Eating Disorders

Mapping Mental Health: Eating Disorders in Women

College-going women’s struggles with eating disorders have intensified with increasing pressure from all the spheres. Look at the dilemmas and reasons pushing EDs forth in women, and what it ultimately means for us.

The transition process from high school to college can be intimidating and the constant need to fit in, while handling studies, work, future woes, and the everyday struggle that comes with an independent lifestyle might result in a lot of stress that can translate into eating disorders. An eating disorder is not a lifestyle choice but it shapes out of stress, depression, or anxiety, which requires immediate attention. It can cause severe health issues in the future ranging from suicide to death from starvation, etc.

Eating disorders are much more common in young women and especially in those women who already have some history of depression, anxiety, or self-image issues stemming from insecurities and paranoia. This feeling of being insufficient and the need for acceptance and love can lead to the amplification of their desire to have a certain body shape. Hence, they start either starving themselves or binge-eating which is followed by heavy purging.

College life comes with all the glitz and glamour of societies, sports, innumerable opportunities, socialising, and promises of the great, but college also exposes women to the negative aspect of fitting in, to the idea of certain “perfect” body shape, and it can also feed into the conditioning of your body defining your self-worth.

College with studies, figuring out your future, building yourself and also staying afloat in the mayhem of parties and finding love is a very hectic place to be. For women suffering from body dysmorphia, it can be quite overbearing given the patriarchal set-up of even metropolitans like Delhi that subtly, or sometimes not so subtly, brands certain kinds of lifestyles as desirable and aspirational, while negating certain others. Beauty as a social construct is not just conditioned in such set-ups, but it is made to feel natural.

Societies and various sport teams are there for nurturing your talent, providing a means to bring out your abilities but the level of competition and added stress these societies and teams bring can also manifest into eating disorders.

In a candid conversation with an ex-member of Glitz, the fashion society of Kamla Nehru College, she reveals, “Girls who join societies undergo added pressure from crowd along with their performance. It is not easy to perform in front of large crowds and many girls cave into that pressure. Relentless practices and the huge crowd makes me conscious about my looks and there are occasions when I go on diets for a long period of time out of fear of gaining weight. It did affect my health and brought lot of weakness and inability to cope with my studies.”

My own experience when I joined the college basketball team wasn’t full of roses and sunshine. In the first year itself, I developed a severe eating disorder which was mainly due to the hectic schedule. Being an outstation student living independently, I started taking food and my health for granted. It took a negative toll on my health resulting in constant weakness, lack of concentration, long bouts of lethargy, which further spiralled dangerously into low white blood cells’ count. With a strict diet and work regimen, I was able to bounce back but it is not that easy for everyone. Severe eating disorder demands immediate medical help that only a physician can provide.

Having an eating disorder requires immediate attention and introspection. You need to understand that it is connected to your mental well-being and is getting translated in a very harmful way. If not handled immediately it can have a long-term negative impact on your body. Hence, we need to talk more about this and not subject the women suffering from this with severe criticism and judgement.

Feature Image Source: Odyssey

Antriksha Pathania
antrikshapathania@gmail.com




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