The Santa Clara
May 2, 2019
Trigger Warning: This article addresses sensitive material. If you or someone you know struggles with an eating disorder and would like to talk to someone please contact the Cowell Center at (408) 554-4501.
People often make jokes about the “freshman fifteen” but rarely do they stop to consider the unhealthy eating disorders students can develop during college. College can be the perfect storm for eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia. Between the stress we feel from our heavy academic workload, busy social lives and entering a less structured environment, we look to regain control by hyperrestricting our diets or over-exercising.
It may be tempting to hypercontrol our bodies when we feel a lack of control in other parts of our lives, letting an eating disorder develop will result in even less control. While you might get initial satisfaction from seeing desired results from your body, both your mental and physical strength will deteriorate.
People who were perfectly healthy in high school may only experience these problems once getting to college because this is the first time in our lives that we have the power to create our own schedule. For the first time, we do not have regulated lunch breaks in school and family dinners at night. We are completely independent with no one to watch over our shoulder to make sure we eat, keep down what we eat or control the intensity of our workouts.
College is often talked about like it is going to be the most fun, social and stimulating time of our lives. When college fails to meet this expectation as everyone else around you seems like they’re having an amazing time, it can easily lead to a lot of insecurities. This is then exacerbated by the fact that college is full of parties where girls feel the need to look their best. Combine someone who’s already struggling with low self-esteem with being surrounded by thin girls seemingly having more fun than them, one could potentially develop an eating disorder as a result of these social influences.
As someone who has struggled with anorexia her whole life, I understand the temptation and obsession to diet, to work out everyday until exhaustion and to push until you like what you see in the mirror.
But that is the fatal flaw of eating disorders: you are never going to like the girl in the mirror. You can never be fully satisfied with your life or yourself by creating the perfect body image because the problem goes much deeper.
If you can’t love yourself for who you are naturally, then you need to find a way to gain control in your life by reconnecting with yourself.
For some that means spending time with friends, for others it may mean mindfulness. However you choose to reconnect with yourself, getting thin will not solve your problems. It will not make other people like you more—at least not the ones who matter. But more importantly, it will not make you like yourself.
My best advice: write about it. For the past couple weeks, I have been letting myself give in to my unhealthy urges to undereat and over-exercise. However, as I was writing this article I suddenly realized that I could not give advice and support to all the other people out there dealing with this if I did not take my own advice.
As soon as I finished writing I decided that even through the hard times when our self-love weavers, we have to be stronger than to give in. There is no shame if you can’t do it alone. Confide in a friend who will help you be strong. But it’s crucial to remember that these unhealthy habits may feel like the answer, but in reality they are only going to make everything much worse.
Now, I am going to eat a delicious and filling lunch because, while in the moment I would rather feel thin than eat, in the long term I am going to love myself more for staying healthy strong.
If you are struggling with low self-esteem, lack of control in your life or emotionally challenging times, devote every ounce of your strength, self-control and self-love to stopping yourself from slipping into bad habits because, once formed, they are much harder to break.
If you have already slipped, start writing like me, ask for help or find the strength inside you to do what you know deep down is right. You will never stop thanking yourself, I promise.
Sahale Greenwood is a sophomore political science and communication major.