Disordered Eating and Body Image

American media is obsessed with a very specific standard of beauty that pivots on being thin, so it is no surprise that on any given day 25% of American men and 45% of American women are on a diet. While many diets are moderate and provide balanced nutrition, some can be unhealthy or even dangerous.  In addition, one third of normal dieters progress to pathological dieting. Of those, one quarter go on to develop partial or full-syndrome eating disorders. Dieting has many risks and few benefits over the long term: 95% of all dieters regain their lost weight in 1-5 years. We are duped into believing that being thin will make us happy, but research doesn’t bear this out. In fact, learning self-acceptance and developing healthy eating and exercise habits is a far more reliable route to happiness and confidence. It can take time and effort to recover from disordered eating, and the support of professional help is often crucial.

Recognize

  • Chronic or severe dieting
  • Recent weight loss/underweight
  • Perfectionism and self-criticism
  • Skipping meals or restricting intake
  • Depression/anxiety/irritability/moodiness
  • Change in attitude/performance
  • Fatigue or dizziness
  • Engaging in food rituals, hiding food, eating alone
  • Excessive or compulsive exercise
  • Being unable to accept a compliment
  • Mood affected by how they think they look
  • Constantly comparing self to others
  • Self-disparaging internal dialog
  • Attempting to create a “perfect” image
  • Needing constant reassurance from others that looks are acceptable
  • Distorted body image

Respond

  • In a direct and nonjudgmental manner, indicate the specific observations that have aroused your concern
  • Avoid placing shame, blame, or guilt on the student regarding their actions or attitudes
  • Focus on their health rather than their weight or appearance
  • Refrain from diagnosing or entering a battle of wills with the student
  • Invite the student to respond to your concerns
  • Avoid giving simple solutions, such as, “If you’d just stop, then everything would be fine!”
  • Be aware that the student may deny or minimize the problem
  • Encourage them to get help and offer your support, e.g. walk to the Counseling Center with them
  • If you remain concerned about their health, inform the student you need to speak with professional staff out of concern for their safety

Resources

  • CAPS (x8059)

  • CAPS On Call (24/365) (610-328-7768)

  • Student Health and Wellness (x8058)

  • Off Campus Resources