I remember back in the day, all those three years ago, when I was just a teeny tiny high school senior. And I do mean teeny tiny. I remember vividly calling my best friend when I weighed myself at 110 pounds and threatened to call Jenny Craig. But alas, the past three years at C-Rock have taken their toll: between no longer playing three sports, pasta being much easier and cheaper to cook than some tofu-garden-veggie entrée, and a fondness for my good friend Mr. Pabst, I’m not quite the size I once was. And I find myself constantly scrutinizing my physical appearance. I even invested in Mari Winsor’s Pilates DVD this week. It’s a lonely feeling being concerned about what I eat, how often I work out, or how much longer I can squeeze into those jeans I still have from high school. However, I am not alone.
According to a study conducted in 2000 almost a third of all women in college have “disordered eating habits.” This means that several of these women don’t fall in the category of having an eating disorder, like anorexia or bulimia, but are preoccupied with losing weight or controlling their eating habits. Several rely on diet pills, supplements, or even laxatives. A study done by the National Institute of Mental Health revealed that of the 5 million Americans who have eating disorders or disordered eating habits, 90 percent are women.
A number of factors can contribute to collegiate women falling into the ever-popular trend of eating disorders. Several studies show that stress from academic work load, being away from home, and adjusting to a new lifestyle can all play a role as well as the new freedoms college provides for students. No longer does mom provide meat and potatoes and make you eat your broccoli nor are you required to be home before midnight. An unsteady diet combined with stress and irregular sleeping patterns all contribute diet and self-image troubles among young women on college campuses.
Finding one’s “nitch” in the college community is a crucial part to any student’s success. However, living in such close quarters with so many new people, and living with the opposite sex for the first time (brothers don’t exactly count.) is greatly intimidating. Peer pressure is strong and common among all college students but is predominant among female students. Those young women considered “over-weight” next to their new roommate could feel pressured to lose weight and many want to do it quick. This results in over exercising or irregular eating habits.
Another contributing factor is, of course, the media. Welcome to 21st Century America where the thinner you are the hotter you are and the hotter you are the cooler you are. From Paris to Lindsay to Britney to J. Lo, we see it and hear it daily. Our televisions on campus stream in The Real World and The Hills, our Internet connections provide us with hundreds of ads a day, several that include models half the size of Twiggy. With this image constantly being shoved down a young women’s throat as that of an acceptable looking human being, a girl of any age and of any size can only feel as though she is not measuring up (literally).
Ladies, we are intellectuals. If we weren’t we wouldn’t be in the process of earning our degrees. We are smart young women who hold the key to the future whether we are a size 2 or a size 22. Let’s put down the copies of Vogue and pick up our text books and get back to what’s really important, what we came to college for in the first place (Coors isn’t the reason, by the way).
Do what that little Honey Nut Cheerios bee says: “Be Happy, Be Healthy”.