One particular eating disorder in the United States is often overlooked and sometimes forgotten about entirely. According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), binge eating is prevalent among 1 to 5 percent of the U.S. population. Binge eating disorder (BED) is characterized by repeated binge eating without any measure to counter the eating.

Our country is already battling obesity, and now there is another disease that can greatly affect one’s health. While one can have BED without being overweight or obese, it can still be detrimental. It can lead to other diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, gall bladder disease and other ailments. BED affects both men and women. According to the NEDA, “Binge eating disorder affects women slightly more often than men — estimates indicate that about 60 percent of people struggling with binge eating disorder are female, 40 percent are male.” While it’s important to have knowledge about all eating disorders, I think that binge eating is a disease that is easily overlooked as someone being “fat” or “depressed.” Binge eating is serious, especially for those in college.

The NEDA created a collegiate survey project with shocking results. “The rate of eating disorders among college students has risen to 10-20 percent of women and 4-10 percent of men.” The environment that we college students live in causes an increase in stress levels, and not being close to home affects our stress levels as well. Full-blown eating disorders are common between the ages of 18 and 21. We try so hard to avoid the infamous Freshman 15, then try to shed it if we gain those pounds. Yet, eating in an unhealthy way can become a disease and very dangerous.

It’s important to raise awareness about binge eating disorder and how detrimental it is to our country. People are struggling because they feel like they have no control and cannot help themselves. Binge eating is a legitimate disease that should be taken seriously. There are several ways to prevent eating disorders, and I think that there should be a wide effort to help the cause. Knowing what these diseases are and how you can identify them are vital to helping those around you. Another important way to help is to change the body image that society holds. Instead of telling girls they are too fat or too skinny, we should be teaching women — and even men — to love themselves and who they are as a person rather than how they look. I know it sounds cliche and you’ve heard it all before, but it really is vital to our culture. We need to change how we view the human body and change our beauty ideals.