Whether you’re heading off to college for the first time or returning for your sophomore, junior or senior year (congrats!) it can be a mix of emotions – excitement, nervousness, overwhelm, apprehension, gratitude, etc.
At college many find themselves with a new sense of ‘freedom’ and ‘control’ once out from their parents’ roofs. Your parents won’t know if you eat chocolate cake for breakfast! Or if you don’t eat at all. You can control what you eat, how much and when – combine this with frequent binge drinking that impairs decision-making and sense of self and toss in the comparison and desire to fit in and belong that is prevalent in college and it’s no surprise that eating disorders are highly prevalent among college students.
If you’re currently in college and struggling with an eating disorder I see you and your struggle. It is so valid and painful. You are not vain or ‘attention-seeking’ – you are trying to adapt to a new environment and using this coping mechanism to get through the discomfort and uncertainty of it. You are not alone. Others also struggle. But you also don’t have to resign your college experience to struggling with an eating disorder – there’s so much more waiting for you.
College is a time for growth, exploration, curiosity and development – and it’s nearly impossible to do any of those things on an empty stomach and starved mind that can only focus on counting calories.
I’m not saying college is perfect, or idyllic – it comes with its own growing pains and the experience varies drastically for many. But when you look back on your ‘college days’ chances are you’ll want to remember sledding with your friends during the snowstorm or that silly library scavenger hunt rather than obsessing over whether you can have a hot chocolate or eat your friend’s birthday cake.
If you’re looking to explore how your eating disorder shows up and what impacts it has in your college life, try the following journal prompts:
- What factors around me in college usually trigger me to engage in eating disorder behaviors?
- What am I hoping to get out of my college experience?
- How is my eating disorder robbing me of some of those things?
It can seem daunting to break free of food rules and an eating disorder while navigating the complexities of college life. So you don’t have to do it alone. There’s many eating disorder therapists who actually specialize in working with college students and all the nuances that come with that phase of life. Our very own Samantha Palmer specializes in working with college athletes and the difficulties that come with being told how to look, move and eat in order to perform well in your sport. If you’re interested in working with our practice to work toward recovery, email firstname.lastname@example.org for a free consultation.
By: Maddy Weingast, Assistant for Wildflower Therapy, LLC