One of the major difficulties about living and working in a place that feels as if you are being constantly judged - as academically you are - in every assignment, seminar presentation, project and exam - is that it's easy to feel judged and criticised ALL of the time about everything to do with you.
This feeling (because it is a feeling) of being criticised or judged about everything to do with you can lead some students to lose their confidence to the extent that feelings of being unable to cope, well up and take over.
- If this is you - do seek out support as there are extremely positive ways of helping you - loss of confidence can be built up again and gradually facing your difficulties by telling someone about them is a very good start...
- Counsellors on Campus Tel. 484650 or the Medical Centre Tel. 483193 offer expert help.
For some, and particularly women, their looks become the focus of their anxiety. This anxiety can lead to disordered eating patterns.
We do live in a society where the media constantly bombard us with images of successful people who are always portrayed as thin and by implication attractive and its difficult at times, to remember that these are media images and not ones that we must accept as valid.
Perhaps it is the need to look the same as others, conform and thereby avoid comment that can also effect someone's confidence. Or maybe your body shape is the one thing you feel you can do something about to stay in control. Research shows just how prejudiced we are with 90% of the female population launching themselves onto the dieting trail in an attempt to redefine their natural body shape. Sadly dieters are 8 times more likely to develop bulimia than non-dieters.
Add to this the sustained academic and social pressures of being a student and combine it with the stereo typical view that women's achievements are frequently measured by their looks and it is not surprising that Oxford could be seen as the perfect breeding ground for eating problems.
There have been many public figures admitting to being bulimic the subject has been 'out' which has helped a few more sufferers seek some much needed help. Particularly as people with bulimia are so often secretive and so guilt ridden that they rarely share their discomfort or expression of distress with even their closest friends. Unlike Anorexia, the problem is not always easy to spot because someone who is bulimic frequently has a 'normal' body weight.
Surveys in women's magazines in the 1980-1990's tried to find out whether Bulimia was a significant but undisclosed problem in many people's lives: of 800 respondents 499 were highly likely to have bulimia, all were women, their average age was 24yrs, (it was a Cosmopolitan magazine study) 83% had a normal body weight and only 2.5% were receiving any treatment!!!
Low Self Esteem
Low self esteem is linked to disordered eating as sufferers find it hard to like themselves as they are - and not for what they are going to be or what someone else wants them to be....
As confidence is shaken, self esteem plummets and you may become more self - conscious, focusing on how fat or thin you feel you are, and by doing so, put off looking at the real underlying issues . In the midst of feeling down hearted and confused it is hard to accept you for you and to look for the positive bits. It is very tempting to feel that, as one student said : "when I'm ............(thinner). I'll be liked, wanted and life will be all that it's cracked up to be".
How it can start
Causes of Bulimia are as diverse as the number of sufferers but it may occur for one or more of the following reasons:
- Low self esteem and feeling inadequate generally.
- Social pressures to be thin.
- A major stressful event.
- Difficulty in dealing with feelings of anger, neediness, homesickness, misery, despair, wanting sex...... "Sufferers of eating disorders use food and eating as a means of expressing their difficulties...... the issue appears to be about food but at a deeper level eating disorders express a fundamental unhappiness which may originate from a number of different sources. They indicate and express a disturbed perception of self".
- To be in control .... sufferers may impose strict rules concerning what can and cannot be eaten which are often so impossibly strict that they inevitably break their rules and binge, going out of control and consequently hating themselves.
The Binge - Purge Cycle
Bulimia is said to be the fastest growing eating disorder varying from those that occasionally vomit after eating or purge on laxatives, to those whose lives are dominated by the disorder.
It's never too late to change
The pain, guilt, self hatred and despair surrounding bulimia makes it difficult for sufferers to see beyond the present... "I can't see any way out ..." feeling. Although a cure is a process which takes time it can and does help to talk to the professionals equipped to set you on the road to recovery.
If you identify with any of the above or know someone who is, be reassured that you can be helped. Counsellors on Campus Tel. 484650 or the Medical Centre Tel. 483193 offer expert help.
If you would rather talk about the issues affecting your confidence and/or your eating patterns, before seeking help from these services, you can talk to BEAT - beating eating disorders, 0845 6341414 from 8.30am - 8.30pm.
Self Help: here are a few guidelines which may help you on the road to recovery.
For those who recognise the early warning signs the STOP DIETING message is a good place to start. However, does this suggestion cause you to panic... do you think that if you stop dieting you'll eat as if there's no tomorrow and become fat... well this theory / explanation may help you decide to have a go : your body has a naturally healthy 'set point' weight which fluctuates by 4-5 pounds a month. When you go on a diet you interfere with this mechanism, your body desperately tries to maintain its set point by reducing your metabolic rate. Your body then conserves energy - the rate at which you metabolise food, drops, resulting in a slow weight loss which in turn can lead to an increase of appetite and results in a binge. Losing a few pounds will not be the cure all for your anxieties - it can lead to many more.
Above all REASSESS your way of coping with the stresses and strains of university life.
The following flow chart is an extract from the Book "Overcoming Binge Eating" By Dr. Christopher Fairburn, an expert in this subject. It is an excellent self help guide. It explores each step in detail. In a recent evaluation of the self help methods suggested in this book, 40% of sufferers succeeded in successfully overcoming their binge eating and had remained free, even after 9 months. More studies into the effectiveness of the methods is currently being undertaken.
Bulimia is a condition that is taken seriously.
Step 1: Getting started
- Self Monitoring
- Weekly Weighing
Step 2: Regular Eating
- Establishing a pattern of regular eating
- Stopping vomiting and misusing laxatives and diuretics
Step 3: Alternatives to Binge Eating
- Substituting alternative activities
Step 4: Problem Solving and Taking Stock
- Practicing Problem Solving
- Reviewing Progress
Step 5: Dieting and Related forms of Avoidance
- Tackling the three forms of dieting
- Tackling other forms of avoidance eating
Step 6: What Next?
- Preventing Relapse
- Dealing with other problems
For help on Campus
Chaotic Eating bulletin board This is an anonymous bulletin board, exclusive to all Brookes Students, it provides an informal point of contact for any help, advice or information you might need about your own eating. Accessed through the links via the top of this page.
The Doctors at The Medical Centre offer non-judgmental advice, guidance and help: For appointments, Tel. 01865 483193.
Student Services' Counsellors offer a non-judgmental place to talk about how you feel. Tel. 01865 484650
BEAT - beating eating disorders
Information and help on all aspects of eating disorders, including Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, binge eating disorder and related eating disorders.Tel: 0845 6341414
Website dedicated to raising awareness and providing support to people with Eating Disorders, and their loved-ones... since 1995
SWEDA - Somerset and Wessex Eating Disorders Association
"Serving those affected by eating disorders" - The message boards on this site have a section for students in Oxford.
Overcoming Binge Eating by Dr. Christopher Fairburn. The Guildford Press. 1995: U.K. distributers: Tel. 01273 748 427 email: email@example.com
Getting Better Bit(E) by Bit(E) A survival kit for sufferers Bulimia Nevosa and Binge Eating Disorders by Uirike Schmidt and Janet Treasure
A Woman in Your Own Right: Assertiveness and You by Anne Dickson. Quartet Press.
Fat Chance: The Myth of Dieting Explained by Jane Ogden. Routledge 1992
Fat is a Feminist Issue: The self help guide for compulsive eaters by Susie Orbach. Arrow Books 1988