NC State Student Health Services hosted the annual Southern Smash event on Tuesday afternoon at Stafford Commons to spread awareness about eating disorders among the student population.

Southern Smash, founded five years ago, is a nonprofit organization which urges students to believe that their weight does not define them and that physical appearances do not correlate to self-worth. The event was free for students and had engaging activities to encourage healthy eating habits

Founder and Executive Director McCall Dempsey was inspired to start the organization due to her own battles with eating disorders.

“I struggled with an eating disorder for 15 years, and when I left treatment I knew I wanted to pay it forward,” Dempsey said. “I founded Southern Smash to raise eating disorder awareness and promote positive body image on college campuses.”

Students gathered around weighing scales with baseball bats and sledgehammers to “smash” them to pieces to symbolize destroying the stereotype of a number defining them as people.

“Students are struggling with negative body image as well as disordered eating and unhealthy diet trends in our society,” Dempsey said. “The goal of Southern Smash is to call attention to these issues in a way that’s fun and relevant.”

Participants had the opportunity to attach their ideal weight to balloons, symbolizing letting go of ideals, and create artwork with messages that encouraged self-love and empowerment.

Gina Dissosway, a high school student from Winston-Salem, attended the event to show her support and passion toward the cause. Dissosway stated how crucial it was for society to stop judging people based on weight and how important it was for students to reach out for help without feeling hesitant.

“This past year has been a lot of this for me,” Dissosway said. “I think it’s really important not to stigmatize it and make an effort to let people know that judgements by numbers aren’t okay.”

Student Health Services at NC State organized the event for students. Ashley Pinet, registered dietician and certified diabetes educator at Student Health Services, has encountered several students suffering from an eating disorder.

“We see a number of students who have disordered eating patterns that come into the Health Center,” Pinet said. “We thought it was important to raise awareness throughout campus about over-focusing on weight and just really understanding that your worth is not associated with the number on the scale.”

Pinet also mentioned that these conditions affect all types of people with all kinds of shapes and sizes.

“Unfortunately, there’s this idea that you can only look a certain way to be having a disorder, and there’s no truth behind that,” Pinet said.

According to Pinet, many students who struggle do not realize that there is a problem with the way they are thinking.

“They believe that they are not ‘thin enough’ to be suffering from an eating disorder, but they may be showing other symptoms like purging, or restricting themselves, or over-exercising,” Pinet said. “I really want to educate students to understand what it means to have an abnormal relationship with food. My job is to help them maximize their health outside of weight.”

According to Pinet, students are hesitant to get help because eating disorders are an uncomfortable topic to talk about. She said she is passionate about events such as Southern Smash because she has seen so many students who struggle.

Student Health Service is located at 2815 Cates Avenue.