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Rebecca Hoskins / Her Campus Media
Wellness

To Eat Their Own

Trigger Warning: Eating Disorders

What if the very thing that kept you alive was also what was consuming you alive every day? What if that thing was food? 

To each their own when it comes to what, when, and how much someone decides to eat, right? What starts out as a way to control one’s health or appearance with a simple “diet” can easily spiral out of control into self-destructive behavior that may lead to the most fatal mental illness and addiction—an eating disorder. Eating disorders don't discriminate in terms of age, gender, or ethnicity. Their severity, duration, and symptoms differ, but two things are certain: eating disorders are never just about food, and they require proper treatment and care for full recovery. 

Not everyone will get an eating disorder when exposed to diet culture and the romanticization of restriction and conformity to a certain “desirable” body shape. However, the normalization of eating disorders on college campuses creates a breeding ground for the complex and deadly disease to take root in the minds of young, impressionable adults. 

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There are many factors involved in the likelihood of developing an eating disorder, including, but not limited to, genetic, chemical, and environmental influences. Oftentimes, eating disorders may coexist with depression, anxiety, or body dysmorphic disorder. Though professional help and family support are key aspects of recovery, raising awareness and destigmatizing eating disorders will surely contribute to prevention and early intervention before more lives and relationships are ruined. 

Many college students seem to take pride in running on caffeine and eating less or not at all. It seems to almost be a competition over who can do more with less energy. Commenting on someone’s physical appearance and how much or how often they’re eating can be triggering and harmful as well. Diet culture is not OK. Coffee or tea is not a meal replacement. Body-shaming of anyone is awful. Excessive exercise or eating in secret is a scream for help. Categorizing food as good or bad is not healthy. Our bodies deserve to be nourished properly, regardless of how much we do. 

Unfortunately, we can’t change society’s obsession with constantly promoting changes to our appearances and body to conform and be “desirable.” However, we can recognize what’s incorrect and start making changes within our families, friends, and communities. And hopefully, one day soon, our efforts will create a domino effect that will be so powerful and revolutionary that the world will be a kinder and safer place for everyone.

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If you or anyone you know has an eating disorder, please, please, seek help or encourage them to do so. Having an eating disorder can feel like the worst thing in the world that ultimately destroys life and is so incredibly deceiving and isolating. It’s OK to reach out for help. It’s OK to be scared. It’s OK to relapse. Just take actions and steps toward recovery and believe. There are often underlying factors that cause eating disorders. Like any addiction, eating disorder habits and mindsets are difficult to break, but it is possible with dedication and a good support system. Call or text NEDA (National Eating Disorder Association) at (800) 931-2237. Different forms of therapy and medications are available to aid in recovery and breaking the chains of an eating disorder. 

Author’s note: I think it’s crucial to educate and inform our peers about the daunting prevalence of eating disorders on college campus communities, and I hope to do so and raise greater awareness of the issue. I am personally in recovery and know from other individuals affected by disordered eating that it may get out of hand. Battling my eating disorder every day for the past year has been physically and emotionally draining, and I felt misunderstood and completely alone and hopeless. It doesn’t have to be that way for everyone. I wish I would’ve sought help sooner and not have had disordered eating normalized for me during my first year in college.

Bonnie Zhao

UC Berkeley '23

just a curious and driven girl who likes creating things and sharing kindness!
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