It’s hard to believe that a week of school has already come and gone. I love fall and back-to-school. I always feel a bit of excitement when I walk down the aisles of Target at the end of July and see the school supplies. There is something about new folders and notebooks that takes me back to being a kid with endless excitement about school. I miss that innocence.
It seems that as the years progressed back-to-school became increasingly difficult. Each year brought new things to worry about. In fourth grade it was- are we still going to be best friends? Eighth grade- how will I know which classes I have on which day (our school had a funny a/b day system)? Then came high school- will I get my license? How will I do on my ACTs? Where should I go to college? The questions and decisions seemed to become a bit more complicated each year.
And then in the August before my first year of college the questions seemed to race. I was excited to begin this next chapter of my life but I was also incredibly nervous. Not only was I leaving my parents behind, I was leaving all of the people I knew. You see, for me, I had been going to school with the same group of people since elementary school. There really was no reason to feel insecure or unsure- everyone was who they were. We had all changed and grown together. There was an incredible amount of comfort in that.
But now I would know no one. What would they be like? Would I make friends? Would people like me? These questions were all new to me. I had never had to worry about these things before. Soon the question became- would I be skinny enough? This was new to me. I had always been a healthy kid and played sports all throughout high school. I had a sense of confidence that I never worried about. But now, amongst everything else, this too was changing. It didn’t help that everywhere I turned I heard about the infamous “Freshman 15”. Like many college freshman, I fell victim to the idea that I not only had to avoid gaining weight, I had to lose it. I thought this would bring back the confidence I had lost. I thought it would help me to gain the new friends that I desperately wanted. But, it didn’t. The worry just grew bigger and I isolated myself. I didn’t have anyone to talk to about what I was feeling and I couldn’t find the confidence that I once had.
Luckily, I was able to overcome the fears and insecurities that I was facing. It was not easy and, at times, I feel myself going back to that place. But now I have the tools to feel better which I did not have then.
Unfortunately, I know that I am not alone in this experience. In 2006 the National Eating Disorders Institute estimated that around 20% of college students had diagnosable eating disorders. Various surveys have found that 85% of college females believe they are overweight and that 90% have consciously tried to control their weight. Unfortunately, these studies did not include men. But I think the numbers would be similar.
So, what is it that is contributing to so many people being dissatisfied with their bodies? Is it the culture that we live in? Is it the images that we see? Is it that we are encouraged to think that enough is never enough? No one can be sure.
One thing we do know for sure is that there is help. And that is where The Emily Program comes in.