Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Colleges Advocate Disordered Eating?

Longtime readers of FITD know that one of my pet peeves is the unfounded claim that an inordinate number of female lightweight rowers have eating disorders. None of the studies I've seen on the subject (not an exhaustive survey by any means) have offered real evidence of this claim. Typically, after the authors fail to find evidence of eating disorders, they find evidence of "disordered eating" and wrap up their study by saying that it makes intuitive sense for female lightweight rowers to be at risk so they must be. The catch is the definition of disordered eating which includes limiting caloric intake or limiting certain foods. Don't all college age women exhibit disordered eating then?

With the arrival of the "Back to School" season comes the first of many "Freshman 15" articles. The author begins by talking to students and nutritionists who worry about overeating as they begin college. Then an odd thing happens. By the time the article ends, we're told we need to worry that "students have more opportunity to compare themselves with each other because they spend so much time together" and that "super-fit bodies that saturate TV shows and commercials can exacerbate such problems." The first link given at the end of the article is to Duke's Eating Disorders Program. It turns out that the real problem isn't gaining 15 pounds, but trying to lose it later. At the University of Missouri, we're told, "students are trained to make presentations to their peers ... on eating healthy, handling stress, exercising and generally leading a healthy lifestyle." Gee, that sounds like they want to turn everyone into a lightweight rower, doesn't it?

The more "experts" make it seem like everyone has an eating disorder, the less likely it is that the appropriate resources will be focused on those who actually need help. This does a disservice to all concerned.

(Disclaimer: I'm not a doctor and this isn't medical advice. I can, however, read.)


Anonymous said...

The lightweights at our school eat the heavyweights under the table, hands down.

krolleo said...

disordered eating- It isnt the lightweights whom only fluctuate 5 lbs up and down, its the opens (and lights who become opens) who put on 15+ the first few weeks of school and then by the end of the year they are 25-30+ lbs heavier, and its not all because of muscle. Thats disordered eating. Not watching what you eat because you want to be healthy. I feel like if I eat veggies and fruits people will look at me and think i have an eating disorder just because I like to eat healthy.