As one of the events to kick off National Eating Disorder Awareness week, the Women’s Center hosted an open group for students to discuss eating disorders among women. Students came to talk about their complicated relationship with body image, as well as friends attending to support. Nat Dahl, Women’s Center correspondent, hosted the even and raised a variety of questions concerning people’s relationship with food, their body and how eating disorders are portrayed in the media.
At one point during the discussion, Dahl exclaimed, “it’s like our bodies are never good enough!” Her statement earning enthusiastic nods and laughs of connectedness. Many of the students who participated in the discussion seemed to realize – possibly for the first time – that they were not alone in their struggles.
The National Association of Anorexia and Associated Disorders reported around 30 million men and women to suffer from eating disorders in the U.S. And the National Eating Disorder Association notes the many types of behavioral disorders. The association stated that Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder and Orthorexia are the most common disorders, and risk factors for these disorders include anxiety, depression, OCD and body dysmorphia.
One of the first topics brought up was when participants first felt criticized for their body.
“I was 7 when my family first started noticing my body,” said freshman Nina Ravi.
Other students then shared their childhood experiences surrounding body image and weight comments. Students described how they experienced pressure to lose weight at a young age coming from parents, doctors and peers.
“People say, just eat,” said freshman Mariella Zijdel, explaining of how others treated her when faced with meals.
When talking about misconception about eating disorders, sophmore Deanna Penna made certain to bring to light the silent battle facing those with disabilities. She said, “even disabled women can have eating disorder as a way to have some control over your body.”
Many minority groups often are overlooked when it comes to mental health, and especially eating disorders which affects all races, genders, ages and sexual orientations. Penna recalled noticing two teenage girls when she was younger discussing what was wrong with their bodies and how to change themselves. She explained how, “that was the first time I realized I needed to fix myself. Like I was broken.”
The media is another major factor that plays into the development and continuation of disordered eating. Many advertisements, and more recently social media users, utilize Photoshop to alter the images of women’s bodies. Creating unrealistic beauty standards that many women go to extreme measures to reach.
Nina Ravi said that “seeing women that looked so perfect at such a young age really messed with [her].” Everyone in the group agreed that the examples of eating disorders depicted is TV and movies is wrong. The reality is that recovery is not linear and relapse is incredibly common.
Many women feel as though they must change their bodies in order to be accepted, loved, and respected. Eating disorders affect both the mental and physical health of anyone going through it. Reaching out for support is the first step to creating a healthy relationship between food, body, and mind. Eating disorders thrive in secrets, and those same secrets keep you sick. Listening to other students share their personal experiences allowed for compassion and acceptance, which are the first steps to recovery.