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Before we knew it, we had created a movement

During her degree, Jen brought the fight against eating disorders to her campus. Read about her experience of raising awareness about eating disorders at university below!

After three long and very challenging years, I have finished my Physics degree at the University of Exeter. However, I have achieved so much more than just a degree. Over these three years, I have battled with anorexia, trained to be a Beat Young Ambassador, started a campaign at the university called “Exeter Beats Eating Disorders”, trained as a Beat Campus Rep, and successfully turned the campaign into a permanent society at Exeter. I’m not normally one to say I’m proud of myself, but I truly am!

When I trained as a Young Ambassador two years ago, I was determined to give something back to the charity that had helped me so much in my darkest years. I regularly used the forums and read blogs on the website, which made me feel like I had support when I felt so alone. Once I had the training, I wasn’t really sure what to do next. There were no other Ambassadors at Exeter at the time and the services were next to none, so I wanted to start something and make a change. I contacted some other students from the university who I knew had experience with eating disorders and we put our heads together to come up with “Exeter Beats Eating Disorders”.  We were determined to make life better for people with eating disorders, not just at the university, but in the wider Exeter area.

In our first year as a campaign, we had a following of over 150 people, raised over £700 for Beat and hosted a talk by Emma Woolf about her experience of having an eating disorder at university. When I started this campaign, I never thought it would take off like it did. After our first year we were nominated for two university awards and appeared on ITV news, BBC news and the local news for the work we were doing.

Before we knew it, we had created a movement in Exeter. Suddenly people were talking about eating disorders and the lack of services available in the South West. We had provided sufferers and carers in Exeter the opportunity to reach out to people who just got it without explanation. We couldn’t stop the campaign after the success we had, so we continued.

In our second year as a campaign, we wanted to top what we had done in our first year. Our target for fundraising this year was £1000. We wanted to host another talk with Emma Woolf, but also host more frequent events and then finish the year with a big fundraiser. We did it! We hosted a really lovely Christmas talent showcase event where we had singers, spoken word poets and dancers performing to raise money for Beat. In Eating Disorder Awareness Week, we had Emma Woolf return to do a talk on self-esteem and body confidence. We held regular bake sales on campus to fundraise and raise awareness. We appeared on ITV news and local news AGAIN and appeared on BBC Radio Devon. Finally, we are in training to do the British 10K run in summer. With all of this our following has grown to over 270 people; we have raised over £1100 and we are still going!!

I feel like such a proud mother and I’m so proud of everyone who has been involved with the campaign. Being the Beat Campus Rep at Exeter has given me all of these amazing opportunities and the chance for me to grow in confidence, to embrace my past and use it to help other people.

I am proof, and all the people who are part of Exeter Beats Eating Disorders are proof, that an eating disorder does not need a thing you are ashamed of. You can use your past to achieve amazing things – you just need to get out there and talk to people. If you really want to make a difference at your university, I cannot recommend being a Campus Rep enough! I have loved the experience and wish I could stay at university and carry it on.

So now I’m here at the end of my degree, but it is not the end of the campaign we started two years ago. It’s a new beginning because our campaign has now made it to be a permanent society at the University of Exeter!

We were loud about the issues surrounding eating disorders in the South West, and we were heard… you can be too!

Contributed by Jen