Eating disorders are more than just poor body image

By Melanie Greenberg
February 10, 2011

Desire. It is what drives all humans. The desire to succeed. The desire to be famous. The desire to be beautiful and wonderful. The desire to be desired.

It is a force that is unstoppable and can push us all forward in life or drag us into a dark and terrifying place. I am a very desiring person. I am constantly pushing to be the best, to win, to be desired and overall, to be thin.

Eating disorders have always been a taboo subject in our culture. We don’t like sick people, especially sick people we cannot understand.

Why are skin and bones more important than life and death? There is no logic in the mind of someone struggling with an eating disorder. All we know is that, to those suffering, hunger pains are a success by the end of the day, that two hours at the gym is not enough and that a bathroom stall is the most anxiety-ridden place to try and hide a secret.

You may have a friend struggling with their body. It isn’t uncommon; most people are unsatisfied with how they look or feel. But there are extremists amidst all of us. What can start as healthy eating habits can quickly become a diet, which can easily form into an obsession.

“Have I eaten too much? Have I burned enough calories? Did anyone hear me throw up? Did I lose weight? Do I feel better? Am I finally skinny? Am I happy now?” The answer is always no.


What many people fail to understand is that eating disorders are not just the number on the scale, an addiction to exercise or an addiction to food. These psychological disorders begin at the core of someone’s existence. All of the external actions stem from a source victims themselves may not be able to explain. This is where therapy comes into play.

Overeating is a growing disorder that many people have an easy time dismissing as a problem. These people are not eating because they are simply fat and hungry. It is known as a binge eating disorder. Uncontrollable amounts of eating from guilt, disgust and embarrassment are common factors.

Binge eating disorder often has a friend named bulimia nervosa. Bulimics tend to secretly overeat, followed by inappropriate methods of controlling their weight (aka purging, over exercising, laxatives and diuretics).

Gross, right? It’s not like people actually like throwing up but it’s a high to be able to trick others into believing we are normal and tricking our bodies into thinking we consumed calories.

Like anorexia nervosa, the type of eating disorder in which a person starves themselves, these are all psychological disorders that stem from the need to control. A common type of person with anorexia have a Type A personalities: the perfectionist. When their world is spinning out of control, what is left to control but food intake?

While 95 percent of those who suffer from anorexia are female, males suffer as well. We associate eating and body image disorders with females and what man honestly wants to have what is considered a girly problem?

Luckily, Cabrini College has Counseling and Psychological Services. This is a service I myself have utilized in my time here at Cabrini. They even have a specified counselor for eating disorders and body image issues, Andrea Sussel.

Next week, in honor of Eating Disorder Awareness Week, Cabrini’s counseling services will be holding events in order to raise awareness for eating disorders.

I feel that everyone knows the dangers of smoking and drinking and other various problems, but many people do not realize that their words can drive someone into a dark place that is difficult to get out of. Ten years is a reasonable amount of recovery time, that is with therapists, dietitians and a great support group. Relapse is common and harsh.

Hopefully more people can be more outspoken about this growing national problem. Cabrini’s Body Image Coalition holds meetings as group support and awareness but people are so nervous about being pegged as the person with a problem.

So peg me as that person. I can take it. But if you know someone who is struggling or you yourself, get help. It’s not worth dying over just to uphold an image.

NEDA (National Eating Disorder Awareness) Screening Day

Event Date: 02/22/2011
Event Time: 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Location: Founder’s Hall Lobby
Description: Learn about the issues that cause eating disorders, and take a screening to assess your level of health in relationship to food and your body.

Jeans Drive

Event Date: 02/23/2011
Event Time: 9:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Location: Grace Hall, Atrium
Description: Jeans are being collected in conjunction with the BeYOU(tiful) Fashion Show being held the evening of Wednesday, February 23 sponsored by the Body Image Coalition.

Be(YOU)tiful Fashion Show

Event Date: 02/23/2011
Event Time: 7:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Location: Grace Hall Atrium
Description: Don’t miss Cabrini’s second annual Be(YOU)tiful Fashion Show, sponsored by the Body Image Coalition.

This is a fashion show to promote love for our bodies and ourselves. Learn how the fashion industry is distorting our image of beauty and how we can change it.

Counseling and Psychological Services
Founder’s Hall, Room 95
Fax: 610-902-8766

Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-4 p.m. by appointment

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Melanie Greenberg

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