Eating disorders pervade campus life

Disordered eating is common. However, it isn’t just the problem of clinically diagnosed anorexics and bulimics; rather, there is a culture of normalcy surrounding fad diets, semi-starvation and extreme exercise that is damning to all of us.

This is especially true on college campuses. We are routinely praised for our rigor, for the way we can abstain from those nachos that all our friends are eating or for the way we can force ourselves to spend two hours at the gym each day. The constant worry over being fat pervades dorm rooms and dining halls, but that feels typical, because our culture of top models make it seem healthy to obsess about food.

We aren’t anorexic, after all. We hold the waif-thin on pedestals and have unrealistic expectations for the way our own bodies should look. We loathe ourselves after we eat a pizza, preoccupied with our own perceived weakness around food.  Still, we don’t think we have a real problem.

But we do. Even if we technically weigh enough, those facts about diets and eating disorders lining the walk from the Busch Student Center to the clock tower apply to all of us. There is huge pattern of this disordered relationship with food. Most do not think about food in terms of sustenance or tradition or fun, but in terms of calories, and we cause ourselves pain through deprivation of these.

We might not ever become dangerously thin—we might binge on Chinese food before we can get that far—but we are definitely not healthy, not able to look at a plate of food and resist feeling the internal struggle about how much we should eat. Most of us can’t look in the mirror without finding some part of us that we would like to be thinner.

Even if we never diet, even if we seem to eat perfectly normally, the mere fact that there is such an immense amount of guilt surrounding our eating and our body image proves some variant of a disorder. It might be a disorder shared among many of our peers, but it is no less harmful for its prevalence.

It’s Eating Disorders Awareness Week. While that might seem like just another thing to “be aware” of, it is important to take eating disorders seriously. They are more pervasive than we think.