Students Willing to Pay a High Price to be Ideal Weight

Major transitions in life are often the perfect breeding ground for eating disorders. Though adolescence is a time when eating disorders emerge, there are also other times when symptoms are likely to appear. A loss of a loved one or a divorce can even spur a change that leads to disordered eating patterns. The transition to college is another time when many young people find themselves struggling with disordered eating.

The Succeed Foundation, a new charity dedicated to eliminating eating disorders, partnered with the University of the West of England to conduct a survey of students. Their work, directed by Dr. Phillippa Diedrichs from the Centre for Appearance Reseaerch at the University of the West of England, was administered on campuses throughout the UK.

One of many startling facts gathered by the research team was that nearly one-third of the young women surveyed said that they would trade at least one year of their life in order to realize their ideal body weight and shape. However, the women were also optimistic; believing that much more could be done on campuses to promote positive body image.

In response to the survey results, the Succeed Foundation launched The Succeed Body Image Programme, in which strategies used successfully overseas to reduce the onset of eating disorders are being offered to women in the UK. The program seeks to reduce eating disorders through promoting a positive body image among young women on university campuses.

The survey showed that many women were willing to go to extremes to achieve an ideal body weight and shape. 16 percent of the women surveyed were willing to trade one year of their life, 10 percent would trade two to five years, 2 percent would trade six to ten years, and 1 percent would trade 21 years or more of their lives to reach their ideal body shape.

The desire for a perfect body translated to other means of currency as well. 8 percent of women said they would rather have an ideal body than a promotion at work, 6 percent said they would trade their first class honors degree, and 9 percent would give up spending time with their partner. In a startling statistic, 7 percent said they would be willing to give up their health in order to have their ideal body shape and weight.

Results also showed that women were not able to objectively assess their body shape. For instance, 79 percent of the women surveyed said that they would like to lose weight, but 78.37 percent were within the range for underweight or “normal” weight ranges. Only 3 percent of those surveyed indicated that they would like to gain weight.

The survey revealed that 93 percent of women surveyed said that they had negative thoughts about their appearance over the last week, and 31 percent had negative thoughts several times throughout their day.

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