I often get asked: “how do I cope at uni with an eating disorder?”
Starting uni when you have an eating disorder is hard and you may need some help.
We’re in October now so that’s it: you made the big move to uni, unpacked your bags and waved your parents goodbye. You’ve met new friends, Freshers’ week has been and gone and now uni life has started in earnest. You’ve got early lectures, some boring ones, tons of work and a sudden wave of assignments scheduled.
A million food decisions
This new start is stressful enough to most but if your eating is disordered it can be even worse. You’re suddenly left to your own devices and have to decide what to eat, do your own shopping, prepare the food and eat the food.
You have to make so many food decisions when the last thing you want to think about is precisely food. People tell this to me often: “I would eat if only I didn’t have to think about it”. This is why I recommended people went back home in the past, because they just needed to be presented with the food and get better or just concentrate on the food and get better.
The problem with uni is that no one is going to check that you’re eating enough, it’s just you and your eating disorder battling it out. No one is going to make you eat. There’s no gate keeper to your eating disorder.
Worse even, you may have moved in with a bunch of people who have their own problems with food. They’re funny, they look great and you really wish you could be like them. What you don’t know is that they throw up after eating “everything they want” or that their evening meal is the only meal they will have today. And then there are those who don’t eat gluten now, or meat, or dairy or all the above and make you feel like a pig for having a slice of pepperoni pizza. There are also those who ceremoniously eat 3 jelly beans every evening as a “treat” and those who “count their macros” and for whom MyFitnessPal is close to being an actual pal so much time they spend on the app. Living with people whose eating is also disordered can greatly amplify your own struggles.
Then there’s the added problem of peer pressure and working out. I was at Exeter University for a talk a few months ago and was shocked to see that 90% of the girls on campus were wearing sportswear. I know that wearing gym clothes doesn’t necessarily mean going to the gym but I’ve been told by my clients that going to the gym is a must do of uni life, just like going to the Student Union to drink Snake Bite was for me back in the days (classy, I know).
So you’re stressed because you’ve got tons of work, because you’re now in charge of the house keeping, because you’ve got to think about food all the time, because you’re not eating enough and on top of that you’ve also got to carve some time out to exercise your tired body.
Reach out: get some help for you eating disorder
I don’t envy you or all the others like you; because what no one tells you is that you’re not alone going through uni in a zombified state of just merely existing.
What your eating disorder doesn’t tell you is that you won’t suddenly become happy when you’re skinnier.
What the Voice doesn’t tell you is that it’s sucking you down that rabbit hole of misery when you could be having the time of your life.
Starting uni is a big transitional step and can be triggering so, please, beware and get some help if you’re struggling because the earlier you get help the easier it’ll be to recover.