By Emily Diamond ’20
Clarissa Ann Ylagan ’19 is dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of all, with a special passion for raising awareness about eating disorders. “The stigma associated with eating disorders is detrimental to those suffering and at risk, often preventing people from seeking help,” she says. “Through education and improvement of services and research, we can challenge the stigmatization of eating disorders and ultimately promote more empathy and healing.”
Ylagan serves as a remote helpline volunteer at the National Eating Disorders Association and a recovery mentor at the National Association for Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. At The Claremont Colleges, Ylagan founded the Scripps Eating Disorders Alliance, a campus organization of over 35 members dedicated to preventing eating disorders and encouraging recovery, and she is the sole student member of The Claremont Colleges Services Eating Disorders Task Force.
“I have been in active recovery from anorexia nervosa since I was 13 years old,” Ylagan says. As someone in active recovery and a witness to the harm done by the stigma associated with eating disorders, Ylagan views this project as a natural extension of her work and personal experiences.
Now, funded by a $10,000 grant through Davis Projects for Peace, Ylagan will continue her activism this summer through a project titled “Community Conversations for Development of Program Promoting Holistic Health of Children,” which aims to foster healthy relationships with food and body positivity among children.
The inspiration for Ylagan’s work is the Body Project, a cognitive-dissonance-based body acceptance intervention in which participants voluntarily argue against the ideal of the thin body in groups. “The Body Project has reduced the onset of eating disorders and obesity, the internalization of the ideal of thinness, body dissatisfaction, and unhealthy dieting,” says Ylagan.
Through her Davis project, Ylagan will conduct independent research and in-person interviews with parents, educators, health professionals, and leaders of eating disorders organizations throughout the country. “I want to bring as many perspectives as I can to the issue,” Ylagan says. She will then collaborate with The Claremont Colleges Services Eating Disorder Task Force to create program materials.
“My goal is for the program we create to be replicated and sustained by schools and community centers across the country,” Ylagan says. “We will provide the materials to educators, but then we want them to be able to facilitate the program themselves.” Ylagan will pilot the program at local elementary and middle schools in Claremont early this fall.
After she completes the project, Ylagan will move to San Francisco to work in healthcare consulting at Triage Consulting Group. She plans to earn an MD/MBA to merge her passions for mental health and wellbeing, healthcare business, and leadership. Ylagan has many visions for the future, including potentially establishing an eating disorders organization and treatment center in the Philippines, but for now she is focused on the project at hand.
“I hope that the program will result in increased awareness and education about, as well as initiatives concerning, eating disorders among the entire community, and, most importantly, a larger willingness of the community to talk about eating disorders,” Ylagan says. “I believe that this project will both indirectly and directly stimulate honest and empathetic conversations, promote better lives, and lead to more peace and holistic health.”