Actress Robyn Hussa screened her documentary, “ED101,” and talked to Lawrentians about eating disorders last Tuesday, April 17 in the Warch Campus Center Cinema. Delta Gamma president and junior Sarah Laven arranged the event with support from the Panhellenic Council, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, Downer Feminist Council and V-Day.
Hussa never intended to be a nationally-known advocate for the prevention of and education about eating disorders, but when seven of her closest friends in the professional theatre business were diagnosed, she knew she had to something.
The half-hour-long documentary consisted of multiple interviews with trained eating disorder professionals and recovered patients, while also providing excerpts from the musical produced by Hussa, “nor.mal: the musical,” with the protagonist being a young woman trying to deal with her eating disorder. The musical has been performed at schools, theatres, psychiatric hospitals, schools, medical conferences and art festivals across America.
“Sometimes people overlook the arts as a venue that is not appropriate for something as serious as an eating disorder, but I think that she makes it accessible,” Laven continued. “Students in middle school who don’t want to sit through a formal presentation can watch her musical and be impacted in a lasting way.”
In 2006, Hussa founded the NORMAL national nonprofit organization, for which she has created an array of arts programs and educational initiatives. In 2010, Hussa received the Champion in Women’s Health award from the Wisconsin Women’s Health Foundation. She is a frequent presenter on the topics of eating disorders, body image and the healing power of performing arts. Finally, she is also a yoga teacher who works with patients in recovery from eating disorders.
Hussa recently published her first book, “Healthy Selfitude,” which incorporates exercises that teach self-acceptance through performing arts and yoga techniques. The book was on sale at the presentation, with free book signings by Hussa.
“We are living in a culture obsessed with diet and exercise,” said Hussa, “which has resulted in a sharp increase in eating disorders over the past decade.”
Hussa continued to shock her audience with surprisingly high statistics. Twenty-five million Americans are currently struggling with eating disorders. Of those 25 million, 7 million are male. Also, at least one fourth of all United States teenage girls are suffering from self-injury, eating disorders, significant depression or serious consideration of suicide.
Additionally, Hussa revealed that more people die from eating disorders than any other psychiatric illness.
There are four classifications of Eating Disorders: anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder, bulimia nervosa and EDNOS — eating disorder not otherwise specified.
“If your friend refuses to acknowledge that there is a problem, or any reason for you to be concerned, restate your feelings and the reasons for them and leave yourself open and available as a supportive listener,” Hussa advised the audience.
Hussa also stressed the danger of the disordered eating trend, such as occasionally skipping a meal or dieting, a gateway into an eating disorder. “How do we know when are we tipping the needle to the other side?” asked Hussa.
Panhellenic Council president and junior Beth Larsen commented, “Lawrentians should be educated about eating disorders because these topics are not frequently discussed and there is still a lot of confusion and stigma surrounding these issues.”
Freshman Amalya Lewin-Larin revealed that the pressure she feels everyday to be a certain size “comes from society,” and that she was “surprised to find out that crash diets and thinking about one’s weight all the time [can be] considered to be non-specified eating disorders, and that many people have them.”