My hopes and fears of heading to college with an eating disorder


Art by Hailey Mosher

As someone who has suffered from an eating disorder, my family is always on my back when it comes to food, but when I go to college, they won’t be there to help me out.

They won’t be watching you now. You have the freedom to choose. 

Skip breakfast and lunch. You don’t need the extra calories.

I guess it won’t hurt to skip a couple meals in college. I don’t want to gain the ‘freshman 15’. 

Only fruits and vegetables from now on.

I should probably eat some more protein, but no one’s here to tell me, so I can do what I want. 

Forget about protein. That stuff won’t make you thinner. 

I should probably get some help. I’m not feeling too well.

Stop eating and you’ll feel better, I promise. 

As someone who has suffered from an eating disorder (ED), my family is always on my back when it comes to food, but when I go to college, they won’t be there to help me out. I am scared of having these thoughts during my college years. After being home for so long, you get used to your family making sure you eat healthy, full meals. With this new independence in college, it’s all up to me to stay on track with my meals. 

I am a senior in high school, and I am prepared for these thoughts swarming my mind when I live on campus. There will be no more prepared meals and family dinners; I will be on my own. 

College was not only a goal I had as a kid, college was a dream come true. I had all these intricate plans. I would only buy fruit and eat once a day, and I would go to the gym twice a day. I had these unrealistic ideas placed in my head for college, and none of them involved the actual education part.

Now that college is only a handful of months away, I have come to the realization that these childhood thoughts are invading my head again. I want to go to college to be a psychologist, but I will never succeed if I follow the ways of an ED lifestyle. 

Honestly, I’m scared for what will happen, but I know that I will not be alone. According to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), approximately 20% of girls and 10% of boys have suffered or will suffer with eating disorders by the time they enter college.

And being away from home is the perfect storm for many kids to develop an ED. 

Due to the combination of stress and freedom, it seems as if students have a hard time balancing what and when they eat. This results in either overeating or undereating while at school. Either could happen to me, but my fear is undereating. I will put a meal off like a chore at home, and then I’ll forget about it.

Fortunately, there are ways to cope with an ED at college. The NEDA has developed a screening tool that is strongly encouraged for colleges to use. This tool helps determine if you should seek professional help. 

While the NEDA is online, there is always someone on the college campus to talk to, no matter where you go for school. 

Generally, colleges offer free counseling to any student, and they can also refer you to mental health and psychological professionals. 

If you’re like me, you don’t like to talk to people about what you’re going through. I isolated myself and fell apart at a very young age, because I didn’t let anyone know what I was truly feeling. 

But trust me, you will not heal if you stay silent. 

As soon as I was honest with my friends and family, I was lifted up with support. I found the courage to better myself and fight my ED. 

I used to miss school regularly due to my mental health, but this year has been the best one yet. I talked to staff at the school, like Mrs, Sloper, and I found out they are all understanding. I passed all my classes, and I wasn’t afraid to talk to them about what was going on. 

Speak up if you’re having trouble with your mental health, because receiving help is not a weakness. Once I found help, I became happier and healthier. 

Next year is going to be a completely different ball game for me and all the other graduating students. We will be in a new environment with new people and although change is scary, I’m confident that this new chapter in life will be one worth reading.