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OPINION: Stop normalizing eating disorders on college campuses

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Jacqueline Canett | The Daily Wildcat

College campuses allow behaviors that are likely to lead to eating disorders.

Update on 2/23: For eating disorder awareness week, Feb. 22 - 28, I want to call attention to language on campus that can promote and/or normalize eating disorders. 

It is estimated that 28.8 million Americans will suffer from an eating disorder throughout their life and most eating disorders start from ages 18-21. This statistic does not come as a shock given how normalized eating disorder behaviors are in the college atmosphere. We are told to fear “the freshman 15” and that “looking good in an outfit” can be more important than dinner. The language we use in our everyday life while in college has the ability to normalize disordered eating and it needs to stop. We need to be more aware of what we are saying and how it can affect anyone struggling with body image. To combat this issue, here are some phrases that need to rightfully need to be canceled on campus. 

“Pulling Trig”

In an environment where excessive drinking is encouraged and practiced often, many students turn to “pulling trig” to help them feel better after a night out. “Pulling trig” is forcing yourself to throw up after drinking, and is a very common phrase used in college party culture. This act of “pulling trig” is also associated with bulimia and anorexia, two eating disorders that take the lives of many people across the world — especially in westernized cultures such as the U.S. When talking about inducing vomiting in association with an eating disorder, it’s referred to as purging. People struggling with bulimia and anorexia purge after meals. Despite “pulling trig” and purging being identical acts, one is considered okay to college students.

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“Too busy to eat” 

College is a very busy time for most people. With school, jobs, extracurriculars and trying to make time for friends, it can seem impossible to fit everything in. If there is one thing that you absolutely need to make time for, it is food. Your body needs nutrition and this does not change because your schedule is too packed with homework and parties. Saying that you are “too busy to eat” is not only extremely damaging to you, but it can also trigger someone around you.

Using coffee, Adderall, nicotine and other appetite suppressants as meal replacements

Coffee is not a meal replacement. Neither is nicotine, Adderall or any other appetite suppressant you may find on any given college campus. While after consuming these you might not feel hungry, these do not have enough calories to allow you to live your most productive lifestyle. You will end up feeling tired, sluggish and hungry after the effects wear off, and this will only slow you down and keep you from achieving your goals.

RELATED:  OPINION: Starve yourself. No. Wait. Love yourself. Wait. What?

Fad diets to restrict eating

Dieting has the ability to severely damage one’s relationship with food. On a college campus, diets are often spoken about as a “cure” or “miracle,” and what these diets mostly consist of is limitation. Once a person gains this mindset on calories and food, it can lead them down a very scary path. Fad diets need to be stopped because they are doing so much more harm than good in the long run. 

“Freshman Fifteen”

Why are we so terrified of weight gain in college that we gave it a name and warned freshmen of it like it is the plague? Weight fluctuation is completely normal. Freshmen already deal with being away from home for the first time, trying to make new friends and learning how to take care of themselves on their own. The last thing they need to worry about is a few extra pounds. Not only does this term add unnecessary stress to one’s life, but it also has the ability to lead to unnecessary dieting and disordered eating in fear or as a reaction to this.

“I can't eat that because I want to look good in my outfit tonight”

I can assure you that you will look great in that outfit tonight no matter how many calories you eat beforehand. What I can also assure you is that if you do not eat, you will actually not feel good in that outfit that you have planned for tonight. Food is necessary for feeling your best and you do not want your night to be ruined because you put an outfit over your health. When it comes to body image in college, there needs to be an emphasis placed on giving your body the nutrients it needs over how it looks. 

If you hear this type of language on campus, it is best to call it out and start a conversation on how damaging it can be. We need to recognize that this language is extremely harmful and get these terms out of our vocabulary as college students. If you or someone you know is struggling with disordered eating please see the resources listed below to get help. 

The University of Arizona's Campus Health website's "Self-Care Tips for Eating Disorders": health.arizona.edu/self-care-tips-eating-disorders.

The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness website: allianceforeatingdisorders.com/what-are-eating-disorders/.


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Payton Toomey (she/her) is a sophomore majoring in journalism and information sciences and eSociety. She loves to cook and golf in her free time. 


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Updated February 28, 2021