Rebekah Davis

(Rock Hill, S.C.) — During National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, Feb. 25 to March 3, a number of groups are drawing attention to the risks young people face from conditions such anorexia and bulimia.

According to the Child Mind Institute, college age people, especially young women, are at a higher risk of developing an eating disorder than any other age group.

The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) says eating disorders often begin between the ages of 18-21. The group is using a social media campaign this week, using the hashtag #NEDAawareness, to draw attention to the issue and provide a platform for those impacted by it.

Brooke Smith, an intern working with an eating disorder clinic through the Counseling and Development program at Winthrop University, said an eating disorder can be defined as “any approach to eating that is not normal, whether it’s restriction, binging or purging,”

NEDA estimates that 32 percent of female and 25 percent of male college students suffer from an eating disorder.

“I believe that there are probably more who don’t understand that what they are doing is disordered eating. So, the number I would estimate would actually be higher, it’s just not being reported,” said Smith.

Smith many students are in charge of their own eating for the first time in their lives and struggle with the comparative nature of college.

“For the first time, they are living with a lot of people their age and seeing different body types, so body image and self-acceptance comes up a lot for people and so they are trying to lose weight,” said Smith.

Derek Zuniga, a freshman at York Technical College in Rock Hill, said he has dealt with disordered eating issues since he began school.

“I was feeling stressed more than ever and then I started to worry about my weight. I started eating less and when I would eat more I would feel bad, like I was going to gain weight with every bite I ate, so I started throwing up to get rid of the food and the shame that I felt for eating it,” said Zuniga.

He said it was difficult to control his eating habits and stay healthy and that lack of control led him to develop feelings of “self-hatred” about his body.

Smith said students should seek access to counseling and nutrition advice in order to encourage healthy eating habits and a positive mindset.