Health: Helping to Prevent Eating Disorders

By Amanda Ferrara, Student at New York University

Maria*, 21, had never really been concerned with her weight until a few years ago. Currently a 5’1, 98-pound college senior, Maria sits in front of her computer looking back at old pictures from her freshman year in which she was about 30 pounds heavier than she is now.

“I cannot believe how chunky I was,” she said, “but the weird thing is that I barely even noticed. I was fine with how I looked.”

She then gets up to stand in front of a mirror and analyze every inch of her body; though she is 30 pounds lighter and has a small frame, she still is intent losing even more weight.

I spoke with Maria numerous times on the issue of body image and eating disorders. One of the most interesting insights that she gave me? There is always that one trigger. For Maria, it was her supermodel-like roommate who made the snide comment that she could "stand to lose a few pounds."

"That was it for me,” she said, “That’s how it all started.”

Understanding that something as small as a comment can cause a person to develop an eating disorder is so important when it comes to prevention. While other factors such as heredity and media can contribute, those who are predisposed to developing an eating disorder can be pushed over the edge by a single statement. The most important thing that you as an individual can do for your peers is to remember that what you say, even if it was intended to be harmless, can greatly impact a person’s body image and lifestyle.

In addition to understanding that what we say can influence the development of an eating disorder, we should all recognize that there are various types of eating disorders that diverge from the more publicized types like anorexia and bulimia. According to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), disordered eating is “when a person’s attitudes about food, weight, and body size lead to very rigid eating and exercise … even if you don’t have a full-blown eating disorder, you may be missing out on living while you spend all your time dieting.”

Maria’s disordered eating cannot be classified as being anorexia nor bulimia but that does not mean that her current lifestyle is healthy. No one can tell for sure if her eating disorder would be in existence today if her roommate had not made that comment; maybe there would have been another trigger down the road. However, if everyone stopped and thought about how their weight-related comments could affect someone so negatively, perhaps the number of disordered eating cases would drop.

If you are interested, you can visit NEDA’s website and learn all about disordered eating, prevention, and treatment.

(*Name has been changed for privacy)


Image: Master isolated images /

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