Eating and Body Image Concerns

The Counseling Center staff provides short term therapy (up to eight sessions per semester) for those struggling with eating and body image issues.  For those with an eating disorder, we offer a multidisciplinary approach comprised of physician, nutritionist and therapist interventions. If you are in need of long term counseling, we would be happy to provide referrals to off campus therapists that specialize in the treatment of eating disorders.

Purple Flower 2310KEating Issues 

An eating disorder is an illness in which there is a compulsion to eat or restrict eating.  It is helpful to think of eating disorders as variations from a normal relationship with food ranging from chronic dieting to anorexia.  On the other hand, a healthy relationship with food would be someone who eats when they are hungry and stops when they are full. 

There are four common types of eating disorders as defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition, text revision (DSM IV-TR1):

Anorexia Nervosa 

  • Refusal to maintain body weight at or above a minimally normal weight for age and height: Weight loss leading to maintenance of body weight <85% of that expected or failure to make expected weight gain during period of growth, leading to body weight less than 85% of that expected.
  • Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, even though under weight.
  • Disturbance in the way one's body weight or shape are experienced, undue influence of body weight or shape on self evaluation, or denial of the seriousness of the current low body weight.
  • Amenorrhea (at least three consecutive cycles) in postmenarchal girls and women. Amenorrhea is defined as periods occurring only following hormone (e.g., estrogen) administration.   

Bulimia Nervosa

  • Recurrent episodes of binge eating characterized by both:
    • Eating, in a discrete period of time (e.g., within any 2-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat during a similar period of time and under similar circumstances
    • A sense of lack of control over eating during the episode, defined by a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much one is eating
  • Recurrent inappropriate compensatory behavior to prevent weight gain
  • Self-induced vomiting
  • Misuse of laxatives, diuretics, enemas, or other medications
  • Fasting
  • Excessive exercise
  • The binge eating and inappropriate compensatory behavior both occur, on average, at least twice a week for 3 months.
  • Self evaluation is unduly influenced by body shape and weight.
  • The disturbance does not occur exclusively during episodes of anorexia nervosa

Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified

  • Eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS) includes disorders of eating that do not meet the criteria for any specific eating disorder.
  • For female patients, all of the criteria for anorexia nervosa are met except that the patient has regular menses.
  • All of the criteria for anorexia nervosa are met except that, despite significant weight loss, the patient's current weight is in the normal range.
  • All of the criteria for bulimia nervosa are met except that the binge eating and inappropriate compensatory mechanisms occur less than twice a week or for less than 3 months.
  • The patient has normal body weight and regularly uses inappropriate compensatory behavior after eating small amounts of food (e.g., self-induced vomiting after consuming two cookies).
  • Repeatedly chewing and spitting out, but not swallowing, large amounts of food.

Binge Eating Disorder

  • Binge-eating disorder is recurrent episodes of binge eating in the absence of regular inappropriate compensatory behavior characteristic of bulimia nervosa.

Body Concerns

Western society is obsessed with having a very narrowly defined perfect body and Westmont students are not exempt from these unrealistic standards. Some of the symptoms of a distorted body image include:

  • Obsessing about food, weight and exercise either in private or in public.
  • Spending a lot of time looking in the mirror and thinking about flaws about your body.
  • Frequent weighing and  judging self by a number on the scale.
  • Not participating in an activity because you are self-conscious about  how you think you might look
  • Refraining from wearing certain clothing ( e.g. bathing suits, shorts, skirts, short  sleeves)  because of self consciousness.
  • Thinking or talking about the flaws in your body.