Students struggle with body image issues


Varshini Ramanathan

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Anushka Patil and Mahi Kandage

Recent years have brought about a heightened awareness surrounding eating disorders, which are psychological conditions characterized by abnormal eating habits. Though everyone has insecurities, imperfections, and aspects of their bodies they dislike, for some, these insecurities reach a new level, resulting in a body dysmorphic disorder. A mental illness in which a person obsesses over their appearance and flaws, body dysmorphia can have devastating impacts on its victim, leading them to constant anxiety. It can even prevent people from socializing, as their fear of a poor appearance clouds their judgment, often making them too self-conscious to be around other people.

Often, teenagers in particular struggle with body dysmorphia, which leads them down a dangerous path of eating disorders. Many of these can begin with the notion that losing just a couple of pounds through fasting or cutting calories will increase happiness, confidence, and overall quality of life. However, though losing the first small amount of weight can bring about a feeling of satisfaction, the strategy can quickly disintegrate into a dark, slippery path. Five pounds lost yields temporary satisfaction, which dissolves and leads to five more, and then another five. The disorder can cause a craving for the feeling of losing weight and blinds the person to the torture through which they are putting their body.

The daily stresses of eating disorders severely impact the lives of students. A student who is lacking adequate calories and nutrition on a day to day basis can experience severe fatigue, dizziness, headaches, feeling cold all the time, dry skin, hair loss, and an overall a decrease in happiness and a severe increase in constant stress and frustration.

Students are continuously surrounded by the idea of body image. Whether it is at school through their peers or the many social media platforms that place emphasis upon external beauty, students become enamored with the belief that they need to fix themselves in order to fit a certain ideal they hold.

Melanie Jozokos, a health teacher at Westford Academy, explains the problems that a low perspective of one’s body image may cause.

“Many students at our school face the ongoing battle of having an eating disorder. It’s undetectable at first, people don’t expect that certain person to have one, but they can, because eating disorders can affect anyone,” said Jozokos.

Jozokos feels that eating disorders play a big part in a student’s life. Eating disorders add to the stress that the person has, on top of the homework and extracurricular stress. She adds that students obtain eating disorders for different reasons, but most stem down to the idea of body image.

According to, school stress can have a negative impact on the condition of a student’s eating disorder. It is proven that stress, lack of sleep, and not having sufficient time to exercise are factors that contribute to weight gain.

“I feel that stress gets added to a person, not only a student when an eating disorder is involved in their life. The stress on always focusing on what you are eating is difficult and often preoccupies most of the person’s brain, so when school comes into the picture, it is difficult to share the amount of attention put into an eating disorder and the amount of attention put into school. When a student can not balance both, an extreme amount of pressure is put on them,” Jozokos said.

Although many students at Westford Academy face eating disorders, they are getting the attention they need to fix their lifestyle, even at school. Jozokos feels that students should always find someone comfortable to approach, such as a teacher or fellow classmate, who has their best interests at heart.

“Here, at Westford Academy, we are equipped with a staff who has knowledge of how to treat an eating disorder. With care and interest from our guidance department and teachers, students at Westford Academy can achieve a healthy lifestyle,” said Jozokos.

Body image is a serious idea that needs to be brought into light in a positive, inclusive way; however, it can be a difficult issue to deal with for the victim as well as the people who care about them.

The long-term impacts of an eating disorder can be catastrophic. When the body runs out of food for energy, it begins to search for other sources to metabolize to acquire energy, which includes muscles at first, but then progresses on more dangerously to organs and the digestive system, leading to organ failure and a myriad of severe complications, hospitalizations, and procedures.

The Westford Academy Guidance Department wants every single student to know that the guidance department’s doors are always open to anyone who needs someone to talk to comfortably.

“The social construct of “beauty” in society is everywhere – online, in the media, etc.  The pressure to match up to a particular standard or ideal is often unrealistic or even impossible, and can certainly impact an individual’s feelings of self-worth or self-confidence,” said the Westford Academy Guidance Department in an email to the Ghostwriter.