Muslim Parents: How to prevent Eating Disorders in college students



“Eating disorders are common, and can have significant effects on students’ physical health, mental health, social engagement, and academic performance,” said Dr. Leslie Gee, a primary care physician at the University of California, Berkeley, via email.

Many parents and guardians I meet assume their child could never develop an eating disorder. “No young adult is immune. Eating disorders can affect people of all genders and ethnicities,” said Lauren Muhlheim, a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles and the director of Eating Disorder Therapy LA.



Dear Readers,



Many Muslim parents go through great anxiety  when sending off their child to college. It is to be expected that a parent would worry about how their child will manage on their own in college. There are worries about how their children will manage when the parent is no longer so present in their lives. Anxieties may be about smoking, drugs, social and academic problems.


For many Muslim parents the desire to nurture the psychic of their child by providing an environment that is free of influences that conflict with Islamic beliefs and principles is balanced with the desire to provide an education that is beneficial and competitive with the world around them. Alongside these problems we should not sideline the mental health issues students could be prone to , especially one of the least known illness eating disorders.  Please find below a guest post written by Cyrila Faith for our website on how to prevent eating disorders in college students.  These Islamic tips will help parents to navigate through the most transformative years of their child’s life. Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, not only told us, but showed us how we should act.



How to prevent Eating Disorders in college students





Preventing eating disorders in college students is a multifaceted challenge that requires a combination of education, awareness, support, and proactive measures. Eating disorders can be triggered or exacerbated during the college years due to academic pressures, social influences, and lifestyle changes.


Here are some strategies to help Islamic parents prevent eating disorders in college students:


  1. Teach Gratitude (Shukr):

Encourage your children to be thankful (shukr) for the blessings of food and nourishment. Instill in them the importance of recognizing Allah’s provisions and being grateful for what they have. This can foster a positive relationship with food, emphasizing its value for sustenance rather than appearance.

  1. Emphasize Moderation (Iffah):

Teach the Islamic principle of moderation (iffah) in all aspects of life, including eating. Explain that overindulgence and restrictive eating are discouraged in Islam. Encourage your children to eat in moderation and to listen to their bodies’ hunger and fullness cues 


3. Promote Healthy Eating (Tayyib):

Emphasize the consumption of tayyib (pure and wholesome) foods that are beneficial for the body. Teach your children about the importance of a balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, grains, and proteins


4. Encourage Family Meals (Majlis):


Make family meals a regular practice (majlis) in your home. Eating together as a family not only promotes healthy eating habits but also provides an opportunity for bonding and open communication.


5. Foster Positive Self-Esteem (Tawakkul):


Instill the concept of tawakkul (reliance on Allah) and teach your children to have self-worth based on their character and actions, rather than appearance. Help them understand that they are creations of Allah and that they are inherently valuable.


6. Combat Peer Pressure (Sohbah):

Prepare your children to resist negative peer pressure (sohbah) related to dieting or body image. Teach them to choose friends who encourage self-acceptance and support their well-being.


7. Seek Professional Help (Istishfa):


If you notice signs of an eating disorder in your child, don’t hesitate to seek professional help (istishfa). Consulting a qualified therapistor counselor can be an important step in addressing the issue.

8. Promote Physical Activity (Tarakki):

Encourage regular physical activity (tarakki) as part of a healthy lifestyle. Emphasize that exercise should be enjoyable and focused on overall health and fitness, rather than excessive calorie burning.


9. Open Communication (Istisharah):


Foster an environment of open communication (istisharah) within the family. Encourage your children to discuss their concerns, fears, and questions about food, body image, and self-esteem.


10. Lead by Example (Sunnah):


Set a positive example by practicing what you preach. Demonstrate healthy eating habits, gratitude, and self-acceptance in your own life, as your actions often have a more significant impact than words.


By incorporating these Islamic principles into your parenting approach, you can help create a nurturing environment that promotes a healthy relationship with food and body image while instilling strong values and self-esteem in your children.



How eating disorder is spreading among young people


Eating disorders continue to be a concerning issue among young people, and they can spread through various societal and personal factors. Here are 10 points explaining how eating disorders can spread among young people:

  1. Social Media Influence:
    • Social media platforms often showcase unrealistic beauty standards and promote comparison. Young people can be influenced by images of seemingly “ideal” bodies, leading to body dissatisfaction and, in some cases, the development of eating disorders as they strive to attain those standards.
  1. Peer Pressure:
    • Peer groups can exert significant influence on individuals, and young people may feel pressured to conform to dieting or unhealthy eating habits if their friends are doing the same. This peer pressure can contribute to the spread of eating disorders.
  1. 3. Media Portrayals:


  • Television, movies, and magazines frequently depict characters or celebrities who engage in extreme dieting or disordered eating behaviors. These portrayals can normalize such behaviors and make them seem acceptable to young audiences.
  1. 4. Family Dynamics:
    • Dysfunctional family dynamics, including criticism related to weight or appearance, can contribute to the development of eating disorders in young people. Sibling rivalry or parental focus on appearance can exacerbate these issues.
  1. 5. Cultural and Societal Norms:
    • Societal emphasis on thinness as a symbol of success and beauty can lead young people to internalize these norms. Cultural pressures can perpetuate unhealthy behaviors and attitudes towards food and body image.
  1. 6. Academic Stress:
    • The academic pressures faced by young people can lead to stress, anxiety, and perfectionism. Some individuals may turn to disordered eating as a coping mechanism to regain a sense of control in their lives.
  1. 7. Online Communities:
    • Online forums and communities dedicated to eating disorders can encourage young people to share their experiences and provide tips for engaging in disordered eating behaviors. These spaces can foster a sense of belonging and normalization of unhealthy habits.
  1. 8. Sports and Athletics:
    • Young athletes, particularly in sports with weight requirements or aesthetic demands, may be at higher risk of developing eating disorders. Coaches or teammates with a focus on weight and appearance can contribute to the spread of these disorders.
  1. Genetic Predisposition:
    • Genetic factors play a role in the development of eating disorders, and young people with a family history of these disorders may be more susceptible to their spread.
  1. Lack of Awareness and Education:
    • A lack of awareness and education about eating disorders can contribute to their spread. Young people may not recognize the signs and symptoms, making it difficult for them to seek help or for peers and adults to intervene.

It’s important to recognize that eating disorders are complex and multifaceted, often stemming from a combination of these factors. Prevention and early intervention efforts should focus on addressing these influences to help reduce the spread of eating disorders among young people. Increasing awareness, promoting positive body image, and fostering supportive environments are key steps in mitigating this issue.



In conclusion, the spread of eating disorders among young people is a complex and multifaceted issue influenced by a wide range of societal, cultural, and personal factors. These disorders, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder, continue to be a cause for concern due to their physical, emotional, and psychological impact on individuals.



This may seem like a long list, but once you start including these things into your life, they will become a big part of your life. It is good to start acting on these points as soon as you can so that you can start making everything into a habit, and these habits will remain for the rest of your life Insha’Allah!


About Author

Islam and Eating Disorders founded in 2012 – run by Maha Khan, the blog creates awareness of Eating Disorders in the Muslim world, offers information and support for sufferers and their loved ones.

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