Each year on our campus, we recognize the impact of eating disorders and encourage support for recovery.
This year’s theme for National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (Feb. 27- March 3) is “It’s Time to Talk about
It.” This is a timely theme, because the stigma and misinformation about eating disorders can be barriers for those struggling.
In the United States, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some point in their lives. This includes anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder and other types of disordered eating. Many of these individuals do not seek treatment.
Additionally, many more people struggle with body dissatisfaction, which is a major contributor to eating disorders. It is important to recognize that eating disorders are not a lifestyle choice or phase, but a serious and potentially life-threatening mental illness. Eating disorders do not discriminate and can seriously affect a person’s health, relationships and productivity.
College students are particularly at risk for eating disorders for a variety of reasons.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 25 percent of college students struggle with an eating disorder. Eating disorders are extreme expressions of weight and food issues experienced by both men and women. Each person may experience different signs and symptoms with their eating disorder, so it is important to recognize that the disorder is unique as the person.
Disordered eating is a spectrum, with the signs and symptoms varying by the individual. Some warning signs are a change in dietary habits, an obsession with body weight or food, visible food restriction or isolation and fear of eating around other people. If you are concerned about yourself or a friend, know there is hope.
If someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder or if you are worried about their eating behaviors, it is difficult to know what to do. It is important that you have a conversation with them. Set aside a time to talk where you will not be rushed or distracted by anything else. Let them know that you care about them and that you have noticed and are concerned about some changes in their attitude and behaviors towards food.
If they refuse to accept that there is a problem, do not argue with them, but instead, let them know again that you care about them and that you are there to help. During your conversation, it is important to avoid blaming or shaming them about their eating disorder and behaviors. Consider suggesting that they seek help from a health professional. If they are unsure of how to proceed, offer to help make the appointment or go with them.
Early intervention is key to effective treatment, as the physical and emotional consequences of eating disorders can become more severe over time. There are resources on our campus for those struggling with disordered eating. The Counseling and Testing Center offers free and confidential counseling appointments and can be reached at 208-885-6716. You can also contact the Campus Dietitian, Marissa Rudley, for a nutrition counseling appointment at mrudley@ uidaho.edu.
Join Vandal Health Education for a full week of events to raise awareness about eating disorders and the resources available. It is time to talk about eating disorders, get the facts and recognize that recovery is possible.
Emma Balazs is a peer health educator and can be reached at email@example.com