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Wellness isn’t just about food: UNB nursing students

UNB nursing students are once again hosting a program to help students achieve a new state of wellness by taking the focus away from food.

The “It’s Not About Food” initiative, which began in 2008, was organized this year by Melissa Foster and Joel Currie, both third-year nursing students at UNB. The initiative promotes awareness and openness about food and body issues within our culture.

The initiative is comprised of two parts: a drop-in clinic and focus groups. Both will provide students with a list of resources in the community regarding eating issues and body image.

“For select Fridays next month we’re having a drop-in clinic where the focus will be self-care. It’s completely drop-in – some people might stop in for five minutes, some may [come] say for a couple hours,” said Currie.

The clinic will be set up in room 103 of the Student Union Building between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Various stations will be set up at the clinic, each one focusing on a specific topic including how to make a better smoothie, yoga, meditation, breathing and massage therapy, which will be done by a licensed masseuse.

“Even if somebody comes to our drop-in clinics and finds one thing that would be a positive addition into their lives, that would be a huge success to us,” Foster said.

The second element of the program comes in the form of a six-week-long peer-led group. Participants will be given the chance to discuss eating issues in a safe and welcoming location one evening per week.

“An eating disorder doesn’t discriminate on gender or age — it can affect anybody. There are a lot of pressures today to be a certain size and have a certain image because of the media, stereotypes and our culture,” said Foster.

“The pressure gets to people and creates unhealthy habits and we want to get to them before they spiral out of control by providing a safe place. People are going to come away with new information on how to take care of themselves, on healthy eating habits and a new relationship with food — to see food as a medicine,” Currie said.

Commitment is key when it comes to this initiative.  Those who wish to participate in a focus group must commit to the full six weeks. Furthermore, the group will become closed after members have made the commitment.

“We want them to commit because it will be a closed group throughout the six weeks. We want people to have an opportunity to grow as a group and to get to know one another and to feel comfortable sharing,” said Currie.

The focus groups are not only for women. New this year is a co-ed group that will be led by Currie every Monday evening from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. in room 103 of the SUB.

“I think the conservative percentage is [five to] 10 per cent of people with eating issues are male and it’s rising,” Currie said.

The other focus groups, open only to women, will take place on Wednesdays in the Women’s Centre and on Thursdays in room 103 of the SUB, both from 7:30 to 9 p.m.

“Each week will have a different focus. We really want to promote a safe space where university students can come talk about issues related to food, their relationship with food and the successes that they’ve had,” Foster said.

Topics of discussion that may be brought up within the focus groups are body image, self -esteem, self-care, assertiveness, addiction, relationships with food, nutrition and eating issues.

“The closed peer-led group discussion is to create that safe place to people to tell their stories, open up, get support and meet new people,” Foster said.

The “It’s Not About Food” initiative has been running since 2008 and has received positive feedback from both students and faculty.

“I hope [they take away] a little bit of comfort and being able to find the strength to share their story. To know how much that means to everybody else and taking the time to do something positive for themselves and to realize they’re not alone,” said Foster.

For more information or to sign up for one of the focus groups, visit the It’s Not About Food 2014 Facebook page or email unbinaf@gmail.ca.



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