Right now there are students on every college campus slowly killing themselves. Every day they are getting closer and closer to death. Most have become experts at keeping their condition hidden and walk around looking just as any other higher education student. Some show no signs or clues of this slow death. Many of these dying students are active on campus and have 4.0 GPAs, others dart around campus going unseen, but both are inflicting painful self-induced deaths. This may sound extremely dramatic, but that is exactly what eating disorders are, for these students and for anyone who has an eating disorder death is one of the most undeniable and likely outcomes. This is not what the “normal” or “typical” college student looks like, but eating disorders affect a large population of the higher education population; and overlooking the importance of this sub-culture could and has had an impact on any and every institution across the nation. Student with eating disorders is a sub culture student affairs professionals should be aware of and educated on. There are a lot of myths and stereotypes of what a person with an eating disorder, looks or act likes and it can be easy to dismiss the severity of these students and the impact their eating disorders may have on their lives.
Background & History
Eating disorders are not new and this sub population has always been present on every university’s campus with or without the knowledge of the institution. Student Affair professional on any given day could work with a student with an eating disorder and be completely unaware of it. According to a survey done by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) 40% of female college student have some type of eating disorder and 91% of the college women surveyed had dieted in some way and often. Plus the common age of people with eating disorders are between the age of 12 and 25 years old. While these statistics only touch on female students; males are not immune to eating disorders and are a growing number in this population (ANAD, 2014).
Historical Misconception and Stereotypes
The history of eating disorders and the associations and perceptions eating disorders have is a very interesting one, specifically in America. Dieting and obsessions with the physical form have always been a part of western culture, advertisements offering weight loss solutions date back to the early 1800s. Until the late 19th century there was a popular association with weight and wealth (Farrell, 2011). This meant that those who could be considered “overweight” or “hefty” were more finically stable and were able to afford food and consume it in high amount without concern of not having or being able to afford food later. Yet, later there was a major shift in this perception, when being fat became a symbol for greed and taking advantage of the less fortunate. This is particularly interesting since the majority of men and women with...