Counselors shed light on college eating disorder problem

Josh Streit

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (NEDAW) 2004 will take place from Feb. 23 through Feb. 27. Eating disorders at Villanova are something that needs to be talked about, because disordered eating and body image problems affect so many individuals on our campus. Due to feelings of shame and secrecy, many problems go untreated.

We know from the National Institute of Mental Health that over 5 million Americans suffer from eating disorders. Over 90 percent of these individuals are women, with 1 percent of young women developing anorexia and 2-3 percent becoming bulimic. Although men are frequently underrepresented in prevalence estimates, the truth is that up to 10 percent of individuals with eating disorders are male. The average age of onset for anorexia is 17, and 18-20 for bulimia.

The pressures of college and leaving home are one of many factors that can contribute to developing problems with food.

We need to listen and learn in order to understand the deeper issues surrounding eating disorders. People with eating disorders often feel misunderstood and blamed. They may feel looked down upon, or fear being seen as weak or defective. Misinformed friends, often with the best of intentions, tell the person with the eating disorder to “just eat,” or “just stop” binging or purging. Much like other psychological problems, eating disorders are a way of coping. People with eating problems need support and for those who care about them to accept and understand their feelings and needs.

The University Counseling Center Peer Educators along with the Center for Health and Wellness Education will be sponsoring interesting and informative events next week.

The Counseling Center Peer Educators are junior and senior psychology majors participating in an internship that is supervised by Dr. Leslie Parkes of the Counseling Center. These students are involved in the planning of educational programs to promote awareness of eating disorders, positive body image and healthy eating habits.

The theme of NEDAW 2004 is “Get Real,” and will highlight the importance of real expectations about food and body image. The week will be packed with events, including the display of “Life-Sized Barbie” in the Connelly Center, presentations on fad diets and how to help a friend with an eating disorder, and free and confidential eating disorder screening at the Counseling Center. Josh Streit, Counseling Center Peer Educators will be playing with his band “The Big Huge” during “The Great Jeans Giveaway.” This event is for a great cause. Jeans that are too small for you can be donated to teens at the Covenant House. On “Fearless Friday: A Day Without Dieting,” we encourage everyone to listen to your body and nourish yourself without dieting, and to accept yourself and your friends just as you are.

During the upcoming week, focus on making this campus a place where everyone can feel comfortable with their bodies, and provide support and encouragement to a friend or loved one who may be struggling with an eating disorder.