Disordered eating is normalized to a concerning extent on college campuses. Eating disorders are serious, life threatening and may currently affect people around you, regardless of their shape, size, gender, etc.
Over the past year, we have learned a lot about being allies. As we recently recognized National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, it is time that we learn to be allies to those affected by eating disorders, with our support, love, patience and encouragement, but also by educating ourselves in ways that we may be subconsciously affecting others with our own words.
Even if someone does not appear affected by disordered eating, your casual comments may have current or impending detriment to their mental and physical health. So, I am here to share with you some phrases that you, yes you, as a college student need to immediately eliminate from your vocabulary.
First we have “pulling trig,” a phrase thrown around far too casually by college students in regard to party culture and excessive drinking on the weekends. While “pulling trig” may mean making yourself feel less sick after a night out, casually joking around about “pulling trig” may normalize and justify purging for those affected by disordered eating.
Far too many times have I heard people in conversation amused about how they have only had a cup of coffee, or other meal suppressants, all day or that they have been far too busy to eat. Meal suppressants are not ways to nourish and give your body the energy it needs to survive a busy college schedule, and should not be regarded as an ordinary college diet. So, let’s also scratch “I was too busy to eat today” off of your list of conversation starters.
Even though body positivity is a current and thriving online movement, I am continuously surprised by how many people are still using weight and dieting as a standard topic in dinner table chatter. If this is something that you want to talk about, consult a doctor or professional. These subjects may be triggering for friends, or those you spend time with, so please keep it out of casual conversations.
Personally, I think the issue as a whole stems back to the phrase “freshman 15,” that lingers in the back of our heads as early as seniors preparing for college. I recall watching college advice videos on YouTube and reading online blogs and articles: some light hearted, giving tips on decor and dorm hacks, others about study skills and making new college friends. I was eager for advice and found comfort in hearing what other college students advised incoming freshmen, like me.
A concept that was repeated and normalized in almost every video was the “freshman 15.” College YouTubers would give advice on how to eat healthy in a campus cafeteria, healthy foods to make in your dorm, exercise routines, etc. It didn’t take long for me to catch on to the toxicity of this concept, and for the rest of my senior year and most of my college experience — as it was something that was frequently brought up by surrounding students and friends here at GU— this has been a fear instilled in me that is so incredibly hard to shake.
As a freshman I remember forcing myself to stay in my dorm room on countless weekends, in fear that drinking, eating extra snacks at late night COG, or even that desert would change my physical appearance and how I (wrongly) assumed others valued me as an individual. I can confidently say that if I were never aware of the “freshman 15” I would have probably had a completely different college experience, and I can’t be the only one who has felt this.
So next time, think first, choose your words wisely and be an ally. You never know who your words may be affecting.