On college campuses across the states, thousands of women join sororities every year through a structured recruitment process: the sorority rush. The college sorority life provides a space for young women entering college to make lifelong friends, enjoy personal growth and enrichment, and engage in activities within their college community.
On the other hand, sororities have also been criticized for being widely associated with pressure for its members in regards to an excessive focus on appearances and achievements. This can result in low self-esteem, unhealthy body image, and eating disorders.
Eating disorders on the rise in sororities and college
Some studies have shown that up to 23 to 32 percent of females on college campuses have an eating disorder such as anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder. This is the case despite considerable awareness being raised about these issues, as stated by the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA). Many young women continue to be deeply affected by the peer pressures of objectification and the sorority rush week.
According to a study that surveyed 127 first-year college women, aged 17 to 20 years, undergraduate women who joined a sorority were found to be more judgmental of their own bodies and exhibited higher levels of bulimic behaviors. Such women who joined a sorority gradually also showed higher levels of body shame stated the study published online in Springer’s journal Sex Roles.
The authors concluded that “interventions aimed at reducing sorority women’s focus on physical appearance may hold promise as one of the many routes to addressing body image disturbance and eating disorders among sorority members. As sororities are very powerful at influencing the norms and ideals of their members, a move away from a focus on appearance and towards a set of norms that encourages healthy eating habits and more positive approaches to body image has real potential.”
Prioritizing your recovery
There are a number of measures you can take to ensure the continuation of your recovery and prevent relapse in the college sorority life:
- Most of the colleges and universities have mental health services. They are able to help you find and get involved with a support group, a therapist, and an eating disorder specialist that can help you navigate your way to recovery.
- Stay in touch with your family or close friends who know your history and are aware of your recovery status. Often, emotional triggers and stress can lead to eating disorder relapse, and in these moments, it is best to reach out and just talk it through.
- Avoid any “popular” diet regimens circulating in the community. The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) reports that 35 percent of “normal” dieters progress to unhealthy dieting, and of those, 20 to 25 percent develop partial or full-syndrome eating disorders.
- If you are willing to share details about your eating disorder status to any of your fellow sorority members, close friends may offer advice and help. It is a good idea to establish a safe, supportive community around you in a new setting.
- Be realistic about your schedule. The first semester of college can be difficult to adjust to and then to combine it with other social activities can cause you to burn out much sooner. Be honest when setting up classes and activities as part of your schedule, keeping in mind that your recovery comes first.
- Eating in a new environment, different food, limited dining options, and lack of support at meals can be challenging for those in recovery from an eating disorder. It may be easier to find out more beforehand about on-campus and off-campus dining options, seek out supportive people to eat with and work with your dietician to have viable recipes. You may also want to plan on storing some long-lasting foods in your room.
- Prepare ahead of time by identifying potential challenges and collaborate with your eating disorder treatment team, therapist, dietitian, or support network to strategize accordingly. These can range from more obvious eating disorder symptoms to not so obvious ones such as skipping a meal or feeling anxiety.
Transition to college is always an uncertain time. At any point where you may feel the college sorority life and extracurricular activities are hindering your recovery or leading to a possible relapse, it is entirely alright to take some time off, let go of some commitments and enter eating disorder treatment. Your recovery has to be prioritized first.
About the Author:
Sana Ahmed is a journalist and social media savvy content writer with extensive research, print, and on-air interview skills. She has previously worked as a staff writer for a renowned rehabilitation institute, a content writer for a marketing agency, an editor for a business magazine and been an on-air news broadcaster.
Sana graduated with a Bachelors in Economics and Management from the London School of Economics and began a career of research and writing right after. Her recent work has largely been focused upon mental health and addiction recovery.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Reviewed & Approved on July 4, 2019, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC
Published July 4, 2019, on EatingDisorderHope.com