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Eating Concerns & Body Image

Eating Concerns page

Eating Disorders, Disordered Eating, & Body Image Issues

Eating concerns are not uncommon among the college and university population. Concerns about eating habits and behaviors affect people of every age, race, gender, social class/income, sexual orientation, and body size.

  • Approximately one third of individuals with eating disorders are male, despite stereotypes that it is rare for men to have eating disorders. *
  • LGBTQI+ individuals may experience unique contributing factors in the development of an eating disorder. *
  • Marginalized Voices video (taken from NEDA website)

      

Eating Disorders

There are several types of eating disorders. Each of these disorders are characterized by persistent engagement in behaviors related to food, and these behaviors vary across a spectrum. Although eating disorders range greatly in how they might appear externally, each are an outward expression of underlying internal distress. Individuals who struggle with eating disorders often find that their self-worth is largely defined by appearance and body shape. Each eating disorder often comes with significant health risks and can impact your physical well-being and your emotional and social wellness.

      

Disordered Eating

The term “disordered eating” is used to describe the presence of unhelpful eating or obsessive behaviors (such as purging or over-exercising) that may not be as persistent or severe as those of a diagnosable eating disorder. However, disordered eating, like eating disorders, can be harmful and can lead to secondary negative experiences and may develop into an eating disorder over time.

Normalized eating is engagement in balanced, flexible, and sustainable eating that provides the body with what it needs to function fully. It is typical for people who engage in normalized eating to experience occasional over-eating or under-eating from time to time.

      

Body Image

The term “body image” refers to how a person views and thinks about their body size and shape. Individuals with eating disorders often experience an unhealthy or negative body image. Those with negative body image may have distorted beliefs about their bodies or appearance. They may also hold their bodies to unrealistic or unhealthy standards. Individuals with healthy body image typically have fairly accurate perception of their bodies and feel content and comfortable within their bodies. Developing a healthy body image may occur over time, and it can be helpful to have a counselor’s help while working toward this.

      

Myths about Disordered Eating and Eating Disorders

The term “disordered eating” is used to describe the presence of unhelpful eating or obsessive behaviors (such as purging or over-exercising) that may not be as persistent or severe as those of a diagnosable eating disorder. However, disordered eating, like eating disorders, can be harmful and can lead to secondary negative experiences and may develop into an eating disorder over time.

Normalized eating is engagement in balanced, flexible, and sustainable eating that provides the body with what it needs to function fully. It is typical for people who engage in normalized eating to experience occasional over-eating or under-eating from time to time.

      

How Do You Feel about Your Body and Your Relationship with Food?

  • Do you worry about food, eating, and the way you look more than you’d like?
  • Do you spend an excessive amount of time critiquing your body?
  • Do you follow strict rules about what, when, and how much you eat? Do you feel distressed and upset when you break these rules?
  • Do you feel anxious, stressed, or worried when eating with others?
  • Do you frequently feel out of control when you eat, or eat more than you want?
  • Have eating or exercise habits become secretive?
  • Do you have an intense fear of gaining weight?
  • Do you experience guilt, shame, disgust, or anxiety after eating?
  • Do you feel that your self-worth is determined by how you look or how much you weight?

  • If you answered “yes” to any of the questions above, consider scheduling an appointment with our counselor through Student Services to discuss your feelings and impacts.

      

10 Ways to Increase Wellness

        Recognize that health and wellness can be present at every size and shape.

      • Practice self-compassion and loving kindness
      • Practice mindfulness

        Remember that the media’s definitions of beauty and success do not have to define an individual’s self-image or potential.

        Decide how you experience the media messages you encounter, and view messages through a lens that protects self-esteem and body image, whether you identify as female, male, or Trans, Non-binary, or Non-conforming.

        Learn to manage intense emotion that can often underlie behaviors by practicing the following:

        • Identify and name the emotion(s)
        • Rather than pushing the emotion away, experiment with observing and describing it in an objective, non-judgmental way (e.g. where and how you feel it in your body)
        • Reflect on why you might be feeling this way
        • Choose an activity that is soothing to help you ride the wave of emotion (e.g. focus on your breath)

        Recognize that you are not your thoughts, and you are not your feelings. When we become fused with our internal experiences, this can lead to significant distress. Taking a step back from our thoughts and feelings can be helpful.

        Consider a simple language change. For example, practice saying “I am having the thought that I am worthless” rather than “I am worthless.”

        How we think about a situation can influence what we feel and how we act. Therefore, practice noticing thoughts, and check-in with yourself to determine the validity or truthfulness of these thoughts. Asking yourself the following questions might help:

        • How might someone else think about this situation?
        • How might I view this situation if I didn’t struggle with eating or body image concerns?
        • Finally, consider whether an alternative thought might be more accurate and balanced.

        Use the advantage of hindsight to reflect on past experiences with eating disordered behaviors and learn from them.

        • Think backward from the disordered behavior to recognize triggers (situations, emotions, or sensations) that may lead to engagement in a disordered eating behavior.
        • Consider participating in therapy to better understand and process the link between these triggers and actions.

        Consider how rules or unhelpful assumptions related to food, body image, and self-worth may be impacting your life. Practice challenging these assumptions by working through the following steps:

        • Think about how a rule has impacted your life (e.g. relationships, school, work, self-care).
        • Consider the ways in which this rule might be unreasonable and think about the advantages and disadvantages of living by this rule.
        • Reflect on ways to make this rule more balanced, realistic, and flexible. Consider using less extreme terms such as “always” or “never” and replace them with “sometimes” or “it would be nice if…”
        • Finally consider what you can do to put this new rule into practice.

        Become more in touch with what matters to you, and begin to live in accordance with these values. Ask yourself the following questions:

        • What mattered most to me before I began experiencing disordered eating?
        • How can I act in a way that reflects these values?

      

While the information on this page can be a helpful starting point, it is highly recommended that you seek professional assistance if you are struggling with an eating disorder, disordered eating, or body image concerns. Please call 406-874-6217 and speak with Val Hyatt to schedule a counseling appointment to gain for more information.

      

Additional links and recommended reading