So, you want to live with six girls? Fabulous. They will be the most caring, compassionate, and intelligent people you have ever encountered—but when you put so many people in an enclosed space, issues tend to manifest.
College is a vulnerable time for young men and women in regards to developing disordered eating. Living in tight quarters, especially with friends who are bringing disordered eating to the table, can be tough. Not only is it challenging and concerning because you love your friends and roommates, but for those who have existing issues with disordered eating, this can be a push over the edge. When I arrived at my new apartment, I found my roommates had just as many issues with food as I did—sad, but not uncommon. It can be difficult to speak up in this situation, but here are some things I found helpful when creating a positive living environment.
Refrain from commenting on each other’s meals.
Seriously, just don’t do it. Not only is this in the interest of minding your own business, but just a simple comment of “Wow! That looks super rich,” can send someone into a spiral of negative thoughts. It’s important you and your roommates can have an open conversation about food—but keeping comments to yourself will go a long way in minimizing the anxiety your roomies may feel at any given meal.
Have weekly family dinners.
Food is a beautiful thing, important in every culture and society. When you leave for college, meals become an event that happens in a dining hall, in front of your computer, or while you’re walking on your way to class. Gone are the sit-down dinners you had with family, a time set aside to enjoy and appreciate the food in front of you and the people around you. Just because you and your roommates aren’t a traditional family doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy sit-down dinners! Eating something you all took the time to create will help foster that positive environment.
Refuse to accept any of your roommates body-shaming themselves.
This one seems super obvious, but is often the thing we neglect the most. One of the great things about college roommates is that they come from all different backgrounds and walks of life. Unfortunately, this might mean that they were taught that body shaming is a normal part of self-reflection. When you hear your roommates saying things like “I’ll be bad today and get a cookie from the dining hall,” or “I’ve been going to the gym all this week but I’m still so flabby!” take the time to kindly and gently redirect them, reaffirming that kind of talk is not allowed within the house, and that your roommate is beautiful just the way they are!
College is a very trying time for all involved—emotions run high and so does stress. If you are seriously concerned about your roommate, never feel afraid to reach out to your resident assistant (if you live in a residence hall), a professor, or a school mental health counselor.
The best approach is patience, and always making sure you’re practicing self-care!