It is estimated that as many as 25 percent of college-aged women deal with disordered eating habits of some kind, if not necessarily full-blown anorexia or bulimia, according to Carla Jackson, a health educator at Pitzer College. “It often develops in college because college is a big transition time: a lot of things are new, there are added responsibilities and expectations that people put on themselves. They control their eating to be able to control one aspect of their lives,” said Jackson.

Eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating include extreme emotions, attitudes, and behaviors surrounding weight and food issues. Without treatment, up to 20 percent of patients with serious eating disorders die. With treatment, that number falls to 2 to 3 percent. The key to successful treatment of eating disorders is early diagnosis and competent, intensive, and aggressive care. A disordered eater often must have not one but two or three serious scares before being convinced they have a problem requiring a commitment to treatment.

Anorexia nervosa is characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss. Symptoms include:

Refusal to maintain body weight at or above a minimally normal weight for height, body type, age, and activity level.

Intense fear of weight gain or being “fat.”

Feeling “fat” or overweight despite dramatic weight loss.

Loss of menstrual periods.

Extreme concern with body weight and shape.

Bulimia nervosa is characterized by a secretive cycle of binge eating followed by purging. Bulimia includes eating large amounts of food–more than most people would eat in one meal–in short periods of time, then getting rid of the food and calories through vomiting, laxative abuse, or over-exercising. Symptoms include:

Repeated episodes of bingeing and purging.

Feeling out of control during a binge and eating beyond the point of comfortable fullness.

Purging after a binge, typically by self-induced vomiting, abuse of laxatives, diet pills and/or diuretics, excessive exercise, or fasting.

Frequent dieting.

Extreme concern with body weight and shape.

Binge eating disorder (also known as compulsive overeating) is characterized primarily by periods of uncontrolled, impulsive, or continuous eating beyond the point of feeling comfortably full. While there is no purging, there may be sporadic fasting or repetitive diets and often feelings of shame or self-hatred after a binge. People who overeat compulsively may struggle with anxiety, depression, and loneliness. Body weight may vary from normal to mild, moderate, or severe obesity.

Other eating disorders can include some combination of the signs and symptoms of anorexia, bulimia, and/or binge eating disorder. While these behaviors may not be considered a full syndrome eating disorder, they can still be physically dangerous and emotionally draining. All eating disorders require professional help!

On Friday, Jan. 24 on the Gorham campus, come experience “Andrea’s Voice,” a journey into the heart and mind of a disordered eater. Tom and Doris Smeltzer share the knowledge they gained from experts in the field and via their own daughter’s words, who died June 16, 1999 from an eating disorder. The presentation promotes understanding without judgment and encourages shifted paradigms to move individuals toward personal change with a desire for action in the areas of prevention and treatment of this all too silent epidemic.



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