Beginning college life can be an incredibly exciting time for a student. New friends, a new environment, and perhaps the first time in his or her life that they’re living away from parents and family. When you factor in additional academic pressure, new eating and exercise routines (many students simply haven’t had to think about choosing and preparing their own meals before starting college) it’s easy to see why these same sources of excitement can also make starting college an equally stressful time.
One increasingly common problem new students have faced in recent years, is suffering with eating disorders; the three most common being Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Syndrome (BED). Of course eating disorders can affect men as well as women (it would be wrong to suggest otherwise) but even when focusing on primarily on women – as this article does – the rise of intersectionality means that more than ever before, we’re aware that eating disorders can affect a wide range of women and not just the stereotypical ‘white woman’ that has been so prevalent in popular culture during the last few decades.
An Intersectional Problem
This awareness is very positive though does pose an additional complication: Not only are all races, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, religious beliefs, socio-economic backgrounds and cultures susceptible to eating disorders, but each of these different groupings also has their own group-specific challenges to face alongside their eating disorder; AND each group may have their own specific requirements for treatment as well. For example, a gay, black, female muslim student may have faced during her life – as well as her eating disorder – homophobia, racism, sexism and islamaphobia, as well as internal cultural pressures from within her community. Consequently her course of effective treatment may be quite different to those required by a straight, white girl from an affluent background. Of course this example is extreme, and uses stereotypes to a certain extent (it’s important to emphasize that neither side’s suffering is more important or painful than the other’s) but highlights in particular the demands placed upon campus resources at our ever-more multicultural colleges around the country.
Why At College?
As well as the aforementioned stress-inducing factors, colleges unfortunately feature other characteristics which can lead to disproportionately high eating disorder rates compared to the rest of society. Often kitchen facilities in student accommodation can be unfit for purpose resulting in increased snacking and a general reduction in diet quality. Many campuses provide cafeteria-style eating facilities which although may provide healthier eating options, can also be crowded or have restricted opening times (Latin cultures often eat their lunch late in the afternoon, for example). Someone who is already anxious about their new and unfamiliar surroundings at college may find the idea of sitting and eating alone, in full view of a room full of strangers quite unappealing – and even start to skip meals altogether.
Help Is At Hand
Some sources claim that college eating disorders rates are now reaching epidemic proportions though thankfully a range of services are available. For anyone who is feeling these anxieties or has started to develop symptoms of an eating disorder, each campus has a range of facilities which we advise you to make use of as soon as possible. Brian S. Smith, a health writer at Academized and State Of Writing points out “Eating disorders can lead to further health complications such as thyroid problems or issues with the metabolism and should not be taken lightly.”
The student health center will contain a nurse, a doctor to refer you to a counsellor and possibly a nutritionist to offer advice on diet and portion sizes. Teachers and dormitory assistants are also trained to deal with such situations should you prefer to confide in someone more familiar at first. You have options.
Treatment for an eating disorder can be complex and you’ll often be referred to a counsellor or a psychologist for confidential therapy. This is normal and a positive step to take.
You’re Not Alone
Educator Wendy M. Fryman who works with BigAssignments and AustralianHelp explains: “Due to the scale of the problem, there will almost certainly be a self-help group on campus, such as ‘Overeaters Anonymous’ which will cater for sufferers of all conditions. These groups are free of charge and provide a chance to share your story with others who may be going through a similarly difficult time as you.”
Spot The Signs
Whether it’s self-diagnosis or for a friend, look out for the signs and symptoms of the common eating disorders. Are you hiding food and binging? Are you eating alone? Are you moving from one diet to another, apparently without success? Or are you seemingly eating non-stop yet never feel satisfied? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, it may be time to speak to someone on campus and consider treatment.
Chloe Bennet is a college educator at UK Writings and Essay Roo portals. She writes about health, college life and suggests useful tips for freshmen. Also, she blogs at Boom Essays academic service.