College Life: Unhealthy Eating or Eating Disorder?

Cafeterias, all-you-can-eat buffets and late night pizza deliveries are just a few of the temptations facing college freshman as they adjust to their new found freedom and life on their own for the first time. Weight gain and poor eating habits are the likely outcomes for many, but a growing number of college students, primarily females, suffer from eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating.

College life is stressful, and some students have more difficulty than others trying to cope with a new routine and environment. When life becomes overwhelming, some focus on food, weight and calories as a way to exert control over a life that seems out of control. In some cases, the stress can lead to overeating or making poor food choices. In more extreme cases, a person will purposely withhold food or binge and then purge. While there is no single known cause, eating disorders can develop based on any of these factors:

  • Societal pressure to be thin
  • Family and close friends’ attitudes about appearance and diet
  • Stressful or life changing events
  • Emotional disorders such as anxiety and depression

While many college students have an actual diagnosed eating disorder, even more students develop unhealthy eating habits and an unhealthy relationship with food. Often, it’s the work hard-play hard culture of college life that can promote unhealthy eating. Signs you may have an eating disorder:

  • Making yourself throw up after meals
  • Moving food around on your plate but not eating anything
  • Eating very small amounts of only certain foods
  • Taking diet pills
  • Not eating or eating very little
  • Counting calories, weighing food and obsessing about everything you eat

Eating disorders can turn into serious medical problems. When the body is denied important nutrients to function normally, long term negative effects can include:

  • Increased risk of osteoporosis
  • Abnormally slow heart rate and low blood pressure
  • Muscle weakness and loss
  • Dehydration that can result in hypokalemia (low blood potassium) and kidney failure
  • Fatigue, weakness, dry hair and skin, and hair loss
  • An ongoing cycle of binging and purging can affect the entire digestive system and lead to electrolyte imbalances, tooth decay, inflammation of the esophagus and ulcers

The National Eating Disorders Association estimates that nearly 20% of college students suffer from some type of eating disorder.  Due to their complexity, treatment for eating disorders requires medical attention as well as professional counseling. If you or someone you know shows signs of an eating disorder, talk to a counselor, visit the campus health clinic, or even join a support group on campus. To learn more about eating disorder and to find medical care near you, download the free iTriage  app or get iTriage online.

30 comments

  1. Although I knew a few people who got too skinny, most people I knew had the opposite problem. Of course they you’ve heard of the “Freshman 15” referring to the weight gained in the first year of college but I knew someone who gained 100 lbs in the first year of college. Boy we ate a lot of junk back then!

  2. Eating habits can easily spiral out of control during freshman year, whether it’s overeating, undereating, or living off of junk food. Hopefully the college cafeterias and snack shacks will get the message and start offering healthier meal and snack choices.

  3. I think we all ate our fair share of junk food in college. In fact, that’s where I first discovered cold pizza for breakfast. The challenge is in balancing out the pizza with the healthy stuff!

  4. Recovering from eating disorders seems to be almost as difficult as dealing with alcoholism.

  5. I have three daughters, two of which are in a college sorority. I hear stories of the pressure imposed on these girls to be ultra thin. Some accomplish this through compulsive exercise and others through denying themselves food. So far my girls have been able to navigate the pit-falls of communal living with 80 other girls. Thanks for reminding me of the warning signs of a developing eating disorder.

  6. College life is the best life..;) we have to eat as much as junk food..:P
    because after our college we will not be able to meet our friends. by the way good points..

  7. College is definitely a time full of changes, growth, learning, and experiences…also stress. I know that when I started college, I didn’t really gain much weight, but my eating habits worsened. Eating late, eating fast food, bad snacks in between classes, and not having a good eating schedule didn’t make me feel the healthiest. being busy with school and school events can be stressful.

  8. To attain healthy life, the ethics and of food habits has to be followed. In this material world, people love to make money without having proper food to the body. It kills one day by day! During my college days, I suspend breakfast due to untimeliness. It lead me to some worst cases. Having food at the proper time, will save you in many ways!

  9. I just wrote a research paper about this topic. I agree that the typical response to college is the “Freshman 15”, but I feel like if that does hit, soon after many college aged women hit the dieting phase. On top of that, is stress and new environments so they refer to caffeine, etc. which changes the way their stomach handles food. Sometimes it may not even be that they have an eating disorder, but they may have symptoms. They start eating so that they feel skinny instead of for nutrition.

  10. Once the student makes a final decision, a new phase of the college process begins. Suddenly, all the uncertainty that marked the preceding months is over, replaced by the need to get ready for college life.
    http://www.wheelchairindia.com

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention College Life: Unhealthy Eating or Eating Disorder? | iTriage Health Blog -- Topsy.com

  2. Pingback: College Life: Unhealthy Eating or Eating Disorder? | Aventura Hospital and Medical Center

  3. Pingback: College Life: Unhealthy Eating or Eating Disorder? | JFK Medical Center

  4. Pingback: College Life: Unhealthy Eating or Eating Disorder? | Kendall Regional Medical Center

  5. Pingback: College Life: Unhealthy Eating or Eating Disorder? | Lawnwood Regional Medical Center & Heart Institute

  6. Pingback: College Life: Unhealthy Eating or Eating Disorder? | Palms West Hospital

  7. Pingback: College Life: Unhealthy Eating or Eating Disorder? | Plantation General Hospital

  8. Pingback: College Life: Unhealthy Eating or Eating Disorder? | Blake Medical Center

  9. Pingback: College Life: Unhealthy Eating or Eating Disorder? | Central Florida Regional Hospital

  10. Pingback: College Life: Unhealthy Eating or Eating Disorder? | Edward White Hospital

  11. Pingback: College Life: Unhealthy Eating or Eating Disorder? | University Hospital and Medical Center

  12. Pingback: College Life: Unhealthy Eating or Eating Disorder? | St. Lucie Medical Center

  13. Pingback: College Life: Unhealthy Eating or Eating Disorder? | Regional Medical Center – Bayonet Point

  14. Pingback: College Life: Unhealthy Eating or Eating Disorder? | Brandon Regional Hospital

  15. Pingback: College Life: Unhealthy Eating or Eating Disorder? | Northwest Medical Center

  16. Pingback: College Life: Unhealthy Eating or Eating Disorder? | Westside Regional Medical Center – The Right Care Right Here

  17. Pingback: College Life: Unhealthy Eating or Eating Disorder? | Raulerson Hospital

  18. Pingback: College Life: Unhealthy Eating or Eating Disorder? | HCA West Florida

  19. Pingback: Your Questions About How To Lose Fat On Stomach For Women | Lose Fat On Stomach

  20. Pingback: Your Questions About Emotional Eating In Children

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*