By Baylee Cocagne
San Luis Obispo County is now ranked fifth in physical well-being, according to new survey results released by Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.
Ironically, San Luis Obispo has one of the highest rates of eating disorders.
After being surrounded by skinny girls in bikinis on the beach all day, it’s impossible not to notice your own body and compare it to others.
Sure, it’s normal to feel guilty about eating an extra slice of pizza, especially with spring break approaching and everyone striving to be “beach body ready.” But when do normal insecurities become obsessions?
For former Cuesta student Nicole Hafer, it was an obsession.
It began her senior year of high school. Determined to drop a few pounds, she started eating healthier and working out regularly, and began seeing results.
“By the end of summer, I was a healthy weight, happy, and fit.” Hafter said.
Her actual eating disorder started to develop after moving to San Luis Obispo and starting college.
Even after losing so much weight, she didn’t feel thin enough.
Hafer would compare her body to the stick thin girls she’d see at parties, or famous models on social media.
She developed an unhealthy desire to be smaller than everyone around her.
She ate less and less, and would workout as much as she could.
Burning off so many calories in a day, coupled with eating so little and depriving her body of nutrients, resulted in a drastic decrease in health.
Her hair began to fall out in large chunks, she couldn’t sleep at night, and bones stuck out everywhere on her body in places they shouldn’t be visible.
“I barely ate anything, was always hungry, felt weak, and had no energy,” Hafer said. “But this didn’t stop me, because as long as I was losing weight and getting thinner, I was happy.”
Even after losing 40 pounds, she feared gaining weight.
She feared that if she ate more than the previous day, even if it was something as small as an apple, the number on the scale would rise.
Unfortunately, eating disorders among college students are becoming more and more common.
Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting and taking laxatives.
Of women surveyed on college campuses, 58 percent felt pressure to be a certain weight.
Whether on a larger campus like Cal Poly, or at a smaller community college like Cuesta, the issue of eating disorders on college campuses is on the rise.
This is mostly due to the fact that college is a very competitive time in one’s life.
Every college student, at one point or another, has felt pressure to be perfect at something – whether that be looks, academics, athletics, or just fitting in.
Sororities, especially, are infamous for putting a significant amount of pressure on girls to be thin or beautiful in order to be accepted during rush week.
The sad reality of eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia is that there are consequences that come with losing weight in such an unhealthy way. They are in no way something to be glamorized or praised.
Once an eating disorder develops, it’s very easy to let it spiral out of control.
Luckily for Hafer, after cognitive therapy with a counselor and tremendous support from her mother, she was able to overcome her disorder.
“As of today, I am trying to be more body positive and not point out every little flaw I have,” Hafter said. “Just because I am not ‘tiny’ anymore does not make me less beautiful or less wanted.”
It’s important to remember that it’s okay not to be perfect.
That tiny girl in a crop top you see at a party is not perfect, and that beautiful fitness model on your instagram feed with over 10K likes is not perfect.
The truth is that nobody is perfect.
“I’ve realized that my body does not define who I am,” Hafer said.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, please do not hesitate to call Cuesta’s mental health services at (805) 546-3171, or to visit the National Eating Disorders Association at www.nationaleatingdisorders.org