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Disordered Eating

What is Disordered Eating?

A focus on food, weight, shape, exercise, or calories that hijacks your day-to-day life.  Thoughts about food, calories, and your body image start to interfere with things such as your identity, self-image, relationships, schoolwork, athletics, extra-curricular activities, relationship with God, and ability to be fully present and engaged in life.

How can I tell if my relationship with food, my body, or exercise has become problematic?
  • You begin to develop “food rules” that are rigid.  Some examples include:
    • Never eating fats, sugar, carbs, etc.
    • Becoming distressed after eating “forbidden” foods/food groups
    • Eating only at certain times of day or eating the exact same meals daily
    • Persistent calorie counting
    • Becoming vegetarian, vegan, or gluten free for the purpose of weight loss
    • Engaging in chronic dieting behaviors
  • Thoughts about food become distracting.  You are trying to study or hang out with friends, and can’t help but think about food you just ate, food you are going to eat or are planning meals.
  • Weight fluctuations (or the thought of gaining weight) cause anxiety/panic. You believe that a change in your weight/shape will result in rejection, abandonment, or negative evaluation from family or peers.
  • You lose touch with hunger/fullness cues from your body, and rely on food rules to govern food choices. You frequently ignore your hunger/fullness cues and intentionally choose not to eat when you are hungry, or continue to eat despite feeling very full.
  • You begin to eat in secret, or experience a sense of shame around food.
  • Food is a ‘go-to’ in order to manage emotions.
  • You notice that how you feel about your body/body image is in constant flux, and can change suddenly based on emotional states.
  • You develop potentially problematic exercise behaviors and/or responses to exercise. Some examples include:
    • Engaging in a rigid exercise routine.
    • Becoming highly distressed if you are unable to exercise.
    • Exercising despite illness, academic, and/or social obligations.
  •  Friends or family members have expressed concern over your food/exercise behaviors, and that concern makes you feel angry or frustrated.
  • You use vomiting, laxatives, or an extreme exercise regimen in order to burn calories or ‘get rid’ of calories you feel guilty about consuming.

Why is this important?

Many eating disorders begin as dieting behavior.  Eating disorders can be life threatening, and are easier to treat if caught at the early stages.  The longer these thoughts and behaviors stay in place, the more difficult they are to address and change. 

Taking care of yoursefl
How to Support a Friend

Do NOT be the food police.  Do not address their food choices, or encourage them to eat more.  This will only cause them to cling to those behaviors or become defensive.

Do NOT express concern by commenting on weight/body shape, but rather other changes you have noticed.  For example: “I have noticed that you seem down lately” or “I feel worried for you because it seems like you don’t want to hang out as much, and you seem preoccupied”

Do listen compassionately and non-judgmentally.

Do offer to help connect them to additional support systems like the Counseling Center or Health Center.

Do pray for them, and pray for compassion, patience, and understanding for yourself.  Watching someone struggle is never easy, and supporting someone struggling with an eating disorder can feel scary or even frustrating at times.  It’s important to remember your role as a loving and compassionate listener, and not someone who needs to fix, solve, or change anything for them.

Counseling Center

What if these suggestions don’t work?

The Student Life Office and Counseling Services (Counseling Center) can help you get in touch with specialized help on or off campus. Individual counseling is available on campus in addition to support offered by staff in Campus Pastor’s office, Student Life and Residence Life. 

If you need immediate assistance, please call 911, the On Call RD at (805) 565-6273 or Westmont Public Safety at (805) 565-6222.

What if I feel like I might have an unhealthy relationship with food or my body?

On Campus include:

Student Life Office: Room 209 Kerrwood Hall, (805) 565-6028

Health Center (across the street from Van Kampen Hall), (805) 565-6164

Counseling Services (across the street from Van Kampen), (805) 565-6003

Campus Pastor’s Office: Clark B Cottage, (805) 565-6170

Your Resident Director

Off Campus

24 Hour Local and National Non-Emergency (non-911) Crisis Hotlines: Santa Barbara County Crisis Hotline: 211.

Female student reading

Additional Resources

Body and Soul: A Guide to Lasting Recovery from Compulsive Eating and Bulimia By Susan Meltsner

Surviving an Eating Disorder: Strategies for Families and Friends By Michele Siegel, Judith Brisman, and Margot Weinshel

The Thin Disguise: Understanding and Overcoming Anorexia & Bulimia By Deborah Newman, Harry Beverly, Frank Minirth, and Pam Vredevelt

The Woman Behind the Mirror: Finding Inward Satisfaction with Your Outward Appearance By Judith Couchman

200 Ways to Love the Body You Have By Marcia Germaine Hutchinson

Related Scriptures

Honoring God with Your Body: Romans 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

He Loves How You Are Made: Psalm 139