Eating disorders are common on many college campuses. Too often, the immense stress of a new environment, classes, getting a job, and participating in extracurricular activities makes trying to stay healthy and exercise a difficult task. To some, this pressure is overwhelming, causing their classes and their job to become the biggest priorities to their own well-being. 40% of female college students have an eating disorder. Although many think that eating disorders only affect women, they also affect men.
Before discussing the ways to prevent being susceptible to eating disorders during college, we must first understand the different eating disorders which include anorexia, binge eating, bulimia, and the female athlete triad.
Anorexia occurs when the individual takes extreme measures to make sure their energy intake is minimal. A person suffering with anorexia may see themselves as fat even though they are noticeably underweight. Some signs of anorexia include a fear of becoming fat, an obsession with dieting and avoiding situations where food is involved.
Binge-eating is when an individual eats a significant amount of calories in one sitting and then feels shame or guilt afterwards. This individual is typically overweight and has no control over their binges.
Bulimia is when an individual binges and then purges. The individual will consume a large amount of food within a single sitting and then force themselves to vomit, purging. There are other ways in which individuals with bulimia purge such as excessive exercise and taking laxatives. An individual who is bulimic will most likely be of normal weight.
The Female Athlete Triad consists of three things: negative calorie intake, amenorrhea, and osteoporosis. The female athlete triad is common in those who play sports where a slim figure is encouraged, such as ice skating and gymnastics.
You may think to yourself, “eating disorders aren’t preventable”, but there are actions you can take such as educating yourself and others, challenging the idea that “thin is beautiful”, and speaking out about eating disorders.
The faces of People Magazine, MTV, Instagram, and even Disney channel include people with impeccable bodies that are very hard to achieve. Everywhere you look you can see the stereotypical tall, slim bodies that society pushes on everyone of every age. The constant stigma of “needing that perfect body” brings many people to think that if they don’t have the body society wants then they need to go to any length to get that body. Challenge this idea, don’t look at body fat and weight gain as shameful. Remind yourself to not get fixated on unrealistic, often photo-shopped, standards.
Another way to protect yourself and others against eating disorders is to talk about it. Choose to talk about yourself and others with respect and appreciation. Don’t reflect someone’s value based on their body weight. In addition, if you think you or a friend might have an eating disorder there are many options to get help. First, the person struggling with the eating disorder must acknowledge that food is not the enemy. Dieticians can guide individuals struggling with eating disorders in the right path towards nutritious foods and a healthier diet. Second, the person should get help from a counselor or friends so that they can improve their perception of themselves and reinforce the fact that no matter what size they are, they still have many other respectable qualities. Thirdly, the individual must either gain or lose weight depending on which eating disorder they may have, in order to reach a normal BMI.
Take action! Become a critic on the media and how they view body images, talk about it with your peers, and help those understand that every shape and size is beautiful.