Eating Disorders an Endemic Problem on College Campuses

By John Lavitt 07/01/15

A quarter of college women use binging and purging as a weight-management technique.

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According to a study by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa & Associated Disorders and the National Eating Disorders Association, eating disorders have become an endemic problem on college campuses across the United States.

The study revealed that 25% of college women use binging and purging as a weight-management technique. In a survey of 185 female students, 58% felt pressure to be a certain weight and of the 83% that dieted for weight loss, 44% were of normal weight.

In response to the rising occurrence of eating disorders on college campuses and the ongoing lack of institutional services to address the problem, the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) is launching the national initiative, Proud2Bme on Campus. Proud2Bme promotes healthy self-esteem and body confidence, giving young women the tools to use their voices to ask for support.

In an interview with a female student at the University of California at Berkeley, she revealed, “I’ve always struggled with body image issues ... When I had my eating disorder, I wasn’t enjoying life anymore. I would deprive myself of eating things I liked, and if I caved and ate something I wanted to, I would chew my food and then excuse myself to spit it all back out. It was disgusting.”

The dangers of eating disorders spreading on college campuses are real. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder. There is a large variance in the reported number of deaths caused by eating disorders because many victims ultimately die of heart failure, organ failure, malnutrition, or suicide. Often the medical complications of death are reported instead of the eating disorder that compromised the person’s health. In addition, the shame brought on by eating disorders often cause families to cover up the true cause of death.

“Students talk about how difficult it is not to be affected, even in a small way, by the picture-perfect body ideals and body snarking that is pervasive in our culture," said Professor Bobbie Eisenstock of California State University, Northridge. "Proud2Bme on Campus is a unique opportunity for college students to help educate, engage, and empower their peers with critical thinking strategies to counteract these messages and promote self-acceptance and healthy lifestyle choices.”

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.