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Eating disorder awareness week important for students

On February 19, 2013

Sunday marks the start of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, which runs through March 2.

Bringing awareness to eating disorders provides a special service for women because, according to an estimate by the South Carolina Department of Mental Health, a total of 8 million Americans have an eating disorder and of that total 7 million are women.

These numbers are tragic, but they make logical sense when we think of how strongly our society stresses thinness for women. However, oddly enough, more than one half of American adults are overweight or obese. Could there be a direct connection? Perhaps the pressure we put on society to be thin is too great and has back-fired.

Either way, it is obvious that societal influences contribute greatly to the development of eating disorders and obesity. The most important aspect to address though is, arguably, the spreading of ideas that the only way to be beautiful is to be skinny.

We are allowing our young people to be misguided and have negative body images, which only leads to an unhealthy mental state. Why do we let this continue?
The short answer is that we also buy into it. We are setting bad examples for ourselves with constant dieting, exercise and body criticisms.

Eating disorders are also prevalent on college campuses due to other types of pressure. Eating habits undoubtedly change in college, leading some students to feel out of control. This feeling can easily lead one to an eating disorder to establish more control over his or her diet.

Also, the stress of college can lead to unstable dieting. Some students may find they eat more when under a lot of stress, while other students may find that they are too busy to eat and skip several meals. And it is likely that food consumed by college students is going to be less on the healthy end of the spectrum.

While these instances may not sound extreme in the way that we think of eating disorders, they can easily become that way because on top of all that is piled body image and self-esteem.

When we add those two factors to the equation, we end up with some students who are feeling guilty for overeating and worrying what consequence that is going to have on their body. Therefore, they may go to extreme lengths to rid themselves of the guilt, and the food they have ingested. It becomes a classic case of binging and purging.

We also have another group of students who have been skipping meals and they begin to think about the positive effects this could have on their body. In order to reap those benefits, they stick to their routine of staying too busy to eat, and they have developed a case of anorexia.

Therefore, we see how eating disorders can affect us here at college without even our knowledge that it is happening. It is important to spread awareness, so that we can recognize the signs of an eating disorder in ourselves and our peers.

The Womens Center will be holding several activities here on campus to support National Eating Disorders Awareness Week.

Jocelyn Gibson can be contacted at

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