Eating Disorders and Concerns

Some students are worried sick about eating.

Depending on how serious the matter is, it can be classified as an eating disorder or a lesser problem, an eating “concern.”  Though the two differ, their origins are the same, according to Dr. Nicole Surething, director and counselor at Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) in UMW.

-Courtesy of blogilates

Surething noted that eating disorders and concerns are psychosocial, meaning they both have a variety of factors that influence a victim into developing an eating problem. Factors, like genetics, family life, personality, relationship problems and traumatic experiences, are significant when becoming anorexic or having any other kind of eating disorder or concern.

Some behavioral symptoms of anorexia are restriction of food, obsession with calories, purging by vomiting or using diet pills, unusual eating habits (i.e. picking at food or cutting it into tiny pieces), excuses to avoid eating and wearing baggy clothing.  Girls and young women aged 12 to 25 tend to be more susceptible to an eating disorder, such as anorexia, according to Princeton’s University Health Services.

The site said, “Girls who are more likely to develop this eating disorder tend to be conscientious, eager to please and hard-working – traits that also contribute to academic success. They are perfectionists who do not cope well with change, even the natural change their bodies undergo during puberty.”

The American College Health Association quantified the problem, finding it affected women disproportionately.  It conducted a national research survey from 2000 to spring 2008.  During the time span, it discovered that .3 percent of college male students suffered from or were anorexic, while 1.3 percent of female students were anorexic.  The survey also found that 76 percent of the female students and 84 percent of  male students did not report their illness to anyone.

Graph made by Suzanna Toske
-Information courtesy of ACHA

In the survey, male students tended to be more reluctant than women to address their eating disorders.

Since it is seen as a feminine trait in Westernize society to express feelings, men tend to bottle up their emotions, which are a key component to their eating disorders.  As a result, men who turn to severe working out or weight-lifting usually have an eating disorder, said Surething.

Students, both men and women, who do have an eating disorder don’t want anyone to know about it, Surething added, and so they withdraw themselves from social events.  For example, victims of eating disorders typically don’t like eating at restaurants because it makes them feel anxious.  Therefore, they will either back out of a restaurant invitation, or they will go, but won’t eat anything.

Eating disorders will eventually become detrimental in the long run by causing calcium deficiency (or commonly known as osteoporosis), vitamin deficiency and electrolytes deficiency in the body.  Some physical signs of an eating disorder are significant weight loss, fatigue, headaches and pale complexion.  Other physical effects are tooth decay, acid reflux (a condition in which gastric acid is regurgitated) and eruption of esophagus (a condition where too much acid reflux destroys the esophagus), said Surething.

“Be careful how you talk of people” when being around people who might be easily influenced in developing an eating disorder, said Surething.

Dr. Michael P. Levine and Dr. Margo D. Maine, authors of “A Guide to the Primary Prevention of Eating Disorders,” suggested to avoid categorizing foods as good or bad when talking to someone who might have an eating disorder.  This will help eating disorder victims or other individuals to realize that food in general is not harmful.

They also suggested being aware of the self-consciousness, shame and anxiety one may create when one comments openly on an individual’s body shape and weight.

Surething said counseling is also needed to help eating-disorder victims, though it requires more than just counseling to overcome the disorder.  An individual needs a dietitian as well as a medical doctor to keep track of the individual’s physical issues.  She encouraged people to try out counseling first, though.

“It doesn’t hurt to come at least once,” she said “If you think it helps, then you can come again.”

By Suzanna Toske


National Eating Disorders Association:

Watch how young girls view their body images in a Westernize society.