Eating disorders are a mental illness with biological, psychological, and social components. Eating disorders are not a choice, attention seeking, embarrassing, or only about food. Disordered eating is used to describe a range of irregular eating behaviors that may or may not warrant a diagnosis of a specific eating disorder. College students are very vulnerable to the development of eating disorders, disordered eating, and body image concerns.
The fashion/beauty industry, movies, social media (such as TikTok), and other forms of media can not only create comparison, but also glamorize eating disorders and promote a beauty standard that is centered around whiteness, so it is important to be mindful with your consumption. Especially in college, unhealthy behavior is normalized such as: not eating before going out, fasting for late alcohol consumption, not eating because of the outfit you’re wearing, canceling out the calories you ate by over-exercising, commenting on other people’s bodies, talking about the freshman 15, and even wishing for an eating disorder.
College can be an extremely difficult time for insecurity and eating disorders and is even more dangerous thanks to an array of free applications that give people the power to alter themselves, photoshop and use filters that’s on par with how media traditionally used to edit photos. Being able to edit photos so easily can lead college students to feel a false sense of perfection but this disconnect between perception and reality can lead to serious body image concerns.
Whereas many have been taught about the unrealistic and unattainable beauty standards on television and magazines, now peers are able to partake in this form of alteration. A search of “#fitspo” usually promoting thinness returns over 40 million tagged posts on Instagram alone. Research shows that 80 to 90 percent of women and around 70 to 80 percent of men report unhappiness with their bodies, with cases heightened within the college demographic, and this increase in later years can be tied to media usage.
- A study the Florida House Experience conducted on 1,000 men and women found that 87 percent of the women and 65 percent of the men compared their bodies to images they consume on social and traditional media. In that comparison, 50 percent of women and 37 percent of the men compared their bodies unfavorably.
- Movies showcase eating disorders in a one-dimensional lens, often as a white teenager who’s struggling to eat.
- Diet culture is a $73 billion-dollar industry.
- 12 to 25 percent of college women will struggle with an eating disorder, although many will never seek treatment.
- 40 percent of incoming freshman will already have some sort of struggle with disordered eating.
- 91 percent of college females will diet at some point in their college career.
- At Illinois State University, 9 percent of females and 4 percent of males reported having experienced an eating disorder in the past year (American College Health Association Data, spring 2011)
- 75 percent of students reported that they are not comfortable with their body (ISU Student Counseling Services Program Evaluation, 2011)
Eating disorders, disordered eating, and unhealthy body image are harmful to any age group, and for college students it can be very destructive. It is essential that resource’s available be communicated and forwarded to the community. At Illinois State University, students can visit Student Counseling Services. The Body Project and More Than Muscles are programs that specifically address body image concerns. These are fun, effective, and free programs for all students where participants can expect activities and dialogue through peer-led discussion. Students also have the opportunity to earn SONA extra credit for signing up.
If students feel the need to contact other resources outside of Illinois State University, the National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3-HUNGRY or 1-877-8-HAMBRE is available, as well as the NEDA (National Eating Disorder Association) hotline at (800) 931-2237.