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Fostering Healthy Body Image

College can be a stressful time for students, and sometimes they use food as a coping mechanism. Sometimes, a different schedule or menu can affect weight. 

It is not uncommon for students to gain or to lose weight. Determining if it is a problem requiring professional help can be tricky.

Warning signs of a more serious eating disorder:

  • Extreme weight loss or weight gain, necessitating new clothing to fit their new shape
  • Obsession with or rejection of food
  • Binge eating
  • Vomiting or purging after meals
  • Personality change

If you notice these warning signs, begin by asking, “Are you okay? You seem a little down (or stressed, or anxious, or different).” This might help open a dialogue about the issue.

  • Share your concern about changes in personality and mood, rather than appearance.
  • Suggest a doctor’s visit or counseling.

If you are more concerned, visit the Renfrew Center’s website (renfrew.org) for a therapist in your area who specializes in the treatment of eating disorders.

Cabrini’s Office of Counseling and Psychological Services can offer additional advice and resources.

  • Examine your own beliefs and behavior related to body image and weight and consider how others might interpret the messages they get from you.
  • Encourage healthy eating and exercise.
  • Talk about the variety of different body types and the fact that they can all be acceptable and healthy.
  • Discuss the danger of dieting, and that studies show people can actually gain more weight by restricting their calorie intake by too much.

DON’T:

  • Label foods as “good” or “bad”
  • Use food for rewards or punishments
  • Encourage dangerous dieting or over-exercising
  • Comment on weight or body types
  • Allow teasing or making fun of anyone based on physical characteristics including size

Cabrini offers free confidential counseling for all students.

  • To schedule an appointment, call 610.902.8561.

The Renfrew Center specializes in eating disorder treatment and education. 

  • For more information, visit renfrew.org or call 1.800.RENFREW.

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