Eating disorders: If you see something, say something

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

By Jenna Seyer, Staff Writer

Attending college for the first time is both exciting and challenging. We get to experience freedom away from the eyes of our parents, our high school teachers and our family. However, there are social pressures to make friends, have romantic relationships and achieve academic success. All of this can potentially lead to poor coping mechanisms, such as eating disorders. We live in a superficial, perfection-seeking world; our present cultural climate idealizes thinness and places emphasis on weight as a primary indicator of how healthy we are, which only contributes to the fear of gaining weight.

Women and men alike are told that to be beautiful or handsome they must be skinny, have flawlessly-trimmed eyebrows, have confidence in their appearance and become a reflection of plastic beauty. When we feel we aren’t physically fit, we’re compelled to diet, exercise, wax, pluck and tuck in an attempt to achieve the “perfect” look. Somewhere along the way, we’ve equated the perfect butt to the perfect life. When did the gap between our thighs become more important than personal acceptance? Our bodies, hooted and honked at, demeaned both in daily life and in the media, harassed, molested and even raped are forever poked, prodded and weighed, constantly being judged for eating too much or too little. How can we be confident in the way we look if we are constantly told what is wrong with our bodies? We realize that there is only so much that we can change, only so much under our control. Some people, as I’ve witnessed firsthand at Gettysburg, are unable to cope with the pressures of college, turning to one of the only sources of control they have: food.

During the first few months, the warning signs become evident: visits to the bathroom multiple times a day, excessive exercising, self-harm, a lack of self-confidence, a tendency to eat little for meals, and sometimes a visible loss of weight. As students and friends, what should we do when we see things like this happening? Is it our responsibility to report these issues and get our friend some help? Are we betraying their trust in some way if we tell someone?

Men and women developed eating disorders when our culture developed a standard of beauty that they couldn’t perfect by being healthy. Eating disorders are not just a phase that can be fixed by a six-month period of therapy. They are not only a battle with food but also a battle with the mind. Eating disorders are a constant struggle that need consistent counseling, support, and hope. There is no magical cure for eating disorders, only small steps forward—with easier days and a mirror that doesn’t matter anymore.

As I previously said in the title, if you see something, say something—you might save a life!

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