That’s a good question. I don’t entirely know the answer but I have a few guesses.
First, the majority of 5C students are white and come from an affluent background. I think rich whiteness is really the cultural center of a lot of body shaming and thin-obsessed practices and ideas or at least thinness is a really important trait in rich white circles. Because many people at the 5Cs prioritize whiteness and wealth, and thinness is a sign for both, that’s a trait that people try to emulate. You may not be able to control your race or your economic background, but you can feel a certain level of control over your weight. Furthermore, and I know this was the case for me, for those of us who do not come from a background where thinness is important being injected into a world where for many rich white people it is and always has been, it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing them. It doesn’t help that you’re trying to fit in, be liked, and make friends.
Second, with the Freshmen 15 not being entirely made up, lots of people feel a loss of control over their weight when they come to college and find dining halls, Flex, and lots and lots of beer. Weight gain in the first few months of college can push people to bounce back towards the other extreme. With the majority population of the colleges noticing and probably judging that weight gain, it’s even easier to feel like you need to make up for the few pounds with hours and the gym and/or seriously restricted calories.
Third, and this may not be a cause but it does annoy me, the rhetoric used in the Scripps gym (I don’t know about the others) regarding weight is really frustrating to me. On the one hand, they have a “Fat Talk Free” policy that prohibits body shaming, which seems good. On the other hand by equating the word fat unequivocally with badness, you actually make fattness bad. Does that make sense? I think 5C administration is not aware or sensitive enough to the fatphobia phenomenon and problem.
Again, this is a tough question that I hope I have answered at least kind of adequately. It’s something I think about a lot but it is still sometimes hard for me to understand.