This week, February 26 – March 3, is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week.
This guest post is by Rosemarie Driscoll, a sophomore majoring in English at Saint Peter’s College. She is working as an intern for the National Eating Disorders Association.
When I left for college, my sister became largely responsible for the care of our disabled father and five younger siblings. When I came home to visit, I watched her dump cinnamon into her black coffee, telling me that it’s “negative calories.” She took pills in the morning to boost her metabolism and laxatives before bed.
My sister had always been very concerned with her food, choosing to munch on spinach leaves while the rest of us had potato chips, or drinking so much water that she passed out at a cross country meet.
Facts About Eating Disorders
Young women are more likely to develop and report eating disorders than any other demographic because of the media’s increased influence on their appearance and of incredible pressure to succeed. Young men are also affected but because of the stigma surrounding eating disorders, they are less likely to report it: in the US, 10 million women and 1 million men are reported to be suffering from an eating disorder.
Across the gender divide, perfectionists are the most susceptible to developing eating disorders. Trouble arises in times of heavy stress and extreme change. At a time when an individual feels little control, obsessively regulating the food that goes into and out of your body can seem like a way to have some control amid chaos.
My sister left for college last fall planning to major in biology. Not long into the semester, she started receiving failing grades. She told me about trouble sleeping, not having enough time to exercise and the awful selection in the cafeteria.
When we were both home for Thanksgiving, we were talking over the black, cinnamon-spiced coffee when my sister told me she was bulimic and anorexic. I felt guilty that I hadn’t stepped in before — as though I could have grabbed her shoulders and shook her until she ate something besides a laxative — but with the flood of research I did directly after this conversation I learned that while I could do a few things to help, my sister needed to come to terms with her eating disorder first.
The Particular Problems of Eating Disorders For College Students
College students are constantly encouraged to compare themselves to others. We’re ranked by grades, extra curricular involvement, and our projected income. We rank ourselves by the numbers of admirers we can attract, the money we spend on our clothes, or our bodies’ weights and measurements.
Education, students know, is far too precious a commodity to waste. For female students, the pressure to succeed is doubled: we have to work twice as hard for the recognition that comes more easily to our male counterparts, who have been attending universities for a century longer. In view of this, perhaps it is not so surprising that one in five college women struggles with an eating disorder.
Photo by tobias fotografiert
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