Eating Disorders On the Rise Among College Students

Almost 60% of US students are currently struggling with an eating disorder. A recent study published in the Journal of Treatment and Prevention said that eating disorders “had increased on college campuses from 7.9 percent to 25 percent to men, and from 23.4 percent to 32.6 percent for women over a 13-year period.” 

The adjustment to college can be stressful and overwhelming, which can be a breeding ground for eating disorders to begin or resurface. Some causes of this are a lack of home-cooked meals, a more difficult workload and less structure.

The added stress of being around new people and an increased number of peers can also factor into these disorders. 

“If you have a heavy dose of anxiety and you’re in a social environment, and you’re constantly exposed to the thin body ideal, that’s a perfect storm convergence of factors that can drive a vulnerable individual into an eating disorder,” explained Dr. Douglas Bunnell, a clinical director of the Monte Nido treatment center in New York. 

Despite the variety of factors, it’s important to note that those currently struggling are not alone.The National Eating Disorder Association found that across the United States, about 30 million people have struggled or are currently struggling with an eating disorder. 

That statistic is not just a number. Every number represents a person with a story. 

Kelsey Britt, an anorexia survivor from Orem, UT, was one of these 30 million. She battled a vicious cycle of eating disorders between the ages of 8-18 that almost took her life. Eventually, she started the long process of recovery.

“Sure, I was eating. . . so my anorexia was under control, but eating doesn’t equal recovery,” said Britt. “In my mind, I was a victim. . . this mentality led to me becoming even more sick.” 

There are many treatment methods available to treat eating disorders. For Britt, something that helped her through this healing process was yoga. 

“My yoga practice has been the most wonderful gift I could have ever given myself. My body is healing with ease after years of struggle. For the first time in my life, I feel truly beautiful.”

The past eleven months have been the most influential months of her life. She hopes to inspire and help others with her story. 

There are several different eating disorders that have different warning signs. Regarding Anorexia Nervosa, signs can include dieting and exercising relentlessly, or binging and purging. 

Those struggling with Bulimia Nervosa will often eat large amounts of food. Following excessive eating, purging the food– often in the form of vomiting — is common.

If you or someone you know is currently struggling with an eating disorder, the Health and Wellness Center is one place to start your healing process. Located right next to The Wing in the Sharwan Smith Student Center, this resource functions as a resource when students aren’t sure where to go or are just looking for support. 

Riley Reynolds, the Health and Wellness Coordinator, says that she wants to focus on giving help to those that are struggling with eating disorders. 

“Once students come in and confide in us, we can offer support and give them the resources that are personalized to what they are going through,” said Reynolds. “We don’t make appointments; students can just walk in whenever they need help or someone to talk to.” 

According to the 2011 study mentioned earlier, on our campus alone, about 1,500 females and over 900 males at Southern Utah University battle an eating disorder. This means out of every 10 students, about two are currently struggling.

The road to recovery is just around the corner for SUU students. The Health and Wellness Center also works very closely with Counseling and Psychological Services, another resource SUU students can utilize if they’re looking for help. CAPS is available for students to make appointments for therapy. 

Marti Noxon, director of the Netflix film that brings awareness to eating disorders “To the Bone,”could be found years before wrapping her fingers around her biceps body checking. She says this now:  “There’s no shape or body type that makes you more happy or more lovable. It’s the body you’re comfortable in that makes you happier.” 

Though many on campus struggle with these difficult disorders, there are ways to heal and groups ready to aid in recovery. For more information on eating disorders, signs to watch out for and tips for recovery, click here.


Story by: Elizabeth Armstrong