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The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

The Greyhound

Reflecting on National Eating Disorders Awareness Week: how you can be a support and get the support you need


TW: mention of disordered eating habits

It started in a Payless when I was 13. One moment, I was admiring my sick new pair of Uggs knockoffs, and the next, I was staring at my stomach. For the first time, it looked…different. It made me want to stare and at the same time look away. I wanted, no, needed, to get rid of it – to make it as unnoticeable as possible.

The next eight years would make me realize that this moment would be the beginning— eight more years of life defined by calories, body shame, and insecurity would be ahead.

Eating disorders affect nearly 1 in every 10 Americans— that maps out to roughly 20 million women and 10 million men. Of college-aged students, approximately 20% of women and 10% of men will develop disordered eating habits in the time they are attending school. In terms of deadliness, they are second only to opioid overdose. Deaths related to eating disorders occur once approximately every 50 minutes.

The short of the long: if you’ve never been affected by an eating disorder, chances are good that someone around you has, and that someone is suffering because of it.

Now you may be saying, “But they can’t be! I see them eating all the time, and they look like a healthy weight.” I’ll go ahead and bust that myth for you right here: Weight is no direct indicator of whether or not someone has an eating disorder. In fact, less than 6% of those with diagnosed eating disorders qualify as being “underweight.” I was told for years, by medical professionals and friends alike, that because I was a “healthy weight,” there was nothing wrong in the way I handled eating, which in reality, was filled with disordered habits.

If you’re reading this and know the pains that this demon can bear, you are not alone. One of the greatest lies told by eating disorders is that no one is feeling the same way you are. It wants you to believe that you are alone so that you never talk about it, and it can effectively take over your life.

Don’t believe it.

One of the most important things you can do if you are struggling is REACH OUT. Loyola’s Counseling Center is a great place to start, but if that’s not your vibe, talk to your primary care physician about therapists in your area. Linked here is also a list of support groups found near Loyola.

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, here are some possible signs that someone around you may be struggling with an eating disorder:

●  Dieting or other signs of control over food intake

●  Preoccupation with weight, food, calories, dieting

●  Refusal to eat certain foods

●  Appearing uncomfortable when eating around others

●  Food rituals (ex. eating only a particular food or food group, excessive chewing, not allowing food to touch)

●  Skipping meals or taking small portions of food at regular meals

●  Withdrawal from usual friends or activities

●  Frequent dieting

●  Extreme concern with body size or shape

●  Frequent checking in the mirror for perceived flaws

●  Extreme mood swings

If you believe someone around you is struggling, don’t forget to:

●  Suggest therapy as a way of discussing feelings with a professional

●  Validate their feelings and experiences

●  Educate yourself about eating disorders (NEDA is a great place to start)

●  Be caring!

●  Encourage checking in with their primary care physician

Those were some of the suggestions given by the Loyola Psychology Club (Instagram: loyolapsychclub), Psi Chi (Instagram: psichi.lum), and Active Minds (Instagram: activemindslum), as they raised awareness during National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Follow their accounts for more information about how you can educate yourself.

The girl standing in Payless had no idea what the next eight years would bring, but she also would not know the relief of conquering the demon that would control those years. It’s been a long journey for me since looking in that mirror, but I came out so much stronger on the other side.

You are enough. You are strong. You don’t need to do this alone.

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is February 22 – February 28, though bringing awareness to this issue doesn’t need to end there. Visit NEDA for more information about how you can be a support to those who are struggling.

Featured Image courtesy of Toa Heftiba

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Reflecting on National Eating Disorders Awareness Week: how you can be a support and get the support you need