According to the National Eating Disorders Association, full blown eating disorders are most likely to develop between the ages of 18-21.
Although eating disorders are very dangerous, deadly and common — especially among college students — there is a lack of readily available information and resources that address disordered eating, particularly on our campus.
Wake Forest’s efforts to cultivate wellbeing among the student body are well-meaning, but we tend to overlook the rampant problem with disordered eating on campus in favor of promoting ideas rooted in diet culture.
If Wake Forest really wants to address health on campus, then we must also address the ways our environment ignores and even encourages behaviors and thoughts associated with eating disorders.
With Wake Forest’s focus on healthy eating and exercising, the new gym, the dining renovations and Thrive’s wellness campaigns, it’s easy to forget that eating disorders are often overlooked illnesses with fatal consequences that commonly affect college students.
By disregarding the obvious problems with food restriction, crash dieting, obsessive calorie counting, over-exercise and unhealthy competition that are prevalent on our campus, in addition to more covert behaviors such as purging, binging, laxative abuse and stimulant/diet-pill abuse, we turn a blind eye to a serious issue that has a profound effect on our student body. The information and resources available for those struggling with eating disorders pales in comparison to the widespread focus on “healthy” eating that pervades our campus.
In itself, the focus on “healthy” eating instead of intuitive eating is a disordered mindset based on diet-culture that ignores scientific truths. Food has no moral value: it cannot be “good” or “bad.”
By denying ourselves of what we want and need in pursuit of “health,” instead of listening to our body’s hunger cues, fullness cues, and cravings, we continue to perpetuate impossible and illogical ideals and values that can have drastic consequences.
By focusing on physical wellness without any acknowledgement of disordered eating on campus, it seems like we’re encouraging dieting and exercise at any cost.
If there is no education or discussion about disordered eating, body image and fat-phobia on campus, then we will continue to promote an environment that silences those suffering from eating disorders in favor of promoting the disordered belief that food is something to control, rather than just a source of energy.
Ultimately, this extreme focus on being “healthy” is inherently unhealthy, especially considering we are a population that is highly susceptible to developing eating disorders. To some people, this may not seem like a big deal. However, to those who are predisposed to developing eating disorders or who have one, living in an environment plagued with disordered messages about health and food can be challenging, triggering and dangerous.
I would like to see initiatives targeted towards raising awareness about disordered eating and more readily available information about the realities and dangers of eating disorders around campus. I hope that we can begin to have an open dialogue about these issues instead of pushing them aside. I also hope that we can re-evaluate some of the wellness measures on campus and see if they are really beneficial or necessary.
It’s time that we acknowledge the reality of eating disorders on our campus and treat the subject with assertiveness and honesty.