College campuses are known as hot spots for eating disorders, and although resources are typically available, many women and men never receive help.
According to Eating Disorders Awareness and Prevention, after puberty about 5 to 10 percent of all girls and women suffer from either an eating disorder or a borderline condition.
As part of Virginia Tech’s Eating Issues and Body Image Awareness Week, renowned author and dietician Jessica Setnick gave the keynote address at the “Making Food Your Friend Again” presentation given in Burruss Hall March 21.
In addition to having a master's degree in exercise physiology and sports nutrition, Setnick has personally recovered from an eating disorder.
Setnick addressed an auditorium filled not only with students, but also with laughter, as she frequently incorporated jokes and relatable stories into her speech. She highlighted both internal and external causes of unhealthy relationships with food, as well as four steps to make “food your friend again.”
The Collegiate Times had the opportunity to speak with Setnick on what she considers a healthy lifestyle.
Collegiate Times: What are some obstacles in creating a healthy relationship with food?
Jessica Setnick: The external messages about food in our society are a huge problem. The internal messages we have inside our heads can be a problem, but I think it’s the big messages. Even when we change our own internal messages and we think, “OK, I’m going to do things differently,” we still go out into the world and get those incorrect messages again.
CT: What kind of messages?
Setnick: In my presentation, I talk about the way we’re sort of taught to fear food and worry about what we eat. Just one example is the message that if you’re not watching what you eat with precaution or counting every calorie, then you’ll gain weight without knowing it.
CT: I know many people who are committed to a healthy lifestyle but still feel insecure about their weight and their efforts. What advice do you have for them?
Setnick: I think it’s two separate things. I think that self-esteem and how you look and health have all been tied together way too much in our society. We need to encourage people to feel good about themselves regardless of how they look, because the way we see ourselves is so different than how other people see us.
Other people are not nearly as critical and scrutinizing of us as we are. I felt that self-esteem comes from (when) you’re lying on your bed, alone in the dark with no clothes on and no one to see you, and you can still feel good about yourself. I think the false self-esteem that society kind of tries to portray as confidence is, “I feel good when other people are looking at me. I feel confident with what they see.” That, to me, is very false.
CT: Do you believe that body image impacts other aspects of a person’s life?
Setnick: Sure, I think it’s affected by other aspects, and it affects other aspects. Again, you’ll see in my presentation about how body image is not just what you see in the mirror — it has to do with how you feel about what you see. So, if someone is at the point where it’s impairing their functioning, is something they really obsess about, and makes them not want to go out on dates or to parties or do social things, that’s really impairing their functioning and becomes an issue.
CT: How do you help people look past that desire to lose weight?
Setnick: Well, in my mind, weight is something that you really can’t control. Our society has sent the message that weight is something that can and should be controlled, but really, you can do all the right things, and whether you lose weight or not that day or that week is really out of your control. Weight is such an inaccurate measure of things.
CT: How do you personally approach a healthy lifestyle?