In this calorie-counting, healthy and organic food-obsessed generation, eating disorders, especially amongst college-age females are prevailing in both quantity and severity. Eating healthy and exercising regularly (but not obsessively), are great foundations for a balanced well-being. In the end, balance is what being healthy is about; not control.
However, it remains a challenge to maintain such balance in a society where we are praised for losing weight yet neglected for celebrating our natural physique, regardless of size. Why is it that the one thing that brings women together is the dissatisfaction in appearance? This, along with pressures of school, relationships and family, are perhaps the reasons for negative body image in college.
It’s not always easy to foresee the factors and influences that can lead to bad body image because there are so many. Women in college especially should be wary of their insecurities before any damaging effects take place such as stress, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, perfectionism (yes this can be a bad thing), or a full-blown eating disorder.
In order to be truly happy and successful in life, you must have a high opinion of yourself. Seeing yourself in a positive light begins with embracing who you are inside and out. It’s no mystery that there are obstacles to overcome, especially in college. However, it is a mystery as to why women continue to allow the following obstacles to define their opinions of themselves.
Bashing your body has been a trend in society ever since the media boomed. One way to prevent bad-mouthing your body is to eliminate comparing yourself to others in magazines, movies, and television. If this is too difficult, you should consider throwing out body-centered magazines and stop watching so much TV. With America’s obesity epidemic, it’s nearly impossible to not get bombarded with dieting ads and gym promotions, which are ironically followed up with fast-food commercials.
You are what you eat. Who knows how much truth there is to this statement, but eating healthy definitely makes you feel better. Fortunately for students soon transferring to University Park, they have incorporated an all-you-can-eat healthy dining hall at Pollock Dining Commons. The buffet offers healthier food options such as fresh fruit, grilled chicken, healthy condiments and whole-wheat pasta. Yes, the healthy food is this buffet’s highlight, however there’s also a model “portion plate” for each meal, which is a major help when struggling to find the appropriate serving size. The Berks campus does not have this exact buffet, but a salad bar, whole-grain breads and muffins, vegetarian dishes, and fresh fruit are all healthy options that Tully’s offers.
Calorie counting is quickly becoming the most important deciding factor in choosing foods. Contrary to popular belief, posting nutrition facts in college dining halls can actually trigger disordered eating. According to experts, posting calorie counts on food eventually backfires and leads to disordered eating, even in students with no history of food issues. This is why Penn State’s portion plate is a better method of use than posting calorie counts. When tempted to count your calories, decide instead whether you have had this particular food group today, how much your body craves it, and whether or not you’ll feel good after eating it. In other words, practice intuitive eating.
Affirm yourself every day, regardless of your mood. The more you recognize the goodness in your personality and physical appearance, the better you will feel. It may sound corny, but dedicate at least one compliment per day to yourself and others. Once you begin to affirm others, the easier it will be to affirm yourself. Pausing to recognize the genuineness in yourself and others is an important step to positive body image.
Exercise to feel good, not to lose weight. Every woman will most likely say that losing weight is in their top three reasons for exercising. What is wrong with that? First of all, working out solely to slim down adds stress to your life. The stress may not be prevalent at first because the satisfaction of achieving control gets in the way. There is nothing wrong with control of your body; there is something wrong with misuse of that control. Exercising should be incorporated into a daily routine because of the way it makes you feel during and after a workout, not because of a need to lose weight or gain control.
In essence, being happy is being healthy, and moderation is balance; not control. The more college women recognize these obstacles, the easier it will be to overcome, and the easier it is to be successful.