At gyms, stores and in everyday life, women and men are bombarded with messages about how to look, advice on what to wear and gossip about who is looking better than whom. In an environment of such pressure and competition, it is sometimes hard to be comfortable with the skin we’re in. In fact, according to the National Eating Disorders Association’s Web site, as many as 80 percent of American women are dissatisfied with the way they look.
An intense dissatisfaction with one’s appearance, combined with other stressful life events, can lead to an eating disorder. Eating disorders are a group of severe and potentially life-threatening mental illnesses that require professional help. The three most prevalent are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder. These disorders include extreme emotions, attitudes and behaviors surrounding weight and food issues.
As many as 10 million women and one million men are currently afflicted with one of these diseases. According to NEDA, with anorexia nervosa, the individual refuses to maintain a minimally normal body weight, is intensely afraid of gaining weight and exhibits a significant distortion in the perception of the shape or size of his or her body.
While adequate exercise and healthy eating are very important to maintaining health, when taken to the extreme, they can be counter-productive and even fatal. It is important not to become obsessed with using excessive exercise and dieting as methods to control one’s looks. Physical activity and healthy eating should be practices you enjoy and do regularly to make yourself healthy and strong.
Instead of obsessing over appearance, try to find the beauty in the world around you and inside yourself. Focus on your positive attributes and accept yourself for who you are instead of trying to perfect every blemish. Women, strive to be one of the 20 percent of American women who are self-aware, healthy and confident. Both men and women should surround themselves with healthy relationships and supportive friends.
If you suspect someone you know has an eating disorder, it is important to express your concerns in a way that is not confrontational or blaming. Let the person know you care about them and you want what’s best for his or her health. Offer suggestions about where to get help, and make sure to communicate your continued support. More resources for handling an eating disorder are available on NEDA’s Web site, and K-State Counseling services can also offer help.
In the whirlwind of college life, there’s no time to obsess about your weight and your looks. This week, make an effort to feel great about who you are and share your positivity with those around you.