Colorado State University Health Network Offers Help for Eating Disorders

Eating Disorders Awareness Week is Feb 26-March 3.

Eating disorders are an increasingly common issue, in part due to doctored pictures in advertising that portray unnaturally proportioned, air-brushed, starved women and overly muscled men who create an unrealistic thin ideal.

According to The Body Project, most female models are thinner than 98 percent of American women. Some facts from the Media Awareness Network show that:
– Advertisers want us to feel badly about our bodies so that we’ll buy their products.
– Dieting is a big business. Americans spend $40-100 billion a year on weight-loss products.
– The cosmetics industry also is a $50-billion-a-year industry.

Not surprisingly, body dissatisfaction is rampant. More than two-thirds of American women are dissatisfied with their bodies and, on college campuses, 60-90 percent of women are dieting or trying to lose weight, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. However, eating disorders are not just a women’s issue; 10-18 percent of those with eating disorders are men. Unfortunately, it is common for young men to struggle with compulsive exercising, abusing supplements or steroids and undergoing cosmetic surgery as well.

“Yo-yo dieting, restrictive eating and eating disorders also carry health risks,” said Dr. Jane Higgins, family physician with the CSU Health Network. “These people are at risk of hypertension, increased cholesterol, kidney and heart problems, gastrointestinal problems and even death. In fact, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder. It is a slippery slope from frequent dieting to disordered eating to full-blown eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia.”

Concerns about body image, eating, calories and exercising can begin to interfere with day-to-day activities and relationships, added Helen Bowden, a licensed psychologist with the CSU Health Network Counseling Services. When these issues begin to consume more mental and physical energy than other activities or cause significant anxiety about one’s appearance or others’ perceptions, it is a sign that a person is struggling with a clinical eating disorder, even if they aren’t engaging in more extreme behaviors. People who think about food, weight, and appearance so much that it’s interfering with day-to-day life and well-being need to get help.

“There’s absolutely no shame in taking advantage of campus resources that you are already paying for with student fees,” Bowden said. “Treatment can make a big difference in breaking the power that this anxiety has over your lives and being able to experience more joy out of life. Imagine what would happen if instead of wasting time obsessing over body image and food, you funneled all of that energy into discovering your unique talents and strengths.”

CSU Health Network counseling services can be reached at 970-491-6053 and the network’s medical services, which includes a nutritionist, may be reached at 970-491-7121.