Eating disorders are complex issues caused by a blend of emotional, social, and biological dynamics. Sunday kicked off National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, a platform to raise awareness about early intervention and treatment of eating disorders. Though some individuals come to college with an eating disorder, others are susceptible to them upon arrival.
According to the Multi-service Eating Disorder Association, some aspects of the college environment can contribute to eating disorders like the difficulty with coping with a transitional period, excessive stress, unlimited amounts of food available in dining halls, and fear of the “Freshman 15.
“It’s usually common nature that if something is going to develop, it will come out during that time,” said Allison Lockard, a professional and licensed counselor in the Florida A&M University Office of Counseling Services.
MEDA’s statistics show that 91 percent of women in college have attempted to control their weight through dieting and that 15 percent of women between 17 and 24 years of age have eating disorder.
The two most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Anorexia is typically characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss. This life threatening condition can decrease the heart rate and cause low blood pressure.
Bulimia on the other hand is distinguished by being a cycle of binging and other behaviors such as self-induced vomiting. This vomiting can lead to the loss of essential nutrients that the body needs in order to carry out its processes.
A common stereotype involving eating disorders is that young, white middle class women are affected most by eating disorders. MEDA notes that many women of color are afflicted with eating disorders and do not realize the severity of their condition or that they may have a disease at all.
“It’s not something we see as prevalent among the African American population, but it is something that has been on the rise,” Lockard said.
MEDA said a common factor in the development of eating disorders in women of color is low self-esteem caused by societal standards, discrimination and prejudice they may be subject to in society.
Men are also affected. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, there are about 1 million men with serious eating disorders.
MEDA said the perception that women of color can increase social and economic status by conforming to white standards of beauty can lead to body dissatisfaction and in turn leads to disordered eating.
According to Lockard, black women are usually more content with their appearance.
“African-Americans overall rates have shown higher self-esteem,” Lockard said.
On Feb. 26, the Office of Counseling Services will offer free screenings from 11a.m. till 2p.m. at Sunshine Manor located across Tucker Hall. Lockard said that emotional eating is mostly what she helps students with rather than disordered eating.
“[Emotional eating] is something I see more of,” Lockard said. “If you or someone you may know may exhibit indications of an eating disorder, it is advised to seek counsel.”