Swimsuit season fuels anorexia

By AnnMarie Chacko
April 27, 2006

Walking into the cafeteria, one can spot a salad bar, burgers, fries, sandwiches and other various items on display. There are many different drinks to choose from, hot or cold, whichever you like. But to a girl suffering from anorexia nervosa, it’s all fat, fat, fat.

Anorexia nervosa is a real, treatable medical illness in which certain unhealthy patterns of eating take on a life of their own, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. It is one of the leading trends in eating disorders affecting an estimated five million people in the United States alone.

It can begin with something as small as the desire to lose enough weight to fit into that cute new bikini you just bought or to hope to God that you fit into your prom dress before that fateful night. With some, it starts at an early age with family members commenting on baby fat and pudgy cheeks. Still with others, it’s a result of much abuse to the ego and a further lowering of self-esteem.

“The summer before I entered the eighth grade, I wanted to lose at least five pounds. So, I stopped eating. I ended up losing about 20 pounds within the month,” said “Nancy,” a freshman exercise science major who chose to remain anonymous.

“By the beginning of February people are starting to talk about their bodies and getting ready for spring break,” said clinical psychologist, Margo Maine.

Most people stop eating to gain a result and lose the unnecessary weight preventing them from having that desirable body. The prom, wedding and bathing suit seasons causes most girls to want to lose weight and be skinny.

“Before it all started, I wanted to lose weight to look good in a bathing suit and clothes. But when I went to try them on, I was so skinny I became embarrassed,” Nancy said.

Group dieting, usually found amongst girlfriends and sorority sisters, takes a more organized form on the Internet, where spring break has become a popular topic on web sites maintained by the controversial underground movement known as “pro-ana” where it is encouraged to wear red bracelets showing off pride to be anorexic. Pro-anas are seen all over sites like Myspace.com, Xanga and LiveJournal.com, according to the New York Times.

“Celebrities themselves are finding themselves caught in this ‘trend’ and with thousands of young girls looking up to them,” said “Jasmine,” a sophomore English/communication major.

Symptoms of anorexia nervosa include: resistance to maintaining body weight at or above a minimally normal weight for one’s age and height, intense fear of gaining weight and infrequent or absent menstrual periods.

“It messed up my cycle so bad and it might not be normal again until I actually have children. I found out I was anemic afterwards because I would lose so much blood sometimes,” said Nancy.

“When I really looked at myself in the mirror and saw how skinny I was, I knew it was time to stop,” said Nancy.

“At some point you figure it out. We don’t intentionally want to kill ourselves. We just want to fit in to society’s standard of beautiful,” said Jasmine.

*Names have been altered in this story due to the privacy rights of the individuals.

Posted to the web by Brian Coary

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AnnMarie Chacko

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