For the majority of my childhood, I was very overweight. I had no interest in sports or physical activity, and when given the choice between candy and vegetables, I was always stuck in sweet surrender. At 13-years-old, I weighed a whopping 220 pounds.
I entered high school with terrible self-esteem and an even worse idea of what being healthy truly was. Constantly bombarded by images of beautiful models and Hollywood starlets, I repeatedly tried crash diets. Luckily for me, the support of loved ones helped me stray from these self-destructive behaviors, ultimately allowing me to healthily lose 70 pounds and gain a better body image by the end of my senior year.
Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that other girls who fall victim to the starvation diet trend will have the same luck, especially with the continued influence of the media. In fact, many carry dangerous dieting habits with them all the way through college. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, 91 percent of women surveyed on a college campus had attempted to control their weight through dieting, with 22 percent dieting “often” or “always.” Moreover, 25 percent of college-aged women have engaged in binging and purging as a way to manage their weight.
We live in a society that is overloaded with images of flawless, airbrushed women. Fashion ads and magazines alike glorify the stick-thin look, and the “blond bombshell” is idealized. Combined with the stress of higher education, this certainly contributes to the large number of college women who feel pressured to be a certain weight, and it seems that Temple could do more to combat female students’ battle with body image.
While Temple does offer free online screens for eating disorders and support counseling for disordered students through Tuttleman Counseling Center, it seems that other universities have taken a lead in terms of prevention. The University of Washington, for example, holds a fashion show each year called, “Everybody: Every Body.” The show invites all students in the community to model regardless of body size. Similarly, the University of Alabama holds an open fashion show and spreads eating disorder awareness with information booths and tables during its Body Appreciation Week, which occurs in conjunction with National Eating Disorder Week.
Temple should take a cue from these universities and make more of an effort to hold events and programs that not only spread awareness of eating disorders, but also promote a healthy lifestyle and positive body image. The university could even take it a step further by adding a health course to the general education curriculum.
On their website, Temple’s general education program states a goal of “equipping students to make connections between what they learn, their lives, and their communities.” Providing a class to educate students on their own health, how to properly care for their bodies in their new college environment, and how to recognize unhealthy behaviors, would certainly be beneficial on both the personal and communal levels.
With newfound support and promotion of positive body image from the university, as well as the knowledge and experience gained through a required health course, the same college-aged women who felt pressured to look a certain way or fell victim to fad diets, would be more likely to respond to their problems in a healthy manner. They could help themselves and help their peers stray from binging, purging, starvation diets and other dangerous behaviors. Most importantly, they could better navigate the media storm of “perfect looking” women and their battle with body image could finally be won.
Kelly McArdle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.