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It’s only been six weeks on campus and I’ve already lost track of how many times I’ve heard an excuse to skip a meal: too much schoolwork, too stressed to eat, waiting for a later event. For the most part, “Freshman 15” isn’t a foreign term, but with the increase in eating disorders, it’s time to address the eating disorder culture on college campuses, and in practice. especially here at Hopkins.

A recent report by the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) found that over a 13-year period, the prevalence of eating disorders increased from 23% to 32% in women and from 7, 9% to 25% for men at a single university. . The NEDA further estimates that 30 million people in the United States alone will experience an eating disorder at some point in their lives; many eating disorders have their roots in college.

The transition to university is marked by several circumstances that increase the risk of developing an eating disorder: autonomy and new responsibilities; social, academic and financial pressures; heavy workload; the desire to integrate; an abundance of food and eating activities; changes in routine and better access to drugs or alcohol. For many, college is the first opportunity to make decisions about food. Faced with new challenges and lacking the usual support networks, students may turn to food as a coping mechanism.

In light of these challenges and without constant support, it is no coincidence that 31.1% of first year students struggle with some form of eating disorder, whether restrictive, obsessive or excessive in nature. . What is even more disturbing is the fact that few people seek or receive help, which incites an ongoing struggle with physical, mental, social and emotional consequences.

Despite the recent growth in awareness and dialogue about mental health, eating disorders continue to go unnoticed on college campuses. Why?

The reasoning lies in the normalization, if not romance, of these messy behaviors on college campuses, Hopkins included.

A student-to-student conversation that incorporates a toxic dialogue about food, diet, and exercise supports a culture of messy eating, and it’s not hard to come by. Warnings about the imminent “Freshman 15” put body size at the center of the first year experience and contribute to an obsessive mindset around food and exercise that often results in a disturbance. food. And I can almost guarantee that before going out with friends, we’ll mention “saving” calories by not eating before, either in an attempt to get drunk faster or to offset the extra calories from alcohol.

Recognize intentionally withholding food for an extended period of time, often presented as “getting ready for a party”, as a disorderly behavior that is characteristic of anorexia and other eating disorders.

And here at Hopkins, I often hear this: “I don’t have time to eat, I’m too busy!” And in response? We fail to stress the importance of diet, but instead show the admiration stemming from our obsession with commotion. But too often the glorification of commotion occurs to the detriment of our health and, in this case, normalizes skipping meals in a way that perpetuates the eating disorder culture on campus.

It’s ingrained in us to compare ourselves to each other: in terms of grades and accomplishments, but also in terms of our habits and our bodies. Being immersed in a culture that promotes the development of disorderly eating behaviors is toxic, forces us to conform to an unhealthy lifestyle, and threatens the development of mental illness with serious consequences.

So what can we do about it?

First, we recognize the existence of an eating disorder culture on campus. As long as we continue to normalize and reject these behaviors, there can be no progress.

Once we recognize the presence of eating disorders on campus, we must raise awareness, both to their existence but also to the diversity of people who suffer from them. Remember, eating disorders don’t just affect skinny white girls. Heavier people, men, people of color, and gay people also struggle with eating disorders.

And finally, we must eliminate the toxic dialogue and the glorification of commotion underlying eating disorder culture and replace it with a support base that uplifts students and connects them to appropriate resources. Eating disorders don’t have to be a life sentence; there are resources available for those who struggle.

If this is you, rest assured that you are not alone in this battle. Hopkins has resources to help through the Student Health and Wellness Center and the Counseling Center. You can also contact the NEDA Hotline by calling 1-800-931-2237.

Our time here at Hopkins is short, and we all dream of accomplishing so much, here and beyond. But without proper nutrition and care for our bodies, we are limited in what we can accomplish. So take this little reminder: be kind to your body; it’s the only one you have. There are more important aspects of the college experience than the size of your jeans.

Emma Andersson is a second year student in Madison, NJ, studying international studies and sociology with a minor in environmental studies. She is a member of Real Food at Hopkins and Compassion, Awareness and Responsible Eating for Farm Animals.