by Nicole Silverio ’22
In honor of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, the Concannon Fitness Center and Active Minds put together Inside Out Week to raise awareness and support for those who struggle with eating disorders.
To kick off the week, there was a Feel Good Yoga session in the morning in the Group Fitness Center, booths in Lower Slavin, and a kick-off event with guest Dayna Altman. Altman’s event offered pamphlets regarding information on eating disorders, as well as yogurt and fruit for the participants.
In ‘64 Hall, Altman, a former student at Providence College and author of the mental health cookbook Bake It Till You Make It: Breaking Bread, Building Resilience, spoke to an audience while baking one of her recipes. After struggling with her own mental health, Altman began project called Body Positivity. Regarding her project, she said, “I used a YouTube channel to spread our stories. Our story was used to help others and I feel that sense of responsibility and hope.”
While at the college, she struggled with her mental health immensely, to the point that she had contemplated suicide. She spent a period of time in a mental facility, which she claimed did not benefit her.
Afterwards, she returned to PC with the same suicidal thoughts. She said, “I used school and grades to validate my worth, but when I saw that I failed a test I went into the bathroom to end my life. I’m so grateful that I called my mom and went on medical leave.”
While on medical leave, she began seeing a therapist named Deana who she regarded as being “the person who had changed my life more than anyone else.” When her medical leave ended, she transferred to Northeastern University in Boston, MA.
At Northeastern, Altman attended a 10-day school trip to Israel where she was sexually assaulted, deteriorating the healthy mental state she had worked hard to build. After returning to campus, she began a movement called Fashion in Action. Altman, fellow peers, and professors collected 800 articles of clothing which they donated to rape crisis shelters. This organization continues at Northeastern today, leaving behind her legacy.
Today, Altman works at a non-profit called Girls Inc. helping young girls to cope with their mental health. Currently, she is working on a children’s mental health book inspired by her work at Girls Inc. She read the audience passages of her published book, containing recipes and stories of 45 people telling their mental health stories. The most notable story was her grandmother’s, who described her experience of grief after losing her husband.
After being married for 50 years and working at the same company as her husband, she had spent practically every moment by his side, so losing him took a major toll on her mental state. Her story mentioned that everyone handles grief in different ways; some remarry, some remember the good times, some grieve for the rest of their lives. The message of her story was that there is no shame in the way a person handles their feelings, as every person handles it differently. Altman’s cookbook consisted of stories of people from different backgrounds and experiences, nevertheless spreading a moving message to those who may be suffering.
Throughout the week, Peterson will be hosting self-acceptance and mental health workshops to inspire students to accept themselves and help loved ones who may struggle with an eating disorder. Altman served as an example of the possibility of overcoming these struggles with the right awareness and support. Altman and the Inside Out events happening on campus this week strive to spread that same message.