Most college students usually associate their problems with food as either eating too much or too little. Effects are evidenced in the infamous ‘Freshman 15’, or the tendency others have to live on ramen after the dining dollars have run out. However, many others may be suffering in silence through a different problem – eating disorders.
The National Eating Disorder Association has designated February 25 through March 3 as Eating Disorder Awareness Week, in hopes of helping both those who suffer from such disorders to realize that they are not alone. They also desire to clear up false ideas others may have about these various disorders, and what they entail for those who struggle with them.
While there is a tendency to assume that eating disorders only affect young women, the statistics tell a different story. While women are disproportionately affected by eating disorders, there remain a significant amount of men who struggle with them as well.
According to the National Eating Disorder Association, males make up around 25 percent of those who suffer from eating disorders but are also more likely to die from them. The association attributes this to the misconception that males cannot be affected by eating disorders, and as a result have a tendency to go longer without proper diagnosis.
Another study found that women age 15-24 have been the only group to see a statistical rise in eating disorder prevalence over the last 50 years, while other age ranges and genders remained statistically the same.
“If someone is going to develop a full-blown eating disorder, the age of 18-21 is an especially peak time, and there’s a lot of stresses and other kinds of dynamics that make college especially difficult,” said Debra Danielson, assistant director of counseling at the Engle Center.
Nicole Benner, a nutritionist who also works at the Engle Center, further explained the new dynamics college life brings. “It’s a time when there are a lot of changes in your life. You’re coming from a place where there’s a lot of direct parental support, and coming into a place that’s not as structured. There’s also a lot of pressures to look a certain way.”
While many think that eating disorders are limited to a specific subset of those who have extremely problematic relationships with food, the issue is, in fact, a much wider spectrum. Nicole and Debra categorize them more as unhealthy amounts of stress related to physical appearance and weight based on pressure from other parts of life;
“Our bodies are our home, they aren’t a billboard,” Benner said. “If we could treat ourselves with respect and compassion, and take care of ourselves the way we would a friend, that would go a long way in helping others as well.”
- The Nation Eating Disorders Helpline – (800) 931-2237
- Online Screening tool – https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/screening-tool