Don’t ignore the warning signs

Get serious about eating disorders--speak up

Tess Riecke, Staff Writer

It is so easy to have diseases go unnoticed in college. People don’t know what you looked like last year so they can’t tell now. You don’t see your parents as often, so they don’t notice until it has gotten extreme.

Everyday, you feel it. It is a constant reminder of what you’re doing yet it is satisfying. That rumble and empty feeling doesn’t go away. You’re hungry.

Eighty-six percent of eating disorders start before age 20.

College is a breeding ground for eating disorders. Mostly because there is more freedom to do it and you are away from your parents.

It is so easy to just skip meals at college. No one is there to really make sure you eat consistently. If you have made new friends, then they might think that eating only once a day is normal when in reality, you long for food.

Eating disorders is more than just wanting to lose weight. About 50 percent of people who have an eating disorder also qualify as being depressed. However, many disorders just start out as wanting to lose a few pounds.

Before you know it, it gets too extreme.

Many people who are developing anorexia nervosa will start with just a simple diet. Smaller portions of food with an increase of exercise. This is healthy for almost anyone. A few months go by and a person will become more intense with their exercising and dieting.

Instead of working out for an hour, they will for two hours. Gradually, it will get worse and worse until someone barely eats and exercising becomes compulsive.

This is one of the warning signs. Another is abnormal weight loss. This doesn’t mean that someone who drops ten pounds in a couple of weeks is anorexic. Abnormal weight loss is if someone refuses to stay at a healthy weight. Meaning they are always dieting, exercising or purging to lose weight.

Another warning sign is the refusal to eat proper meals. Not everyone who skips a meal has an eating disorder, but if it happens everyday for a long period of time, then it should be a red flag.

If you think your friend has an eating disorder, don’t try to force them to eat because, most likely, if they do, then they will go and purge the meal. Sit them down and explain that you are concerned about the habits they have.

If they deny everything and refuse to get help, then you need to see a counselor to tell you what to do.

Eating disorders aren’t just found in women. Men can also develop eating disorders. About 10-15 percent of reported disorders are found in men. However, men are less likely to seek help because it is seen as a “woman’s disease.”

This doesn’t make the situation less serious. Men can usually get away with disorders for a longer period of time because of one major factor.

Menstruation.

It is a major red flag for females who aren’t on birth control and have had regular periods to suddenly stop having them or become irregular. Men obviously don’t get a period which makes it harder to see the other warning signs.

Treatment for students in college is harder than if they were in high school. Most high schools would require students to eat in the nurse’s office and get walked back to class to ensure a student won’t purge.

In college, no one can really force a student to eat in front of others nor do they get escorted to the bathroom. This means treatment, while staying in school, has to be more voluntary. Of course, students can leave school and seek treatment while staying at home or in a facility.

Leaving a specific environment and going into a controlled one is the best way to get treatment. Any college will help a student who needs to leave to get treatment, so don’t be afraid of leaving school if you need to.

Speak up. Don’t be that friend who sees all the warning signs and just ignores it. You wouldn’t (I hope) just ignore a friend who has depression and says they want to kill themselves. So don’t just look over symptoms of an eating disorder.

Get help if you need it. A friend who is mad at you is better than no friend at all.

Most importantly, be there for them while getting treatment. It is really scary to do it alone and they need to have a support system.