Eating disorders prevalent in college life

By on January 21, 2008

By Brittney Bruner

Based on her real-life anatomical ratios, if the popular child’s doll Barbie were human she would weigh 110 pounds.

She would also be approximately 7 feet tall, her bust would measure about 40 inches, her waist about 23 and her hips about 34, sizing her at proportions that would demand her to walk on all fours.

Furthermore, legendary actress Marilyn Monroe was sized 12-14, which would likely hinder her ability to be cast in a role in the filming industry today.

Equally disturbing is that 15 percent of women and 11 percent of men claim that they would be willing to give up at least five years of their life merely to reach their “dream weight.”

With all of this information in consideration, it is not a surprise that eating disorders are such a problem on college campuses.

Many University of Louisville students find themselves working to shed off or avoid that Freshman 15, wanting to be accepted by Greek Life, stressing and studying for that microeconomics class until brain and body hurt, feeling lonesome away from home-cooked dinners and stuck eating combo meals constantly.

These are all possible, but not justifiable, reasons that students develop eating disorders.

However, according to Karen Newton, Director of Health Promotion and Education at U of L, eating disorders commonly develop well into one’s preadolescent years and follow them on the paths they take throughout their life.

“Students may go to college trying to fit-in; however, they usually bring [the illness] with them,” said Newton.

“Whether it is from sexual abuse, self-hate, etc., eating disorders are psychologically rooted and affect the perception of an individual, most of the time developing in middle school or high school.”

But no matter what the cause, eating disorders are most definitely a problem on college campuses across the country.

“Eating disorders are highly common in colleges, the current statistic being around 20 percent,” said Naomi Rockler-Gladen in her article “College and Eating Disorders.”

According to the South Carolina Institute for Mental Health, many college-aged women don’t meet criteria for an eating disorder but are preoccupied with losing weight. Up to a third of college women have “disordered eating” habits, such as using diet pills or laxatives, not eating at all to try to lose weight, or binge-eating

“Bulimia and compulsive/binge eating are generally the most common disorders because of their association with the high level of stress on campus. Anorexia is also common,” said Rockler-Gladen.

“By not eating, or eating very little, [students] believe they can get a grip on the busy life of a college student and just focus on their grades.”

And according to Lori Henry in “Eating Disorders at College,” “It has been studied recently that the rate of eating disorders amongst college students is rising.”

In Henry’s 2007 article, Christina Miller, a clinical psychologist and associate director at the Center for Women and Men at UCLA, said, “Some studies have shown that as many as 50 to 60 percent of the college population have disordered eating patterns.”

In certain cases, professionals believe it all comes down to self insecurity.

“Being the ‘perfect size two’ isn’t what’s important,” said Outreach Coordinator at the University of Louisville, Laura Byrd.

“It’s being a 0, and wanting to literally disappear,” said Newton.

These are mere explanations Byrd and Newton gave for the psychological reasons women can develop one type of eating disorder, anorexia.

College athletes pose another problem and can also be vulnerable to being victims of eating disorders. Whether they are swimmers, dancers, wrestlers, or runners, both female and male athletes demand certain abilities and characteristics from their bodies.

“Athletes do what they have to do sometimes in order to be at the competitive edge of everything,” said Newton. “However, a lot of former athletes also have trouble with eating disorders, as a result of exercise and eating changes.”

But, fortunately, a study at Ohio State University suggests that only “about 15 percent of major college athletes” were found to possibly have symptoms of eating disorders.

According to Jennifer Carter, sports psychologist at OSU, “The results are mostly good news, but they show that even some elite athletes have eating and body image problems that need to be addressed.”

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