting. Every year, between 1-2 percent of American women suffer from anorexia or bulimia. Every 62 minutes, someone dies as a direct result of an eating disorder, according to ANAD’s website.
A few sisters in the chapter shared their own experiences with eating disorders and depression.
For the second straight year, senior Alyssa Belardo told her story of a long journey to be comfortable in her own skin.
“For a very long time, my mind has been set to inspire people with my story and my words,” she said. “Whether it’s been suicide prevention or eating disorder awareness, I feel like I should be the person to stand up and say, ‘I’ve been there and it’s OK.’”
Belardo, the middle of five children, said that in fifth grade her teacher began seeing explicit signs of clinical depression in her. She said she saw her siblings as goal-oriented individuals who were breezing through life, while she didn’t seem to have a place. Belardo said she began using food as a vice.
“I would eat when I was sad, I would eat when I was angry,” she said. “I would skip dinner and then binge eat afterwards. I was trying to cope with my depression using food, which led to the development of Binge Eating Disorder.”
She said that in 10th grade, she began to compulsively over-exercise, staying up until 2 a.m. and then waking up at 5 a.m. to work out before school. Although her weight dropped, so did her grades.
Belardo said her problem was chasing after goals she could not possibly achieve, to fulfill her own expectation of beauty that her mind was set on.
“Eating disorders are a mental illness, not a physical one,” she said. “When a comment about someone’s weight comes up, erase it. You never know what a person is going through, but they are beautiful just the same.”
Belardo said that although she still has some days when the sadness creeps back, she has accepted who she is. She’s now a resident advisor, president of an honors society and president of Rider University Greek Council.
Sophomore secondary education major Kayla Stolarczuk stressed that being mindful of others’ problems and feelings is important when it’s not always clear that someone may need help.
“ANAD is a cause I hold close to my heart because I know how many people struggle with eating disorders,” she said. “It shows that you should be kind to everyone because you never know what someone is going through behind closed doors.”
Other sisters agreed that it can be a shock when learning of friends’ problems, since not everyone is open about their struggles.
“The vigil was an eye-opening experience,” said Lindsey Lavelle, a freshman elementary education major. “I had no idea people actually went through stuff like that. The fact that they are able to share their stories and help others get through their problems shows how strong they really are.”
The vigil, which is usually held on the lawn outside of the DPhiE house, was held this year in the Cavalla Room. The chapter raised over $500 for its philanthropy.
“It’s such a wonderful event with moving speakers,” said Jessica Nietzold, a junior elementary education major. “I love that we use it as an opportunity to raise awareness and money for the cause.”