Monday 7 October 2019

Eating Disorders and Body Image at University

Kristina writes about her experience of living with an eating disorder and shares her tips on how to maintain a healthy body image whilst at University.
Kristina W

As a postgraduate international student and Eating Disorder survivor, I found myself relapsing during my first few months in the UK for university. 

The combination of my workload, job and comparisons to others on my course had a negative effect on my self-esteem, and hence, my body image as a whole. In addition to that, the change in food and climate with the stress of travel caused horrific acne breakouts. It all became a bit too much and I regressed back into old habits, relapsing into my eating disorder. 

University is one of those places where body image can take a serious hit. 

What is body image?

Youngminds defines body image as how we think and feel about ourselves physically, and how we believe others see us.

Even though body image is how we feel about ourselves, it is influenced by things such as: 

Social media
Pop culture
Beauty standards
Other peoples’ comments about us

The link between body image and eating disorders seems like a linear one, but eating disorders are mental disorders that are much deeper than the desire to be thin. Negative body image, however, can make an eating disorder worse and make recovery that much harder.

It took rebuilding my body image to support my recovery. I’m not there yet. It’s an ongoing process but several small steps can help. 
  1. Change the way you think about ‘ugly’ features. Things like stretch marks, cellulite, love handles, acne and hyperpigmentation are things that almost everyone has and are totally normal.
  2. When viewing images of perfect bodies online, bear in mind that the images have been edited and the people in them have been posed, lit and made-up to look ‘perfect’. They don’t actually look like that.
  3. Appreciate your body as more than an aesthetic object. Our bodies are functional before they are aesthetic and it isn’t fair to reduce the body to something that needs to look a certain way for the sake of others.
  4. Finally, comparison is the thief of joy. There is a lot to be said for staying in your lane. Create your own healthy and reasonable standards for yourself and strive towards them. 

If you or someone close to you is showing symptoms of an eating disorder, help is available and further information can be found here.

Kristina W. spent a year as an international student at the University of Glasgow. Her experience changed the way she looked at her mental health for the better. She blogs about her student experience, money and careers at

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