Sam Gilbert is a journalism sophomore and Mustang Daily health columnist.
We all have our days when we don’t feel that great about ourselves. Believe it or not, there has been a time when every single person hasn’t felt completely secure with how he or she looks. It can be surprising, and almost annoying, when you overhear the beautiful girl next to you at the gym complaining about how she wants to lose three pounds.
However, at what point do normal insecurities turn into obsessions?
According to those recovering from eating disorders and on-campus counseling services, it’s a gradual process and more common than you think.
Katy Lackey, psychology senior and member of the mental health team for P.U.L.S.E., said eating disorders are very common.
“They’re really common, but it’s hard to have an exact statistic about them because eating disorders come with a lot of shame,” Lackey said.
A lot of people don’t seek help for eating disorders and they suffer alone silently, so the exact number of people affected is not known, Lackey said.
Wine and viticulture junior Morgan Tageson, who has experienced an eating disorder, said she thinks Cal Poly has one of the highest rates.
“I feel like Cal Poly is a walking eating disorder,” Tageson said.
She said she feels eating disorders are a lot more prominent here than at other schools.
Being in a college environment where everyone focuses on losing weight and looking perfect is a major contributing factor to eating disorders, Tageson said.
Tageson’s eating disorder started at the end of her freshman year — a time when phrases such as “Freshman 15” get thrown about. The summer after, she said she concentrated on losing weight, but in a healthy way — and then it started escalating.
Tageson said she gained 10 pounds, but it wasn’t that noticeable, especially since she’s taller. But because it was her own body, Tageson could tell, she said.
Especially in college, stress, life changes and the transitional period in life allow people — mostly women — to change their eating habits, Lackey said.
Someone who has an eating disorder is having issues coping, and it’s a coping mechanism and not about the actual food itself, Lackey said.
Sometimes, rumors circulate college about on-campus restaurants adding extra butter to healthy things such as salad in order to curb eating disorders.
However, Lackey, who worked at 19 Metro Station, said she never saw anything like this happen.
You can’t force somebody who has anorexia to eat, Lackey said. They’re going to be affected by their disorder no matter what, and by buttering up the lettuce, that’s not going to change that.
Lackey said it’s important to focus on personal health rather than the standard of being thin in order to be healthy. The “Poly Dolly” stereotype of being fit, thin and active all the time puts a lot of pressure on women to be thin, and they equate being thin with being healthy.
One issue, Lackey said, is the scales in the Recreation Center locker rooms. Within the past three or four weeks she’s gone to the gym, she has seen girls break down and cry because they’ve gained a pound, she said.
During freshman year, Tageson had a scale in the dorm and would weigh herself approximately three times a day.
The best thing was getting rid of the scale, she said.
Scales have control over someone with an eating disorder because they validate how you feel about yourself, Lackey said.
People pick up on behaviors they can have continuously, and that becomes an obsession, Lackey said.
It helps to stay around other people and not be alone, Tageson said.
Tageson and Lackey both suffered from eating disorders. They said the best thing to do is talk to friends and professionals in order to seek help.
Tageson sought help on campus but eventually decided to see someone off campus at Central Coast Outpatient, she said.
At such places, a professional is there for you, and you’re completely working on yourself with somebody who has objective insight, Lackey said.
It’s a roller coaster — there are times when it’s good and there are times when it’s bad, Tageson said.
As for the recovery process, Tageson said she’s still working on it.