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Trigger Warning: The Normalization of Eating Disorders in College

I am just as disappointed with the dining hall as the next person. The endless supply of pasta and burgers simply does not suit my fancy, especially with the memories of the glorious cereal bar and the omelet station that quickly became my go-to for lunch. However, this disappointment in food options has led me to using language that I am not too proud of. I find myself saying, “I am going to skip lunch today,” or I will casually say how little I ate that day, being completely ignorant to the fact that these phrases and thoughts can be triggering to people, especially those with an eating disorder. 


Examples of eating disorder culture seamlessly disguise themselves into normal conversation, especially while on a college campus. Some people talk about how they will not eat much during the day in “preparation” for a night of drinking and partying. Or, instead of not eating to get drunk super fast, the normalization of not eating because of an outfit or piece of clothing can be found. Have you ever heard someone say “pull trig” or “yak and rally”? Well, these contribute to this eating disorder culture too. I mean come on, how many times have you heard or been intimated by the phrase “freshman 15”? Commenting on the amount of food someone eats is also extremely harmful, as you do not know what they ate that day, or if they have been struggling in their relationship with food. All of these are part of the reason we are so ingrained to ignore and accept eating disorder culture, rather than help and educate about the issue.  


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These phrases and actions can be extremely harmful to people in your community. It may not seem like a pressing issue, or a big deal, to some people, but what about those who have an eating disorder, or those who are in recovery? You may not realize it, but this language can perpetuate feelings of self-hate, disgust, and shame. One study conducted over a 13-year period shows that the rate of eating disorders in women increased from 23% to 32%, and 7.9% to 25% in men, and many of these examples cause these increases, along with a number of other factors such as home life and relationships. 


When you become aware of these triggers, you are able to see the normalization of eating disorders and the toxic culture and environment that consume college campuses. So, let’s talk about what you can do to prevent this normalization. Number one: just avoid using this type of harmful language! This is an extremely easy way to show support to those who may be struggling with an eating disorder. Maybe, you could even call other people out when they use this type of language, aka you should DEFINITELY call each other out and encourage others to stray away from this detrimental language. Lastly, educate yourself about eating disorders, and the fact that ANYONE can experience an eating disorder. Spread love and support each other. 


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Holly O'Brien

Notre Dame '23

Hi, I’m Holly! I am a Sophomore at the University of Notre Dame studying Science-Business, as well as Film, Television, and Theatre. Born and raised in South Jersey, I spend my summers down the shore and get to enjoy the close proximity to Philly year-round. I consider myself a movie fanatic, but also enjoy spending time with friends and family.
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