While eating disorders have become more discussed throughout the media, no one ever discusses the ways that going to college can affect the way girls view themselves and their bodies. Well, here is my story. My freshman year of college was a dark time in my life filled with body dysmorphia, food restricting, and self-loathing. I have never talked about the issues I faced over the past couple of years, but I think it is important for girls to hear other girls’ stories and know they are not alone! In this article, I will share my story, share my struggles, and share the ways in which I have begun to love myself again.
- before I went to college
I walk past a mirror and I don’t stop and examine every inch of my body. I sit down to eat dinner with my friends, and I don’t think about how much food I eat compared to them. My body and the food I was consuming were never something that was on my mind when I was young or even throughout high school. I knew how to take care of my body through sports and simply listening to the things that it needed. It’s not that I wasn’t aware of the way that I looked, it just wasn’t something that stayed in my mind for very long. Until I went to college my freshman year.
- my freshman year of college
College was the first time I started looking at food and my body differently. Fridays would roll around and I would find myself being surrounded by girls saying things like “I am not eating tonight, I have to be skinny to go out!”. I would think to myself, how does going out have anything to do with what you’re going to eat that day? Everything was centered around the way everyone’s bodies looked, which wasn’t normal for me. I became a part of this world of overanalyzing. Over the ways, my body was compared to other girls. Over the things that I was putting into my body. “I need to be smaller, I need to be smaller”. Those were the thoughts that constantly circled in my head. It started with only allowing myself to eat healthy foods, and to stop eating when my friends would stop eating because God forbid I eat more than them. But it only kept getting worse. Seeing the girls around me being so small, and eating so little only fueled my want to be smaller than them. Fridays became my day of no eating. I had to go out that night! No boys would like me if I was fat next to my friends. Every week the same thing over and over. Prohibiting myself from consuming too much food. My body continued to get smaller. 130, 125, 120, 115. That’s when it was the worst. That’s when I realized something was wrong. When I began not allowing myself to go out to eat with my friends, when I could never miss one day in the gym, or when I would stay in on a Friday night because my stomach was bloated in my jeans. A period in my life that I was told was supposed to be the best time of my life, turned into a nightmare I didn’t know how to get out of. In college, everything is centered around how hot you look, how small your waist is, and how good your butt looks. Girls constantly looking down on themselves and the ways that they looked. Fueling each other hate for their own bodies. Being surrounded by this was the darkest period of my life. I looked at the body God gave me and I hated everything about it. No matter how pretty I might have looked, or how small I was, it was never enough. When I realized it had gotten too bad, I knew I had to change something, or I don’t know what could have happened.
- How I deal with this now
After my freshman year of college, I had to relearn to love myself. While there are definitely still some aspects of my eating disorder that linger in my head, I have learned some things that help me not fall back into a bad spiral. The first thing that has helped me is surrounding myself with people who have only lifted me up and not bring me down. My best friends have become the people I have gone to any time I find myself going back to old thoughts I had, and they help me to challenge myself in ways I never thought I could. Another thing that has helped me to stay on a good path was viewing food as something that fuels my body, and not hurts it. As clique as that sounds, it is so much more beneficial than it seems. Food used to be something I feared. The empty feeling in my stomach I used to get when I would starve myself used to be a comforting feeling. But now that I have tried to change my view on food, I have used that empty feeling as something to help me respond to my body, and give it what it wants. Which overall has opened me up to so many more opportunities. In order to have energy, you actually have to fuel your body with that energy, meaning food. The last and most important thing that has helped me is to stop overanalyzing every inch of my body. There is no right way a body is supposed to look. Just because one might be smaller than another does not mean it is better. That concept was so difficult for me to get into my head, but once I did I started to love the body I was given. Over the past couple of years, I have gone through a roller coaster of ups and downs with myself and with my body. I still struggle every day to continue to love myself and the body that I was given. I hope that this article can reach one girl who might be in the same dark sport I was in just a year ago. Learning to love your body and yourself is an extremely hard thing to do, but if you take time to do things for yourself, that make you smile, every day can get a little easier.