American culture has a fascination with thinness. In 2010, 54% of Americans claimed that they were currently on a diet. This obsession with restrictive eating and a never-ending desire to be thinner has dramatic effects on young people, and these effects can be seen in the Uni student community.
According to a survey of nearly a hundred Uni students, 41.4% have made the decision to lose weight and have made a plan to do so. In addition, more than half of students say that they regularly exercise because of negative thoughts or comments about their bodies.
Some students feel that the “Uni culture” encourages dieting and restrictive eating more than other school communities because students feel like they have to be “perfect”.
The Uni environment is especially competitive, which can make students who aren’t at a certain level of academics or athletics feel worthless compared to their peers.
Ms. Bandy, one of Uni’s student counsellors, says, “The reason people get into eating disorders, especially here, is they feel like they need to control something,..and what I can control most is what goes into my mouth.”
However, restrictive eating is very unhealthy for teens because their bodies need more fuel than adults’ bodies. Additionally, about 70% of students at Uni are athletes, and restricting their eating harms both training and performance and can have serious health consequences, such as osteoporosis and anemia.
Even though insecurities about eating and body image are common, less than a fourth of the students surveyed say that they feel comfortable discussing their struggles with friends and classmates at school.
Sophomore Angelynn Huang says, “At Uni you’re bred to become a student who’s invincible. People don’t really talk about their problems or ask for help when they need it. The culture at Uni is that you suck it up and deal with it, but that doesn’t work with eating disorders.”
Senior Umar Hanif says that it’s difficult for students at Uni to admit that they have problems with anything because they don’t want to be judged or looked down upon. Because of these factors, life at Uni can be isolating for students who have eating disorders.
Even though teachers and counsellors do their best to create an open community to discuss eating issues, the change needs to come from students. In order to create a welcoming school culture, it’s important for students to admit when they need help and realize that they don’t need to be “perfect”.