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Sororities and Body Image: 3 Reasons Greek Life May Be Detrimental to Young Women

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It's back-to-school season, which means that college women across the country are gearing up for rush - the process of joining sororities on their campuses.

Sorority life, while not inherently problematic, can contribute to negative outcomes for women with body image issues, writes Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, on the blog Eating Disorders Hope.

Shame

Some research suggests that the body image disturbance linked to the recruitment and "hazing" process often associated with sororities leads to shame. Women who participate in rushing, specifically, showed higher levels of body image disturbance and shame than women who didn't join sororities, according to a 2010 study published in Sex Roles.

Predisposition

Another problem for college-age women is that, statistically, they are already vulnerable to developing eating disorders. Rebecca's House, an eating disorder treatment center in Lake Forest, CA reports that an estimated 20 percent of female college students engage in some type of bulimic behavior. This percentage also doesn't begin to cover the number of young women that are already struggling with other disordered eating habits or poor body image concerns.

"The research of the prevalence of eating disorders suggests an increased risk of developing an eating disorder in a sorority setting," Rebecca's House website states.

Pressure

First-year college students also have an enormous amount of pressure to deal with, Karges writes, which can be amplified by pressures encountered in sororities to fit in, look a certain way, dress in particular clothes, or maintain a certain weight.

"Many other organized groups on college campuses can also offer a feeling of belonging and community without the same pressures on body image," she says.

If you are a woman going through the rush process, Karges recommends maintaining a sense of self-awareness and being honest about your feelings.

"Are you becoming increasingly critical of your body? Are you constantly comparing your body to that of other women? Do you find yourself having lower self-esteem?
As a college student, it may be important to evaluate these concerns to determine if sorority life is the best fit and activity of choice," she said.

Source: Eating Disorder Hope, Rebecca's House