Sheila Bradley is constantly thinking about her body: what it looks like, what she eats and how much she weighs.
“I think about it all day. It is on my mind. It’s always something I’m trying to fix,” Bradley, a first-year in business, said.
Body image is something Bradley has struggled with since 10th grade. She was 30 pounds heavier than she is now and decided to get into shape, but her methods to do so went far beyond regular workouts and eating healthy.
Bradley put herself on a strict diet, to the point of starvation, for six out of seven days, and on the seventh day she would uncontrollably consume an excess amount of food, an act called binge-eating.
It wasn’t normal, but Bradley said she didn’t realize it was a real problem until her senior year of high school.
“It started out with good purpose and good intent and I kept getting skinnier,” she said. “I kept restricting my food and I would work out for two hours a day no matter what.”
Bradley said her calorically restricted diet led to the binge eating she couldn’t control. At her lowest point, for six days she would starve herself while looking forward to the seventh, when she would allow herself to eat.
Eating disorders affect the lives of people each day. The illnesses can include, but are not limited to, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder. Studies show the disorders are common among college students.
In a study done on 289,024 students from 223 U.S. colleges and universities in 2015, it was discovered that, in the past month of when the study was conducted, roughly 8 percent of the students had taken dieting pills, misused laxatives, induced vomiting or had been medically diagnosed with an eating disorder.
Mary Kiacz, the medical director of the Student Health Center, works with Ohio State’s Eating Disorder Treatment Team and has been working with students suffering from eating disorders for 35 years.
“It is a huge problem at Ohio State,” Kiacz said. “It always has been.”
Kiacz said when students are diagnosed and treated in high school, they come to college thinking they have control over their illness, but they actually do not.
“All those controls they had at home aren’t there anymore, so they have to go into the common eating areas and make choices,” Kiacz said. “It’s very overwhelming.”
There are many steps Ohio State students can take if they are afraid they have an eating disorder.
The university’s Counseling and Consultation Service is one resource that includes nutritional counseling, individual and group therapy for students. The Ohio State EDT is made up of health-care professionals across the multiple health services that the university offers to help with treatment and support for suffering students.
Bradley has had some professional help, but relies mostly on her faith to help guide her.
She grew up as a Catholic, but went mostly on her family’s agenda. She decided to switch churches when she was in high school and commit to the religion fully.
“I decided I was going to redo it, like, I was going to restart everything, I was going to re-accept God into my life,” Bradley said. “Just because I wanted to do it, not because my parents made me do it.
She also made the decision to become vegan, which she said has actually helped free her mind when it comes to thinking about food.
“There’s so much more to life than thinking about what you are eating,” Bradley said. “Even before you start struggling, just don’t even start. Don’t even diet. It doesn’t matter. Life is not about that.”