Health Information

Recognizing an Eating Disorder

Food Matters: Recognizing an Eating Disorder

Assess Your Behavior | View Available Help Resources | Bibliography | Links

Many students are overly concerned about what they eat. Some are so obsessed about what they eat that they may develop an eating disorder.


Eating Disorders

Four examples of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia, compulsive eating, and chronic dieting.

Anorexia
Nervosa

Someone with this condition may feel intensively afraid of being overweight and claim to feel fat even if they are severely underweight. They might reject food entirely, vomit to be rid of the food, and exercise to extreme to achieve thinness.
Bulimia

Someone with bulimia may vomit intentionally, or use laxatives to rid the body of food. Often bulimics will ingest huge amounts of food (binge) before vomiting or they may alternate bingeing with severe dieting. A bulimic is not necessarily overweight or underweight.
Compulsive
Overeating

Someone is said to be a compulsive overeater if they eat excessive amounts of food for reasons other than physical hunger. Compulsive eaters might feel a lack of control about food, and continue to eat even when they feel extremely uncomfortable.
Chronic
Dieting

Someone who continually tries to lose weight by dieting is a chronic dieter. This person will go from one diet to another and is particularly vulnerable to quick weight loss gimmicks. Because dieting lowers body metabolism, a return to normal eating causes the weight to be regained. This leads to a sense of failure, and the start of another diet.

No one is sure about the cause of eating disorders. They may stem from psychological trauma, family stress, or even certain social aspects of a college environment. What is certain is that early recognition and treatment of an eating problem will help prevent the eating problem the eating problem from becoming a life-threatening situation.


Assessing Your Own Eating Behavior

The following questions about your eating behavior can help you determine if you should seek help.

   
Circle:
1
Do you feel a desire to be thin?
Yes
No
2
Do you feel societal pressures to be thin?
Yes
No
3
Are you preoccupied with food?
Yes
No
4
Do you feel uncomfortable in an environment where there is no food?
Yes
No
5
Do you feel uncomfortable in an environment where there is too much food?
Yes
No
6
Do you weigh yourself daily?
Yes
No
7
Are you always trying to lose weight?
Yes
No
8
Do you hide your food?
Yes
No
9
Do you estimate or count calories?
Yes
No
10
Do you take laxatives for weight loss?
Yes
No
11
Do you take diuretics for weight loss?
Yes
No
12
Do you take diet pills?
Yes
No
13
Do you fast one or more days per week?
Yes
No
14
Do you deprive yourself of food, then eat large amounts?
Yes
No
15
Do you try to exercise away all the food you've eaten?
Yes
No
16
Do you induce vomiting after eating?
Yes
No
17
Do you feel fat despite the fact that others say you're thin?
Yes
No
18
Do you have difficulty concentrating due to your concern with food?
Yes
No
19
Do you eat differently (more or less) in public than you do alone?
Yes
No
20
If female, have menstrual periods ceased or become more irregular since you're changed your eating behavior?
Yes
No
21
Do you feel isolated because of your eating behavior?
Yes
No

 

Scoring

Each of the items in this questionnaire is a partial indicator of an eating problem. A single "yes" answer does not classify you as bulimic or anorectic. However, if you have answered "yes" to one or more of the questions, you may want to learn more about how to change your eating behaviors and attitudes. If you have answered "yes" to a number of the questions, we recommend that you make an appointment with the Health Services nutritionist. Medical and psychological counseling is also available if you have answered "yes" to several of the questions. Please note that all inquiries are kept strictly confidential.

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What Help Is Available?

On-Campus Resources
Health Services
542-2266
Nutritionist Appointments
542-2266
Medical Appointments
542-2266
Counseling Center
542-2354
Eating Concerns Program (individual and group counseling)
542-2354
Health Education (to schedule a workshop or obtain additional information)
542-2266
 
Local Off-Campus Help
Overeaters Anonymous Hotline (call for local meeting times; free, but donations requested)
1-783-4198
UMass Drop-in Group
549-2671 x181

 

National Resources
American Anorexia and Bulimia Association, Inc.
133 Cedar Lane
Teaneck, NJ 07666
(201) 836-1800
Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders
P.O. Box 271
Highland Park, IL 60035
(312) 837-3438
Bulimia Anorexia Self-Help Hotline
(800) 227-4785

 

Why Can't I Just Stop My Eating Problem Myself?

  • You may feel a sense of shame
  • You may feel guilty
  • You may feel frustrated and angry
  • You may enjoy feeling "in control" because you can severely restrict your food intake
  • For physiological reasons, bingeing and purging may be addictive


Please remember you are not alone in these feeling. Help is available.

Please remember, too, that eating disorders, particularly anorexia and bulimia can lead to medical complications, ranging from loss of menstruation to death. Treatment can reverse many of the serious side effects.

Lastly, being highly concerned about your diet and appearance does not mean that you have an eating disorder. However, it does mean that you should stop and consider the place of food in your life, and the pressures from the media to have a particular body type.


How Do I Help Myself?

  • Admit that you have a problem and that you need help.
  • Tell someone - a friend, a family member, a nutritionist, a counselor or a medical practitioner.
  • Learn more about the causes and effects of eating disorders and the proper role of nutrition and fitness in your life.
  • Remember - Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

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Bibliography

Anorexia Nervosa
Crisp, A.M., Anorexia Nervosa: Let Me Be, NY. Academic Press, Grune and Stratton, 1980.
O'Neil, C.B., Starving for Attention, NY, Continuum Books, 1982.
Slade, Roger, Anorexia Nervosa Reference Book: Direct and Clear Answers to Everyone's Questions, London and New York, Haprer and Row, 1984.
Stein, P and Urelle, B., Anorexia Nervosa: Finding the Life Line, Carlsland,CA, Gruze Books, 1985
Bulimia
Cauwels, J.M., Bulimia: The Binge/Purge Compulsion, NY Doubleday, 1983
Constock, N. ed. Experiencing Bulimia, Amherst, MA, University Health Services, 1986

Hall, L. and Cohn, L., Bulimia: A Guide to Recovery, Carlsbald, CA, Gruze Books, 1986.

Roth, G., Feeding the Hungry Heart, NY, NAL, 1982
Stuart, M. and Orr, L., Otherwise Perfect, FL, Health Communications, Inc., 1987.
Women, Culture and Eating
Chernin, K., The obsession: Reflections on the Tyranny of Slenderness, NY, Harper and Row, 1982
Chernin, K., The Hungry Self: Women, Eating and Identity, NY, Random House, 1985
Dowling, C., The Cinderalla Complex: A Woman's Hidden Fear of Independence, NY, Summit Books, 1981.
Orbach, S., Hunger Strike: The Anorectic's Struggle as a Metaphor for Our Age, NY, W.W., Nortown, 1985.
Body Shape / Eating Habits
Bennett, W. and Gruin, J., The Dieter's Dilemma, Eating Less and Weighing More, NY, Basic Books, 1982.
Brody, J., The Nutrition Book, NY, Basic Books, 1982.
Vincent L.M., Completing with the Sylph: Dancers and the Pursuit of the ideal Body Form, Kansas and NY, Andrews/McCMeel, 1979.
Family Dynamics
Erichsen, A., Anorexia Nervosa: The Broken Circle, Boston, Faber and Faber, 1985 (from a mother's perspective).
Hollia, Judi, Fat is a Family Affair, NY, Harper and Row, 1985.
Minuchin, S., Family Kaleidoscope, Cambridge, Harvard university Press, 1984.
Palazzoli, M.S., Self-Starvation: From Individual to Family in the Treatment of Anorexia Nervosa, NY, Jason Aronson, 1982.
Self-Help
Hampshire, E., Freedom From Food, Carlsbad, CA, Gurze Books, 1986.
Kano, S., Making Peace with Food, Allston, MA, Amity Publishing, 1985.
Kinoy, B.P. and the Book Committee of the American Anorexia/Bulimia Association, NJ, When Will We Laugh Again? NY, Columbia University Press, 1984.
Roth, G., Break Free From Compulsive Eating, NY, NAL, 1985.
Other Pamphlets in the Series
Food Matters: How To Help Someone With An Eating Disorder, provides definitions of eating problems, health risks and strategies for helping another person.

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Links

Eating Disorders
http://something-fishy.org
http://www.andreasvoice.org
www.nationaleatingdisorders.org

http://www.eating.ucdavis.org

Body
http://www.about-face.org
Image
http://www.wellesley.edu/health/bodyimage/
Nutrition
http://www.eatright.org
Books
http://www.bulimia.org

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Adapted for Amherst College Health Services and the Counseling Center. 12/2002

The Food Matters series has been developed by The professional Network on Eating Disorders, University of Massachusetts at Amherst and produced by the Health Education Division, University Health Services, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, 1988.