University of Wisconsin

University of Wisconsin

Students discuss eating disorders
by Felicia Clark of the Advance Titan
February 28, 2008


About 5 million people in the United States suffer from an eating disorder.

        This week is Eating Disorder Awareness Week, and the Women’s Center showed the film, “Thin” Tuesday night, hosted by Diane Zanto, nurse practitioner at the Student Health Center and Kim Charniak, clinical social worker for the Counseling Center.

        Lauren Greenfield’s “Thin” discussed severe cases of four women at the Florida Renfrew Center who received treatment for eating disorders. After the movie six of the 15 attendees discussed friends and family members who suffered from eating disorders and how it effected their own lives.

        The Counseling Center reported that 17.9 percent of their patients had weight or body image concerns and 12.1 percent had eating problems in 2006-2007.

        Zanto said it was part of the doctors’ and psychologists’ duty to help victims with eating disorders “to feel less compulsive and obsessive about food.”

        “The thing to keep in mind with people that have an eating disorder is they think about food all day and all night,” Zanto said. “It’s with them at every waking moment.”

        According to the National Eating Disorder Association, the three types of eating disorders include: anorexia, self-starvation and excessive weight loss; bulimia, a cycle of binge eating followed by purging; and binge eating disorder or compulsive overeating, uncontrolled, impulsive, and continuous periods of eating.

        “Our goal is to have them get their mind off of food and think about other things and balance their life in healthy ways,” Zanto said.

        The American College Health Association reported that 1.6 percent of 11,000 people assessed in Oshkosh, Wisconsin said there was a negative impact on their academics due to their eating and body image, and 4.5 percent said they struggled with anorexia and bulimia.

        These percentages are very close with national statistics, which said 1.4 percent suffered in academics and 4.6 percent suffered from anorexia and bulimia.

        Zanto said anorexia has the most dangerous consequences because they are longer term. For example, bones and muscles begin to deteriorate from the lack of nutrients, which can have long lasting negative effects on the body later on.

        Bulimia can cause less obvious consequences such as digestive problems with chronic irritation to the esophagus and stomach, and an irregular heart rhythm, Zanto said.

        Compulsive overeating can cause diabetes, heart disease and blood pressure problems.

        “It isn’t as much the body as it is the mind,” Zanto said. “The body will heal pretty quickly when behaviors have changed.”

        The most difficult thing to grasp for someone suffering from anorexia is a positive body image.

        “Really it’s just about appreciating what your body can do,” Charniak said. “And celebrating all the things that your body does like running, dancing, breathing, laughing ...”

        Some warning signs of the disorders include an increase or decrease in weight not related to a medical condition; abnormal eating habits such as severe dieting, preference for strange foods; different behavior during mealtime or secretive binging; constant notice of weight and body image; compulsive or excessive exercising; self-induced vomiting; periods of fasting or diuretic abuse; and feelings of isolation, depression or irritability.

         There are certain things a person can do to create a more positive body image.

        According to Charniak, the first thing he/she can do is keep a top 10 list of ideas that the person likes about him/herself, and repeate it to themselves in the mirror everyday.

        “Beauty is a state of mind not a state of body,” Charniak said.

        Secondly, they need to keep encouraging themselves and be surrounded by positive people and images.

        “Remind yourself of true beauty,” Charniak said. “That it’s not skin deep, that you can feel good about yourself and who you are, cure yourself with a sense of confidence, self acceptance and openness.”

        There are also certain things to say to a friend or loved one.

        First they should set up a time to talk in a private area away from distractions before communicating their concerns with their friend in an honest, caring and supportive way.

         They should ask their friend to seek help from a counselor, doctor, nutritionist or other health professional and offer to accompany the friend to these appointments.

        For those that are friends of the person who has one of the above disorders avoiding conflicts with their friends and continuing to restate their feelings and be a supportive listener to their friend is important.

        This in turn means people should prevent placing shame, blame or guilt on their friend by using “I” over “you” statements.

        And a person should also avoid giving simple solutions; instead they should express their support by repeating that they want their friend to be healthy and happy.

         There are many treatment options for people with eating disorders, such as going to nutritional counseling, individual, group or family counseling, follow-up and aftercare sessions, and support groups.

        “We’ve gotten e-mails requesting it, so I think it’s our duty as the Women’s Center to respond to student’s needs and so this is how this event
came about,” said Jennifer Castillo, Women’s Center Director.

        This is the only event planned for Eating Disorder Awareness Week because it was the first time the Women’s Center received an interest from students on the issue.

        NEDA gave statistics in 1996 that showed “80 percent of American women were dissatisfied with their appearances.” A poll also by NEDA in 2000 said that men’s disappointment with body image has tripled in the past 30 years where 43 percent aren’t satisfied with their appearance.