Weekly Wellness: The reality and impact of eating disorders

This intense bombardment of “flawless” pictures that perfectly display society’s standards can really get into our brains, whether we realize it or not, and cause us to start thinking badly about ourselves or feel as though we need to live up to those standards. (StockSnap/Pixabay Creative Commons)

Pretty much everything that anyone posts on social media nowadays is something that showcases their life in a good light. Very rarely do we see anything that’s not filtered or edited in some way, or has an extremely deep meaning. Though there are some posts that are geared to raise awareness for certain disorders, diseases or other hardships, there are 10 times more posts of people partying or laying on the beach.

This intense bombardment of “flawless” pictures that perfectly display society’s standards can really get into our brains, whether we realize it or not, and cause us to start thinking badly about ourselves or feel as though we need to live up to those standards. This isn’t to say that all insecurities stem directly from social media, because I’m sure we all already had insecurities. However, constantly looking at other people’s fun trips, perfect bodies or ads about weight loss can amplify our insecurities.

Eating disorders, unfortunately, are quite common and currently affect 30 million Americans and 70 million others throughout the rest of the world. One in five women have some type of eating disorder, and studies show that children nowadays are afraid of being “fat.” This could be a result of bullying or social media exposure, but it is also a chemical imbalance in the brain.

Body dysmorphic disorder is a mental condition that causes people to only see their flaws or even see their body in a completely unrealistic way. What they see when they look in the mirror is, in their mind, 10 times worse than what the rest of us see in real life. They focus so much on their appearance and small flaws that would be minor or even completely insignificant to others that it sends them into a full-on spiral of paranoia and obsession. This can lead to other eating disorders, such as anorexia.

Anorexia is “a very serious and potentially life-threatening eating disorder in which the sufferer undergoes self-starvation in order to obtain excessive weight loss,” and is very common in teenagers and college students. Some doctors think that certain personality traits, thinking patterns and biological or environmental factors have a lot to do with one’s likelihood of developing this disorder.  

Many sufferers say they had an experience in their past where someone called them fat, or bullied them, which led them to the disorder. Anorexia is a very important but not often acknowledged disease and can be affecting those around you or close to you without you even knowing. Though it’s most common and sometimes better to get treatment and psychiatric help to fight this disorder, some people do it on their own once they realize how it’s affecting them and work to change their mindset.

One of the most common and difficult eating disorders to overcome is binge eating disorder, or BED. This is when someone has “recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food (often to the point of discomfort) and feeling a loss of control during the binge.” A lot of times, a sufferer of BED will go long periods of time without eating in hopes of losing weight, and then their body goes into survival mode and loses control, resulting in them eating until they feel ashamed and physically sick. Some people, especially college students might not even realize they have this disorder, because it’s common to go long periods of time without eating when you’re busy or stressed, and then end up consuming a ton of calories at night or at one certain point in the day.

I think it’s so important to stress the severity of eating disorders, even ones I didn’t get to discuss in this article, because they affect so many people. People who have never gone through this probably have no idea how mentally draining it is to live the way sufferers of eating disorders do. Instead of shaming people for their bodies, we should be accepting and embracing of all body types. “Society’s standards” are only “society’s standards” because we allow them to be. Spreading the message that all body types are beautiful and we don’t need to change for anything or anyone is not only a great way to improve our social dynamic and well-being, but it could actually save someone’s life.


Tessa Pawlik is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at tessa.pawlik@uconn.edu.