It may seem awfully unforeseeable, but I would like to compare a female athlete entering college sports to a female soldier entering the army. Though two extremely different undertakings, both have immense responsibilities, all while adjusting to a heightened level of physical and emotional demands in new environments. A freshman athlete is attempting to prove herself to her teammates, coaches, and opponents, and competing against veterans who have been in the program for three years already. The same goes for soldiers who are introduced to an unfamiliar type of training, and exposed to such intense pressure in the army. Both situations share a greater commonality, and that is the prevalence of eating disorders. Similarly to a collegiate athlete, “the life-long stigma may be one of the key reasons suffering soldiers keep their struggles to themselves.”
An article was published today by Israel News titled, Eating Disorders Among Female IDF Soldiers up Startling 200%. I have never felt so connected to an article, yet so disconnected. I was not a soldier for the Israel Defense Force. But, I was a competitor for a collegiate women’s soccer team fighting for my team, myself, and everyone who had supported me. Unfortunately, these two environments both expose women to the growing phenomenon of eating disorders among highly driven, ambitious, and determined individuals.
An Israeli soldier shared, “My friends who were with me in basic training told me that they put their fingers down their throats and didn’t eat all day. That was when I started asking questions: How do I get skinny? How do I take off the weight? Do I eat or not? Do I throw up or not? I used to throw up right after every meal.” This exact happening occurred when my teammates and peers influenced me. Ultimately, this exposure contributed to my developed thoughts and actions regarding my body weight and image.
Whether a freshman reporting to preseason, a soldier entering the army, or an individual exposed to an intense, demanding, new environment, all situations are recipes for how eating disorders occur and continue to become more and more prevalent.