By Grace Poole
Eating disorders among college students are on the rise, according to campus counselors.
While no statistics are available on the number of Trevecca students who report having an eating disorder, counselors on campus say information and resources are necessary.
National Eating Disorder Awareness Week was Feb. 27 through March 5 and Trevecca counselors said increased mental health concerns among college students almost always mean an increase in eating disorders.
“I think whenever you see a cultural rise in mental issues, eating disorders are going to track with that,” said Samantha Carter-Orbke, team lead at the Renfrew Center.
The Renfrew Center is an eating disorder recovery center located in Brentwood and is one of the resources Trevecca counselors provide for students to consider using.
Eating disorders are often a result of emotional avoidance. Eating disorder behaviors can assist in managing feelings of anxiety, depression and more. This is why Covid-19 was a major factor in the rise.
Mental health contributes to eating disorders and it is very rare to see an eating disorder case standing alone, said Carter-Orbke.
Four main types of eating disorders are Anorexia Nervosa, Binge Eating disorder, Bulimia, and Orthorexia, said Abby Cressman, Trevecca’s campus dietitian. Eating disorders can include emotional, behavioral, and physical signs.
Emotional signs can include preoccupation with weight, food, diets or body shape size. Behavioral can look like different habits regarding eating, or exercising. Physical signs and symptoms can be fluctuating weight or lowered energy and mental performance.
Eating disorders affect all systems of the body, more seriously, the cardiovascular system. Decrease in mental performance and energy are also common effects of eating disorders, said Cressman.
Other eating disorder symptoms and behaviors are binging or restricting food, decline in mental health and physical health.
“Food is fuel, with no food your body is doing all these things it can to survive and they can deteriorate your body in order to preserve life,” said Cressman.
Cressman said talking to a doctor, and/or a counselor is the best place to go first when seeking help. The Renfrew Center, an eating disorder recovery center is also another place to start.
The Renfrew Center has resources for both inpatient and outpatient recovery needs and accepts over 400 types of insurance.
Cressman says preventing eating disorders is important, and a way to do this is by avoiding weight and body image conversations, or commenting on someone else’s appearance. Removing social pressures will not completely remove the threat of eating disorders, but will allow others to feel more safe in spaces, she said.
Giving grace and understanding to yourself or someone around who is struggling with an eating disorder is crucial to the healing process, said Cressman. It is also important to not talk about body image or food related topics.
“Our bodies do so much more than take up space, and we are allowed to take up space,” said Cressman.