By Rachel Trampel — Daily Staff Writer | Sunday, February 22, 2009 9:05 PM CST
When it comes to school, relationships or the economy — there is little control, but when it comes to eating — there is complete control.
When there is little control in many college students’ lives, food can become a problem. Eating disorders can be a major problem for college students because of the huge transition many have to make to adjust to a new environment. With eating disorders becoming a more significant issue for men of all ages, National Eating Disorders Awareness Week at Iowa State will focus on the idea of feeling good about one’s image in a “Rock Your Body Week,” for both men and women.
Leigh Cohn, publisher of Gurze Books and co-author of “Making Weight: Men’s Conflicts with Food, Weight, Shape & Appearance,” who will be speaking at the Memorial Union on Tuesday night, said men have more pressure to look a certain way than ever before, which is one of the reasons that eating disorders are escalating for them.
“For one thing, men are objectified a lot greater than they used to be. If you look at magazines, television, movies, you’ll see a lot more of skin being shown for men,” Cohn said. “This day in age in which we live, there are all kinds of pressure on men and women. [For] the same reason that a woman might develop an eating disorder, all of those things exist for men, too.”
When he met his wife, Cohn said she was struggling with bulimia and they worked together to write a book about her eating disorder and how she was able to get through it. Shortly after, Cohn realized men were also having the same struggles, but no one was talking about it.
“I got interested in men’s issues when I started getting more and more contacts of men and who were concerned with these same issues. I realized that very few people were talking about it,” Cohn said. “Men have not really had good role models for body image. Many of the role models are athletes and have used steroids. I’m a role model for positive body image.”
Michelle Roling, staff counselor and coordinator of the Eating Disorder program at Student Counseling Services, said eating disorders have changed dramatically from how they were once perceived.
“We used to look at eating disorders and think about it being a female, college-aged, upper socioeconomic concern and that’s not true anymore,” Roling said. “[It’s now a concern with] all genders, all ages, all races and all [backgrounds of varying] socioeconomics. It’s very startling to imagine what’s happening with eating disorders right now.”
With an image to uphold according to society standards, men are experiencing pressures similar to women to have a certain look, Roling said.
“I think men have a lot more pressure now than ever before for them to have a certain look. Men are expected to be both rugged and well-groomed, to also be this perfect picture [person]. Some men are struggling with those messages in the same way women always have,” Roling said.
With the “Rock Your Body Week,” Roling said she hopes people can get rid of all their negative thoughts.
“Certainly our hope is that people will start to have a more realistic view of what health would mean for them, by looking within their family line verses looking in the advertisements that are in magazines,” Roling said. “I think as soon as people can have a more realistic perception of what they can expect from their body, it can become easier to live in that body.”
As students discover that they or their friends are having problems with eating, Roling said Iowa State offers many services to help them on the road to recovery through individual therapy, group therapy, help with nutrition and sometimes psychiatric help..
“We really want to look at each person [as a whole] and set the treatment goals towards the individuals. Given that eating disorders are clear across a continuum of behaviors as well as a continuum of struggles, recovery can look very different for very different individuals,” Roling said. “If we could get people to come in when they’re first struggling and get them some support, we’d be able to keep them from slipping over into that full blown eating disorder.”
Judy Trumpy, registered dietitian with the Thielen Student Health Center, is part of that treatment team and said that it takes a lot of work on all ends to fully help the student.
“It really does take intense work on the client and the treatment team to try to sort it out. And what you can do is to the best of your ability try to help move them along to a more normal way of eating and relating to society and hope that they don’t relapse,” Trumpy said. “What most treatment teams want the dietitian on the team for is to clarify any misunderstandings students have about food.”
Trumpy said her goal is to try and figure out why the student is acting a certain way with their eating, and it can be different for each person.
“As I’ve discovered with seeing people here on a one-on-one basis, everybody is different. Well, I might want to be able to ask a student, what is it that makes you not eat, he/she has a whole bunch of little reasons why and he/she might not even know,” Trumpy said.
Although there is such diversity with each person in his or her eating disorders, Roling said she believes there is hope for everyone who is struggling.
“I do believe in full recovery. You don’t wake up one morning and have an eating disorder, and you don’t wake up one day and are cured. It’s a long journey and it’s a journey where you really need to have a lot of support,” Roling said. “There is a space in life when food is not an emotional issue — food is food and you’re free to live your life and experience both the joy and the sorrow without that being connected to food.”
National Eating Disorder Awareness Week at Iowa State
Monday: Mirrorless Monday — Multiple buildings across campus will have their mirrors covered in an attempt to help people value themselves from the inside out.
7 p.m., Sun Room, Memorial Union — “America the Beautiful,” a documentary, will be shown followed by a question-and-answer session
Tuesday: 7:30 p.m., Sun Room, Memorial Union — Presentation and book signing by Leigh Cohn “Let’s Talk About Men’s Bodies (and Women’s Too)!”
Wednesday: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., first floor, Memorial Union — Don’t Fight Your Genes, Change Your JEANS. Drop off the jeans that you no longer wear and accept the body you have. All jeans will be donated to charity.
Thursday: 3 to 5 p.m. Open house at Lied Recreation Center. Free smoothies and information about health.
Friday: Freedom Friday — Ways to experience freedom from negative body image. Student Counseling Services staff will be presenting on body image to classes on campus.
Saturday: 1 p.m., Borders Bookstore, 1200 S. Duff Ave. — Community Presentation and question and answer session. Contact Michelle Roling for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org, 294-5056
“Anorexia [n]ervosa is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss.”
“Bulimia [n]ervosa is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by a cycle of binge-eating and compensatory behaviors such as self-induced vomiting designed to undo or compensate for the effects of binge-eating.”
[d]isorder is a type of eating disorder not otherwise specified and is characterized by recurrent binge-eating without the regular use of compensatory measures to counter the binge-eating.”
In the United States, as many as 10 million females and 1 million males are fighting a life-and-death battle with an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia. Millions more are struggling with binge-eating disorder.
40 percent of newly identified cases of anorexia are in girls 15 to 19 years old.
Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting and taking laxatives
25 percent of American men and 45 percent of American women are on a diet on any given day
Four out of 10 Americans either suffered or have known someone who has suffered from an eating disorder