The University’s Health Service and Counseling and Psychological Services offer a variety of resources for students dealing with issues such as stress management, sexual health and depression. And for students who may be dealing with eating disorders, there are more resources now available than in previous years.
To more actively promote healthy body images and lifestyles on campus, UHS established a new program called the Body Peace Corps earlier this year. Kellie Carbone, the program’s healthy eating and body image educator, said she believes students need to shift their perception of what a healthy body looks like.
“We want people to shift from a thin ideal to a healthy ideal,” Carbone said.
About 70 percent of students on campus have struggled with distorted dieting, calorie swapping or full-blown eating disorders, according to Carbone. She said she believes that it is University students’ tendency to strive for perfection in all aspects of their lives that causes many students to engage in disordered eating.
“Students are so used to being at the top of the class, but they come here and are one of many brilliant minds,” Carbone said.
Andrea Lawson, a social worker at CAPS who focuses on eating and body image concerns, wrote in an e-mail interview that about 15 percent of the total students who make use of CAPS express concern with eating and body issues.
Twenty-five percent of the University’s student body most likely suffers from some sort of eating disorder, Lawson wrote, the most common falling into the category of “Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified.” Bulimia Nervosa is the second most common disorder, affecting 1 to 3 percent of students here, she said.
CAPS doesn’t keep track of how University students compare to students at other universities, Lawson said.
Julie Stocks, a registered dietician at UHS, said about one-third of her patients struggle with some type of eating disorder. She said her patients aren’t confined to a certain group of the student body but come from all across the University’s many communities.
Stocks said she thinks there are some components of any group setting that may trigger an increase in eating disorders, but in reality it all boils down to whether a person has a predisposition for that type of condition.
“There are so many dynamics when looking at a group,” Stocks said. “There has to be some predisposition to it. There are biological components and peer pressure components.”
Lawson wrote that CAPS has many psychological services students can turn to if they suspect they are suffering from an eating disorder.
“Students can make an appointment with a CAPS counselor, or they could request an Eating Patterns Assessment — a special group of three sessions designed specifically to get a better understanding of the role of food, mood and exercise in the life of a student,” Lawson wrote.
Lawson also described another service at CAPS called Stories of Recovery, which is a support group for students working to overcome eating disorders and is led by professionals in the field.
In addition, staffers at CAPS and UHS work together to treat students who are struggling with eating disorders, as the doctors and registered dieticians at UHS collaborate with the counselors and social workers at CAPS to provide the best treatment plan for students, Stocks said.
And though there are many resources for students on campus to help them with these particular issues, Stocks said it is a little more difficult to treat college students than other patients. One of the most effective forms of treatment for people with eating disorders, Stocks said, is the Maudsley method, which relies on a family support system to help a patient through his or her condition.
“Students in college are generally farther away from their family,” Stocks said. “This makes it more of a challenge to treat students in a college setting.”
Some students were surprised by how many students on campus have or have had an eating disorder. LSA freshmen Megan Baker and Brennan Schiller said they haven’t seen a lot of issues with disordered eating on campus, but they have noticed students’ struggles to remain thin.
“I’ve noticed a lot of people are really conscientious, they’ll go work out right after they eat,” Schiller said.
Some studies have claimed that certain groups within a university contribute to increased levels of eating disorders on college campuses. These include a study published in February in Northwestern University’s research journal “Sex Roles,” which suggests that the sorority rush process leads to increased levels of eating disorders and body shame among college-aged women.
The study — called “Here’s Looking at You: Self-Objectification, Body Image Disturbance, and Sorority Rush” — focused on 127 freshman women at “a U.S. Midwestern university,” according to the study’s abstract. The women, some of who went through the process of rush and some who didn’t, took four online surveys about eating habits and self-esteem at four different times during and after the rush process.
The study found that women who went through the rush process responded more positively to the questions about disordered eating and body self-objectification, as compared to more negative responses from women who didn’t participate in rush.
Some University experts, however, are not convinced that this finding is entirely accurate.
Lawson wrote that she believes that eating concerns are an issue in any living community and that the Greek community should not be singled out.
“I think it’s important to reach out to the Greek community around body image and eating concerns, but it’s also important to reach out to all communities at (the University),” Lawson wrote. “Eating disorders affect men and women of all races, ethnicities, socio-economic classes and backgrounds, and aren’t bound to what or who we may think has one.”
LSA freshman Jill Clancy, who went through the recruitment process this semester, said though she never felt any pressure to feel thin or look a certain way, she said many girls are often conscious of their appearances.
“I hate to say this but some (sororities) do have the certain stereotype to be the blonde Barbie,” Clancy said. “I had a good rush experience, but I think a lot of it is about stereotypes.”