The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Dying to be Thin: Eating disorders exposed

By Kristin Riegel

According to a recent survey by M.E. Collins, 42 percent of girls in first through third grade want to be thinner. That’s right, dieting is no longer for those looking to fit into that dress for Prom or even for that first dance in junior high. Being thin is a concern for almost half of all six-year-old girls on the playground.However, the desire to be thin isn’t confined to a specific age group or gender. Unhealthy body images, eating habits, and eating disorders are becoming more common throughout the country, including on college campuses.

According to the National Eating Disorder Association, a recent study showed that 91 percent of women on a US college campus had attempted to control their weight through dieting and another 22 percent dieted “often” or “always.”

With a focus on the obesity in the United States, the eating disorder epidemic is many times overlooked. However, from Feb. 24 to March 1 a group of Macalester students are offering support and raising awareness about this illness as part of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

When Evvy Daugherty ’11 arrived at Macalester she listened to her newly-formed friends talk about the dreaded “freshman 15.” From buffet-style eating in Café Mac to having to schedule time to workout, coming to college wasn’t just about going to a new school, it was about adjusting to a new lifestyle.

“I think there’s a lot of emphasis on this freshman 15,” said Daugherty. “I’ve seen my friends become more and more concerned about their weight. A lot of my friends at home suffered from eating disorders and I’ve also seen it here.”

With the help of four current Mac students, an ’05 alumnus who is currently undergoing treatment for anorexia, and the guidance of Professor Jaine Strauss of the Psychology Department, Daugherty is helping to organize activities and events that will provide information about eating disorders and provide outlets for dialogue about “the pressure to be thin.”

“Our main focus isn’t on the eating disorders themselves but we really want to address positive body image,” said Daugherty. “We would like to dispel that stigma.”

In addition to dispelling the stigmas associated with eating disorders, Daugherty hopes that this event will serve as a springboard for further conversation about body image concerns and eating disorders at Macalester.

“We are actually hoping to use this [week of events] as a starting point to continue dialogue,” said Daugherty. “We are hoping to partner with Winton and start a support group for people who have or are suffering from an eating disorder so it’s not so scary and they don’t feel alone.”

Despite eating disorders being historically viewed as an illness that affects mainly females, Professor Strauss states that men are increasingly experiencing eating disorders.

“There has been a huge increase in the way men’s bodies have been put on display,” said Strauss, citing a study that found that the physiques of action figures such as GI Joes have become significantly more lean and muscular over the past 25 years.

From action figures to magazine covers, this increased pressure to have rock-hard abs and a sculpted chest has led to a new phenomenon-muscle belittlement, in which males don’t recognize the muscle they have.

Currently, about 10 percent of patients seeking professional treatment for eating disorders are male.

No matter your age, gender, or current weight, Strauss emphasizes that eating disorders are treatable mental illnesses.

“One thing I hear from students a lot is that it’s not that bad,” Strauss said. “And even if you think it’s not that bad it could be better. When it’s not that bad is the best time to intervene.”

Besides the obvious health benefits that can incur from treatment, Strauss states that getting help can be mentally liberating.

“Eating disorders erode their [students’] ability to engage in bigger and social issues,” Stauss said. “Think about how much time you would have to spend with friends and get involved in things if you weren’t thinking about how many crunches you had to do.”

Although National Eating Disorder Awareness Week will only run from Feb. 24 to March 1, help is available all year round. For more information about the signs and symptoms of eating disorders, where you can get help, or how you can become more involved in promoting positive body images and raising awareness about eating disorders, visit:

View Comments (8)
More to Discover

Comments (8)

All The Mac Weekly Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

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

  • C

    Claire BucklandSep 7, 2019 at 5:38 pm

    Magnificent site. Lots of useful information here. I am sending it to several friends ans also sharing in delicious. And of course, thanks for your effort!