CW: discussion of eating disorders/disordered eating
Alyson Gaylord is a Registered Dietician with Student Health and Wellness and a graduate student in UConn’s Dept. of Allied Health Sciences.
This week is Eating Disorder Awareness Week (EDAW), which is an annual campaign with the purpose of educating the public about the realities of eating disorders and how they can affect both individuals and their families. The week is meant to educate, as well as provide hope, support and visibility to those affected by eating disorders.
EDAW was started by the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA). The NEDA has many eating disorder-related facts on their page, including the following: The NEDA helpline has experienced a 107% increase in contacts since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic (NEDA Website); 28.8 million Americans experience an eating disorder at some point in their lives (NEDA Website); Eating disorders have the second highest mortality rate of all mental health disorders, surpassed only by opioid use disorder (NEDA Website)
In the world of social media, the opportunity for comparison increases immensely. It is no surprise that about one-in-five college females and one-in-ten college males experience an eating disorder (ED Prevalence in College Students). The University of Connecticut has put different practices in place to try to help these students that are in need of healing their relationship with their body and with food.
There are ED-related programs on campus, including a club called SHAPE (Students Helping to Achieve Positive Esteem). SHAPE is a peer education group that is overseen by Student Health and Wellness (SHaW) dietitians that meets weekly at the Cordial House. The purpose of this group is to promote body acceptance and inclusivity, to teach the warning signs of disordered eating and eating disorders, and to inform students on how they can be of support to friends who may struggle with one of these. SHAPE is represented at different tabling events and offers presentations on body image to different groups on campus. This group is always accepting new members!
UConn also has an eating disorder team through SHaW that is comprised of various healthcare workers like physicians, APRNs and RNs, therapists and dietitians who are all well-informed of eating disorders. This team meets weekly to ensure the optimal support of the students under their care and works closely with specialized providers if additional support is needed.
Students can also meet with our dietitians without out-of-pocket costs. SHaW dietitians teach the concept of intuitive eating that can help re-frame one’s relationship with food. Intuitive eating is defined as a “dynamic and mind-body integration of instinct, emotion, and rational thought. It is a personal process of honoring your health by paying attention to the messages of your body and meeting your physical and emotional needs,” (Intuitive Eating Workbook). The 10 principles of intuitive eating involve rejecting the diet mentality, honoring your hunger, respecting your body, and more.
There are different types of eating disorders, with the most common being anorexia nervosa, binge-eating disorder, and bulimia nervosa. Anorexia nervosa is characterized by engaging in restrictive behaviors, having an intense fear of gaining weight, and having a distorted perception of weight. Binge-eating disorder is characterized by uncontrolled episodes of eating, otherwise known as binging, and bulimia nervosa is when individuals binge and purge by self-induced vomiting, laxative use or other methods.
While these are the most common, there are other forms of eating disorders that are worthy of treatment as well. If you or someone you know is struggling, please know that you can reach out to SHaW Medical Services at (860)-486-2719 to schedule an appointment with the medical staff or a dietitian, or you can reach out to SHaW Mental Health Services at (860)-486-4705.