New Club: Colby Mood and Food

by Emily Price

For this week’s exposé on new clubs at Colby, The Echo sat down with Katrina Holt ’19 to talk about her body positivity club on campus: Colby Mood and Food. Given its relatively new status on campus, Holt gives insight to the process of bringing the club to life: “I guess the process of really getting the group started began in the summer of 2018. Right now we’re running with the title Colby Mood and Food, but my team just refers to ourselves as the main food team. The idea for the club came from a place of me wanting my needs addressed, and feeling that the school wasn’t really equipped to do so.” Holt got in touch with Eric Johnson, the head of counseling services at Colby, to discuss the idea. Johnson introduced Holt to Megan Marsh, a post-doctorate who is one of the head counselors at Colby. Johnson and Holt both had an interest in addressing issues of healthy exercise, eating disorder, and general body image on campus.

“After realizing we had similar interests, we decided the first step was to get a feel for what the needs are on campus,” Holt said. “The two of us were joined by Nicole Cappiello, who is also a post-doctorate in the counseling services. The three of us started conducting focus-groups on campus. We met with different leadership groups on campus, and had intense discussions. We met with SHOC, the CAs, the International Buddies Group, and Spiritual Life Fellows.

We also tried to meet with athletics, hopefully meet with the captains and the SAAC committee, but we went back and forth through email and just weren’t able to get anything put together, which is definitely unfortunate because I think body image and eating disorders run rampant through sports teams on this campus. I’m hoping that we can involve athletics more in the future.”

Holt continues, “Around mid-November, we compiled all of the data that we had collected from our meetings with these focus groups. Some of the data we had was from mouth-to-mouth discussions with the focus groups, while other stuff we had was anonymous because some people wrote down their opinions during the meetings rather than saying them out loud. We were just trying to assess how the campus could help people that are struggling. We heard a lot of stories, probably because we were talking to people in leadership positions, about people knowing that their friends or freshmen in their dorms were struggling but that they didn’t know how to help. That was probably the most common issue we saw: that people know these problems exist, but don’t know how to help and direct people to counseling services.”

Holt stated that by the end of the semester they had gathered a great deal of data, and wanted to start the formal group to address it. She suggested the founding of this group modeled off of a group at Bowdoin that serves a similar purpose. While Colby had groups meant to focus on specific students needs, Holt felt the College was “lacking” in regard to body image and eating disorder assistance.

After explaining the history of the club, Holt explains how the club actually works, “We tried to do a little bit of advertising for the club, but it’s mainly self-reporting. Students can go meet with counselors and then be referred to our group. Everything is kept confidential. We meet once a week and discuss issues of body image, disordered eating, and exercise on this campus.”

The club’s first big appearance on campus was on Eating Disorder Awareness Week, which occurred from February 25 to March 3. The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) organizes the week annually, and chooses a different theme every year. This year’s theme was “Come as You Are,” and Holt stated, “Between myself and counseling services, we wanted to put together a list of events to raise awareness, but that would also be fun…getting people that are actually struggling with an eating disorder to come to a table is difficult, so we wanted to make it interactive. In the future I hope that this group will be the driving force in putting this week on campus.”

Some of the activities that Colby Mood and Food organized on campus included body positive yoga, sticky-notes in the Cotter Union bathroom mirrors, and a big dinner in Foss on the last day of the week. Holt explains, “The dinner was basically an invitation for students to come eat in support of those struggling with eating disorders. We want to change the dialogue on this campus about healthy eating, and eliminate negative food talk.”

Although the club is young, it is clearly already making an impact on campus. Holt’s hope is that the club grows to be a body positive chapter, similar to those that exist at Cornell and bigger schools. From there, she hopes that the club can serve in both the public sphere while also still maintaining its core support services.