College is a time of high stress, not just because of external factors, such as school, friends and organizations, but because of inevitable internal struggles. This point of our lives is filled with self-discovery, which first requires self-analyzation. We can be very hard on ourselves and tend to compare everything about our lives to those around us. As the saying goes, comparison is the thief of joy, and that’s true.
The trend nowadays is to go out on weekends in tight clothes and party with friends, which seems like it would be easy. For many of us, however, it’s not. Many studies have shown college students are at a higher risk of developing eating disorders than other age groups.
“Eating disorders develop when the need to feel control over a stressful environment is channeled through food restriction, over-exercise, and an unhealthy focus on body weight,” according to Rae Jacobson of Child Mind Institute.
When everything around us is stress-inducing and out of our control, we will take any opportunity we can to find some element of our lives that we can control. The most common eating disorders are anorexia and bulimia, which occur most often in women. Take a moment to consider all the new things thrown at us when we first enter college. Not knowing how to handle your schedule at first or how to live on your own can trigger a lot of anxiety.
We are also more exposed to what we think is the ideal body. Students are surrounded by other people their age who look “perfect” and seem to have their lives together. This can result in the need to “measure up” and fit in.
The National Eating Disorders Association says that most eating disorders start between the ages of 18 and 21. It also states that between 10 and 20 percent of women experience eating disorders, while only about 4 to 10 percent of males experience them.
Though it is common for college students to have strange eating habits, there is a clear difference between dieting and having a full-blown disorder. Bulimia, for example, occurs when someone feels the need for perfection in all aspects of their life. This includes grades, body image and social life. Purging can bring about the feeling of guilt and the whole cycle starts over again. Anorexia does not include purging, but instead includes extremely restricted eating. There is also the idea that these disorders are shameful, which causes those suffering from them to feel like they need to hide them. This adds extra stress.
The concept of body positivity stretches much farther than college campuses. Society in general needs to stop promoting the “ideal” body and start showing the realness and variety there is out there. I’d like to think people wouldn’t suffer so much from eating disorders and insecurity if the media didn’t shove a certain body type in our faces. Changing the way society thinks about body positivity starts with each and every one of us. Your size doesn’t matter or make you more or less beautiful. College is a great place to spread this message because we’re all going through the same things and have similar insecurities. It’s important to keep in mind on our journeys of self-discovery that our size means absolutely nothing compared to our happiness and our overall personality and being. Check up on your friends and keep in mind that your health is the most important aspect of your life. Complimenting and encouraging people can make a much bigger impact than you may think.
Tessa Pawlik is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.