The Eating Disorder Epidemic in college

“I’m not eating all day, I have to look skinny when we go out tonight”. “I drank so many calories, I need to throw up”. “My summer diet starts tomorrow, I need to lose 10 pounds this month”. This is all language I have heard firsthand during my freshman year at JMU. The normalization of eating disorders and diet culture in college females is at an all-time high. 

Millions of Americans struggle with eating disorders, but females are more likely to suffer, specifically among the ages of 12-25. College aged students fall right in the middle of this age range, and increased stress and significant life changes also play into making eating disorders a growing issue on college campuses.

During my freshman year, I lived in a suite with five other girls. Although they were some of my best friends, my body image had never been so negative. When the people around you are constantly body checking, obsessing over their food, and partaking in more self destructive behaviors, you quickly start to pick up on them. I would watch my friends snack on celery before proceeding to binge drink, or spend hours at the gym. These dangerous habits become normalized when they are in fact mental and physical symptoms of eating disorders. 

The scary truth, as reinforced by DoSomething is “eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Every hour, at least one person dies in the US as a direct result from an eating disorder”. Over 30 million Americans currently struggle with an eating disorder. 

This is a crisis, a public health issue, an epidemic. Regardless of what it is labeled, there is no denying that more attention needs to be drawn towards this issue. Eating disorders are mental illnesses that have detrimental effects on one’s health and can suck the life out of individuals. By closely studying all the components of eating disorders, one can develop a better understanding of eating disorders, and diminish the negative stigmas surrounding eating disorders. Eating disorder rates in college females have reached an alarming rate, and by changing how we approach this matter, we will likely be able to see a positive outcome in the eating disorder community. 

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