The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated many health problems for college students, including increased stress and anxiety. One of the impacts this can have is a heightened risk of disordered eating and body image issues.
Delainey Jones is a new dietitian and health educator at BroncoFit focused on improving awareness and education around disordered eating, and promoting healthy coping mechanisms for the hardships students face.
“Eating disorders and disordered eating is a huge topic, and especially with COVID, rates are going up, so I wanted to really spend some time focusing on eating disorders, how to have those discussions [about eating disorders] and the mental health side of it as well,” Jones said.
The last week of February is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, and to celebrate BroncoFit is kicking off its week-long “Beyond Comparison” campaign designed to promote body positivity and eating disorder awareness. Additionally, Jones is participating in a webinar along with a dietitian who specializes in Health at Every Size (HAES) and a counselor who specializes in eating disorder recovery.
“Our programming on campus is to kind of get people thinking about how they view their bodies and try to encourage them to think positively about them or think about what their body image is,” Jones said. “We also open up discussions if people feel that they have disordered eating or eating disorder tendencies, or if they have a friend or roommate who does.”
Although research has not yet been completed showing rates of disordered eating because of the pandemic, Jones cited a survey conducted by the American College Health Association on college student’s mental health as part of her reason for being proactive by starting conversations about body image and disordered eating during the pandemic.
“What we see is just a huge increase in stress, anxiety and depression, and oftentimes those are directly linked to eating disorders if people have tendencies with that already,” Jones said.
One of the many stressors for students can be online spaces. With in-person interactions limited, students often rely on social media for socializing. While that can be helpful, Jones said that being aware of your responses to what you see online is important.
“Go through the people that you follow and if there’s anybody that you notice is triggering for you, maybe they post lots of pictures that just leave you feeling not great about yourself, unfollow them,” Jones said. “And that might sound extreme, but it’s a really good way [to put it] out of sight, out of mind, and you’ll notice that it actually is a huge weight off your shoulders.”
For students struggling with eating habits or body image, or concerned about a friend or family member, Jones recommended exploring BroncoFit’s resource pages — including the “Ask the Dietitian” which links students anonymously to Jones — as well as getting familiar with the terminology, considering therapy or talking with trusted friends or family members.
Students can follow along with each day’s activities on the “Beyond Comparison” website, and sign up for the webinar which will be held live on Feb. 23 from 2-3 p.m.