Take time every day to listen to your body. How do you feel when you wake up? Do you know when you are tired? Do you know when you are hungry and what you’re actually hungry for? What do you do when your muscles are sore or your lungs need a break? It’s easy to dismiss what our bodies try to tell us, and as college students, you’re super encouraged to promote the “mind over body” hierarchy. Sometimes, yes, I need to push through a minor cold and get my work done, and, simultaneously, I need to recognize my body is telling me it’s sick, leading me to drink more water and try to get a little extra sleep here and there. Practice listening to your body. Have a conversation with it once in a while.
Recognize how you view and engage with food. Of course humans need food and water to survive. Do you really pay attention, though, to what and when you’re eating? How often do you have the “grab and go” meal twice or more each day? Make sure you take time to think about what you’re packing in your lunch bag or consuming from that drinkable meal. Give yourself time to sit down to at least one meal per day and consider sharing that meal time with people around you. Meet someone new or catch up with someone. Taking time to taste, smell, and understand the texture of your meal are integral to listening to your body. Plus, if you’re eating with someone, you can listen to that person, who can also listen to you.
Consider what you control about your environment. We all come from different backgrounds, where food may have been central to our lives, where a family member may have always commented on her or your weight, or where food was scarce. We can’t change these backgrounds and we can recognize that while they’re still part of us, we may be in a position to alter how they affect us now. Additionally, you can think more about the environment you’re in now. Do your friends constantly talk about food in unhealthy ways? Do you hang out with people who obsess about exercise? Do the people around you make you feel like you need to change your body in order to be a good and successful person? You can do something about these comments and behaviors by asking questions or offering alternatives. Surround yourself with people who pay attention to their bodies but don’t make their bodies the center of their lives or days. Look for people who like to have fun, without making light of everything.
Ditch food fats and diets. It’s important to note, up front, that many people are allergic to foods, can’t process particular foods, or just don’t feel so great when eating certain things. Barring medical or biological concerns, it’s also important to note that eliminating entire food groups or consuming only one, narrow kind of food probably aren’t the greatest options for the body and can, sometimes, lead toward an eating disorder. Labeling foods as “bad” or “sinful” may create unnecessary anxiety when it comes time to preparing and eating a meal.
Remember and value how complex people are and include yourself in that celebration. Bodies are important, but they’re only one part of who we are. If you think about people you admire, who inspire you, or whom you love, and you make a list of the top 20 things you like about those people, most likely, their physical features won’t dominate the list. Sure, you’ll probably include a few aesthetic elements, but you’ll also have lots of other things such as kindness, intelligence, and humor. Remember to make a list about yourself, too. Develop those internal traits and share them with those around you.
National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (http://www.naafaonline.com/dev2/index.html)
Association for Size Diversity and Health (asdah.org)
Several articles about loving your body from Huffingtonpost.com writers http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/positive-body-image/
Eating Disorders and Disordered Eating
We recognize the severity of eating disorders and want to find ways to decrease the number of those with eating disorders, help those with eating disorders find treatment, and support those who are recovering. Because eating disorders are complex, we work closely with campus and community partners to create a web of support. Our roles in the Women’s Center include creating conversation spaces to learn about and dispel myths about eating disorders, developing mechanisms to provide information to those who need it, and offering ways for those who are recovering to share their stories with others. Health Advancement and Prevention Strategies maintains a larger discussion https://studentaffairs.lehigh.edu/content/eating-disorders of eating disorder definitions.
In the Women’s Center, we are also talking openly about disordered eating and over-exercise, two other behaviors that, on some college campuses, seem normal or natural. These are potentially dangerous behaviors and, for some, may lead to eating disorders. We think it’s important to have conversations about why some behaviors are accepted and others are aren’t and how some people, because of their race or gender or religion, may feel more forced into particular behaviors.
If you are worried about someone with or you think may have an eating disorder, please check out any of these resources below. Additionally, you can stop by and talk to the Women’s Center Director, Rita Jones, who can help you locate the resources you need.
Counseling and Psychological Services. Individual and Group Sessions. Johnson Hall. 610-758-3880
If you are concerned a friend or family member may have an eating disorder, you can schedule an appointment with a Counselor to learn more about setting up the conversation.
National Eating Disorders Association nationaleatingdisorders.org
How to talk to a friend about eating disorders and body image issues https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/how-help-friend-eating-and-body-...
National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders anad.org
Renfrew Center renfrewcenter.com
Gina Consalvo, Nutrition Counseling and Consulting www.eatwellwithgina.com