Eating disorders and body image are serious problems on college campuses

By Kayla Lemay

Comment Staff

Barbie is often associated with poor body image in young girls. Photo by Freddycat1 on Flickr.
Barbie is often associated with poor body image in young girls. Photo by Freddycat1 on Flickr.

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, according to the nonprofit Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD).

ANAD also says anorexia is the third most common chronic illness among adolescents.

So why is it that having an eating disorder is so heavily stigmatized? Why do we, as a society, judge people on their bodies when it has such dire outcomes?

This week at Bridgewater State University, the Delta Phi Epsilon sorority has hosted events for ANAD week to raise money for this nonprofit that is heavily invested in finding a treatment for eating disorders.

By just taking a look online, you can see the signs of eating disorders everywhere. The coveted thigh gap, the thinspiration blogs, and all of the hashtags such as #anorexia. The world is full of people trying to be thin.

Notice how I said people and not just women? According to ANAD, an estimated 10 to 15 percent of people with anorexia or bulimia are male. Not only that, but men are less likely to seek treatment because of the stigma that eating disorders are something only women have.

Anorexia and bulimia are disorders well-known to the world, especially to college campuses. Everybody knows what these disorders are and how they work.

What’s scary is that a third eating disorder is now officially recognized, and this one isn’t so much about attempting to lose weight as it is attempting to deal with outside problems.

Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is a newly-recognized eating disorder where, rather than starving oneself or purging, those affected with BED will simply eat nonstop in secret. It’s associated with depression and eating to fill a void. And BED is actually more common than Anorexia or Bulimia, according to ANAD.

Look around on campus and see what your friends are posting on social media. Do you see the rampant obsession with our appearance? Overweight, underweight or even a healthy weight, everybody is looking for the next way to be thin and attractive.

Perhaps worst of all is that there are companies out there encouraging eating disorders. There are people out in the world creating pro-ana bracelets and selling them for a profit, encouraging the world to not only accept eating disorders, but use them as a real method to lose weight.

Here at BSU, everyone should stop to think.

Why are you judging those who look different? Those who might have too much weight, or those who might have too little. They are still people, and they still are beautiful.

Why would you support the cause for getting a thigh gap, when in reality no matter how thin you are you may never get it, due to genetics?

Why would you put someone down for eating too much food, when they might be struggling with some inner demon they don’t want to tell you about?

Before you judge someone on their appearance, think about who they are and what they might be dealing with in their own lives.

This person, no matter how thin or how large, may be the type of person that goes out on the weekends to volunteer in the community. They might be studying so they could work to one day cure cancer. They might even just be something simple as a great friend who is a shoulder to cry on for everybody they know.

Rather than encourage someone to shed five pounds so they can squeeze into a size zero, encourage them to take a look at the numbers beyond the scale. How is their cholesterol? Lipid count? What about blood sugar?

Those numbers should be what matters. Those numbers are much better at determining how healthy someone is. Health should come first.

Always remember that weight is not the best indicator of health, and your pants size definitely isn’t either.

 

Kayla Lemay is the General Assignments Editor at The Comment. Follow her on Twitter @klemay123 or email her at klemay@student.bridgew.edu.

 

 

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