Eating disorders among USD students

Our proximity to the beach and society’s standards combine to create serious body pressure



It is no secret that within the media, women are portrayed as attractive, thin, flawless, and always desirable individuals.  At this point, the portrayal is so common that the American public is becoming desensitized to the standards that are constantly held for women.

But what the American public does not realize is how these depictions and standards affect women of all ages, specifically teens and those in their early twenties.

The high standards that women are held to tend to ignite a subconscious desire to resemble the look that has come to define beauty.

Not that any of this is remotely justified or right by any stretch of the imagination, but nevertheless, women across the country are conforming to fit the standards – literally.

Unfortunately, one of the ways that more and more women desire to achieve this “glamorous” image is through eating disorders. And quite frankly, there is nothing glamorous about that.

As a sophomore here at the University of San Diego, I can  vouch for the fact that, yes, there is some sort of underlying pressure for the female population to be consistently in the best shape and always swimsuit ready. I mean, we live in San Diego where the weather never drops below 60 degrees and the weekends are filled with endless sunshine.

Bikini season is, therefore, 365 days a year.  However, that does not mean that women here have to hold themselves to these unrealistic Barbie Doll body image standards.

The sad truth is that sometimes, whether we notice it or not, the pressure gets to  women in ways that we may not even realize. In turn, it shapes our lifestyles and habits in an unhealthy way.

The issue with these types of body image benchmarks                is that the way of achieving quick results can rapidly shape a girl’s lifestyle in a way that she probably never would have intended.

As a result, that one fad diet or juice cleanse                                          that seems like a quick and easy solution becomes a slippery slope.

The outcome can be incredibly serious and unless those who are affected by it either seek help on their own or get it from friends and family, the results can be life threatening.

In college, it is hard enough balancing classes, social life, and the future, that the additional stress of an eating disorder is more than what any student can handle. The stress of coping with and treating an eating disorder is more time taken out of already very busy students’ days, another unfortunate side effect to these issues.

When asked about what percentage of college females had any type of eating disorder, current USD students’ responses varied, but most guesses were under 25 percent.

Sophomore Savannah Jensen comments on these percentages.

“It is more than you would expect,” Jensen said.

According to the Multi-Service Eating Disorders Association, 91 percent of college females have attempted to control their weight by dieting.

On top of that, a staggering 40 percent of female college students have actual eating disorders.

Initially, I was shocked by these statistics. I realize that eating disorders are most common among college-aged women, but I had no idea how high the percentages really were.

However, USD student Haeley Hutchison was just as surprised by this statistic.

“You would never expect so many people to have eating disorders,” Hutchinson said.

“Even when they are not that severe, they are still a huge issue.”

These statistics make it clear that dieting and the pressure to be thin in a college environment can quickly turn into something as harmful as a full on eating disorder.

The disparity between reality and what men believe about the prevalence of eating disorders is even more staggering.

It is a common belief amongst men that eating disorders tend to be more of an unrecognized myth. This mostly stems from the fact that eating disorders are more common among females than males, especially college-aged women.

When asked to guess the percentage of college-aged women affected by eating disorders, a group of sophomore male students responded with guesses ranging from 5 to 10 percent.

Considering the guesses were around 35 percent off the mark, it is clear that the reality of eating disorders is much less prevalent in the realm of college males than females.

Sophomore Garret Bright was in disbelief upon learning that 40 percent of college women are affected by eating disorders.

“Absolutely shocking; the fact that the number is even remotely close to half is alarming,” Bright said.

All types of eating disorders occur at a wide range of ages between both males and females.  Eating disorder awareness should be stressed within community settings similar to USD’s, where the desired beach bodies are sought after.

In addition to seeking help from friends and family, the Health Center offers anonymous help and informational pamphlets for those struggling with these issues.

No matter what the severity, tackling eating disorders head on and stressing their relevance is becoming more of a priority on college campuses across America.

Here at USD, we are no exception. As a Changemaker campus, we should not be     shoving these problems to the side.

Rather, students need to engage the issues and understand that there is a way to address and overcome such a taboo topic in today’s society.

I know that it is hard not to buy into the way the media and society portray women and the impossible standards that follow. But at the end of the day, the important thing is that you are happy with yourself, and what you stand for.

Women, especially female college students, have so much to offer the world. Instead of focusing on your image, focus on your talents. Trust me, the world will be a better place if you focus on you as a person, instead of you as an image.