Freshman year of college: It’s a thrilling time, full of new adventures and strong emotions. It’s setting up your first dorm room, exploring campus, rushing a sorority or fraternity, joining new clubs, cheering in the student section of football games, tasting freedom, and having FUN.
Having an eating disorder robs you of all those precious experiences.
On the outside, sure, you may participate in all these activities. But other thoughts are dominating your attention.
How close is the gym to my dorm?
Where can I find salads to eat on campus?
Avoid all that pizza at all costs, even if all your friends are going.
Did I walk around campus enough to burn off the calories from those pretzels?
I can’t stay out late with everyone; I have to wake up early to work out before class.
As you sit in lectures, eat in the dining hall with new friends, go to free on-campus concerts, chat with your roommate — it all feels less real than the constant roar of calorie-counting, body-shaming, and food-obsessing inside your head.
You look like any other freshman, but you’re living a secret life. And that secret robs you of the rich growth and pure fun you could be experiencing.
Learn to reclaim your experiences at the School of Recovery.
You may come into college with a full-fledged disorder. Or you may spiral downward without a guardian’s watchful gaze. Indeed, transitional periods have been shown to exacerbate disordered eating behaviors.
Clinical eating disorders affect 15 to 20 percent of female college students, and five to 10 percent of male college students.
That’s approximately one in five students you meet on campus. One in five students with food and body rules screaming so loudly in their mind that freshman year fun takes a backseat.
Kristen Murray, RD, asks the question: “What experiences are you missing because of your food and body rules?”
When I think back on the number of missed experiences my freshman year because of my eating disorder, it brings me to tears. Back then, what mattered was getting thin, staying thin, being a thin person. Now, further along in recovery, I see the hollowness of that desire.
What counts are the late nights of laughter, the yes’s you say when you’re scared, the people you meet, those once-in-a-lifetime experiences- Not calories or the gym or the number of miles walked or the number of times you successfully avoided eating ice cream. Those arbitrary numbers do not define you, and trust me — those aren’t the memories you want.
If you’re nearing or in college, make the choice NOW to start your path to freedom. Tell a friend, find a dietitian, acknowledge to yourself the restriction pervading your food and body habits. Work hard now to have the freedom you want.
If you’re past those college years, get angry. Your eating disorder STOLE from you. It took the joy that’s rightfully yours. Recognizing that theft will help you see your eating disorder for what it really is — a liar.
Choosing to fight an eating disorder is one of the scariest choices anyone could ever make. We are warriors, in a way that those without this illness won’t ever understand. But on your darkest days — when you’re terrified of weight gain and can’t stop thinking about the calories in what you just ate and think back to those “good old days” when you were so thin and crave the familiarity of restriction — stand your ground.
Call out those lies.
Stop and think.
What do I want to remember? What do I want to experience?
Whether it’s your freshman year of college, years in high school, a romantic relationship, a vacation, a new job, or just an evening of movies and popcorn with your friends,
You have to claim what’s yours. You have the right to live, see, eat, cry, grow, learn, run, sleep, and experience life untainted by by food and body rules.
Only once you recognize your eating disorder as a thief will you begin to move forward and claim the rich life that you deserve.