For consultation or more information about HEART, contact:
The Counseling & Student Development Center: 570-577-1604
Bucknell Student Health: 570-577-1401
The University’s registered dietitian: 570-577-1401
Catherine A. O’Neil, medical director of Bucknell Student Health
Tanya Williams, clinical dietician
Marina Shafran, associate director, Health & Wellness Center
Do I have an eating problem?
The information below was gathered from a variety of sources, including the National Eating Disorders Association. Do you:
- Feel excessively concerned with weight and appearance?
- Argue internally about what and how much to eat?
- Spend so much time thinking about calories and meal planning that it interferes with daily activities?
- Feel guilty or like a failure after eating certain foods or more than you planned?
- Try to stay below a certain number of calories or fat grams each day?
- Exercise compulsively or feel terrible if a day of exercise is missed?
- Feel good about being hungry and not eating?
- Let the scale determine whether it’s a "good" or "bad" day?
- Binge eat?
- Vomit after meals or following a binge?
- Use laxatives or water pills (diuretics)?
Any of the above can be associated with an eating disorder and "yes" answers indicate that professional support may be beneficial.
How much exercise is too much?
Repeatedly exercising beyond what is considered safe is associated with dehydration, stress fractures, amenorrhea, thyroid suppression and heart problems. The American College of Sports Medicine, as well as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, recommends "30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days per week." Vigorously exercising for more than one hour per day, on most days per week, may be healthy for the average person, but it can be considered compulsive if the following occur:
- Rigid adherence to the routine along with disordered eating.
- Feelings of intense guilt or anxiety if the routine is disrupted.
- Ignoring professional advice in order to maintain the routine.
- Continuing to exercise if you are ill, injured or sleep-deprived.
- The routine is interfering with your other responsibilities or your ability to sustain close, healthy relationships.
Eating disorders in college
The most common eating disorders on college campuses are anorexia nervosa and bulimia. Both of these disorders occur more frequently in female (cisgender) and transgender college students, bulimia being more common. Both disorders have serious medical consequences.
Individuals who suffer from anorexia nervosa deliberately attempt to lose weight through self-starvation. Even though they may be extremely underweight, they see themselves as "fat" or are disgusted with their body image, deny any problem with their eating habits and will resist any efforts made to get them to eat or return to a more health weight.
Individuals who suffer from bulimia engage in frequent, often daily, binge eating where they eat very large amounts of food, most likely in secret. They will then try to counteract the binge by purging, which may involve self-induced vomiting, use of laxatives or prolonged fasting and exercise.
Tips for Talking to a Friend Who May Be Struggling with an Eating Disorder
If you suspect a friend or loved one has a problem with excessive exercising or eating disorders, gently express your concern in a loving and supportive way. It is important to have the conversation early on, rather than waiting until the effects on an eating disorder have escalated. Take some time to prepare yourself by learning about eating disorders and resources that are available.
- Setting: Make sure to set up ample time for a private conversation in a quiet location. You do not want to spring the topic and rush.
- Share: Be respectful and share your concerns openly and honestly in a caring, supportive way. Offer specific examples of when you felt concerned about your friend’s eating or exercise behaviors.
- Refer: Indicate that there could be a problem that needs professional attention. Suggest that your friend consults with a counselor, doctor, nutritionist or other health professional who is knowledgeable about eating disorders. Offer to help them schedule an appointment and/or come with them for support.
- Don’t Argue: If your friend refuses to acknowledge that there is a problem, or any reason for you to be concerned, gently reiterate your feelings and concerns and leave yourself open and available as a supportive listener.
- Don’t Blame: Avoid shaming, blaming or quilting your friend into action. Try not to use accusatory "you" statements such as, "You just need to eat" or "You are acting irresponsibly." Instead, use "I" statements. For example: "I’m worried about you because you refuse to eat breakfast or lunch."
- Don’t Simplify: Eating disorders are complex. Your friend likely has to deal with a lot already. Avoid giving simple solutions such as, "If you’d just eat, then everything would be fine!"
- Stay Put: Continue expressing support for your friend. Remind them that you care and want them to be healthy and happy.
If you think you have an eating problem and consider seeking help, you may begin by reaching out to one of HEART’s providers or attending a workshop. HEART is available to help you with nutrition, medical and psychological information and care. There are also referral options for treatment outside the scope of services at Bucknell.
Students can also check out the National Eating Disorders Association website for general information and a referral network to help locate treatment providers in other areas.