Members of Body Sense walk at the 2015 Columbus NEDA Walk at Fred Beekman Park. Credit: Courtesy of Body Sense OSU

This Saturday, a group of Ohio State students will walk toward a future without eating disorders.

Body Sense, a student organization that advocates for positive body image and self-love, is hosting the National Eating Disorders Association walk in Columbus to raise funds for eating disorder treatment and research for the eighth time this year.

Laurie Hamame, president of Body Sense and fifth-year in journalism, said the NEDA Walk allows for a community of like-minded individuals to unite in fighting eating disorders and the stigma that surrounds them.

“I think getting a group of people together who have the same values and same mission is so important because a lot of people — myself included — have felt like they’re the only person that feels this way, or they are the only person fighting against the diet industry or just feel alone in the struggle,” Hamame said.

The NEDA Walk is a nationwide event that hosts walks throughout the country that each raise funds for the nonprofit National Eating Disorders Association. This year, Hamame said the Columbus NEDA Walk has raised more than $14,000 so far. But the goal is to raise $25,000 total, a $5,000 increase from last year’s total.

She said Body Sense members typically fundraise individually by asking friends and family members to donate, but the organization also holds group fundraisers such as T-shirt sales and yoga workshops.

Body Sense hosted the first Columbus NEDA Walk in 2010, the year the student organization was founded on campus. However, Hamame said this year is the first time the walk will be held on central campus, beginning at Larkins Plaza outside of the RPAC.

Clorissa Mendez, coordinator for the Columbus NEDA Walk and a second-year in social work, said the location of the NEDA Walk will help to raise awareness of eating disorders and allow for ease of advocacy on campus.

“(Eating disorders are) not something that people can do alone,” Mendez said. “You need support, whether it’s from family or friends, and I think when the community is more educated, people will feel more comfortable to come out and say, ‘Hey, I think I have a problem’ and people won’t shut them down or laugh, and they’ll take it seriously.”

Check-in for the walk will begin at 10 a.m. and participants will be able to participate in a variety of activities leading up to the opening ceremonies, Hamame said. There will be a yoga session, face painting, booths with representatives from eating disorder treatment centers and stations to make pouches for keeping written compliments. She said the event’s most popular activity is “scale bashing,” during which participants can “deface” scales with permanent markers.

Hamame said the opening ceremony will take place at 11 a.m. and will feature a speaker who will share their story of eating disorder recovery. She said hearing personal messages from survivors of mental illnesses inspires others to believe recovery is possible.

“I can’t even tell you how inspiring it is to have hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people in the same space, all finding support in our community,” Hamame said. “Everyone is just kind of on a high.”

The NEDA Walk will come to a close after participants complete a one-mile walk around Ohio Stadium. However, Hamame said she hopes the walk will have lasting effects on those involved.

“As someone who has struggled with an eating disorder myself, I’ve been in that place and I know how dark it can feel,” Hamame said. “I’m so inspired by the community coming together, and I think just being there, whether you’ve struggled (with an eating disorder) or not, the NEDA Walk can help you learn how to love yourself a little bit more.”

Editor’s note: Laurie Hamame is a former Lantern reporter.

Correction April 6: A previous version of this article said the NEDA walk is taking place on Sunday when in fact it is on Saturday, April 8. The article also stated the event would have T-shirt tye-dyeing and two speakers as well as hundreds of scales to write on. In fact, there will not be T-shirt the-dyeing this year, there will be one speaker and five scales.