Binge eating, purging what’s been consumed, excessively working out, and starving one’s self–these are the actions that some people partake in when they are unhappy with their body image. This month at Southern is Eating Disorder Awareness Month.
“I know that there are real disorders where people view themselves as obese when they are clearly not. I think more people tend to be bulimic or anorexic,” said Alexis Ellington, a psychology major at Southern.
There are different types of eating disorders, according to the National Eating Disorders’ website. Anorexia and bulimia are the most commonly referred to. A person who is anorexic often refuses to eat because he or she is afraid of gaining weight and works out excessively.
A person who suffers from bulimia will regularly engage in periods of binge eating and then inflict self-induced vomiting.
Not all eating disorders have to do with losing weight and though more women tend to suffer from them, men do too. Some people are just compulsive overeaters and eat large amounts of food in little time. Muscle dysmorphia is another disorder that not many people know about. A person who suffers from this may obsess about food, exercise a lot and use supplements to build muscle.
Many students are unaware of the self-deprivation that a person with an eating disorder may face on a daily basis. On campus there is an Eating Disorder Task Force. Denise Zack, assistant counselor and member of this task force, said she understands the emotional aspect of eating disorders.
“It is very important to be supportive and non-judgmental when trying to help a friend who might have an eating disorder,” said Zack. “It is not about the food; it is about some emotional difficulty and food is the symptom of that issue. The eating disorder becomes the way in which the individual deals with the psychological distress they are experiencing.”
It is important that students know that they are not alone and can seek help on campus if they do need it. There is counseling offered even for those who are unsure of whether or not they suffer from an eating disorder.
“The SCSU Counseling Services office is an amazing resource,” said Sandra Bulmer, professor in the public health department. “If students are concerned about their eating behaviors they can stop in to schedule an appointment and then meet with a counselor and be screened for eating disorders. From there, counseling services can assist students in getting the resources they need including counseling, group therapy and medical treatment if needed.”
Consequences from eating disorders can have lifelong effects and vary depending upon the disorder. Many health complications brought on by eating disorders are usually because of malnourishment or from symptoms related to such actions as binging and purging. Emotional effects include depression and isolation from loved ones.
“With many students who present with eating disorders, we work on getting them the appropriate treatment team they will need to work toward recovery; for example, finding a nutritionist, or sometimes more intensive treatment life the Renfrew Center for students with more serious symptoms,” said Zack. “But basically I work to develop a rapport with students so that they feel supported and safe so that they can then take the risk to work on getting better.”
Nobody is perfect. Students seeking help can go to University Counseling Services on campus in Engleman B219 or the Health and Wellness Center in the Granoff Building.