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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Eating disorder help available

    Jorge Alegria, an exchange student in the department of toxicology, uses an auto pipettor in the Pharmacy building while Jay Gandolfi, an assistant dean for research in the College of Pharmacy,  observes. The EPA granted the UA $1.75 million to fund a U.S. and Mexico Binational Center for Environmental Science and Toxicology.
    Jorge Alegria, an exchange student in the department of toxicology, uses an auto pipettor in the Pharmacy building while Jay Gandolfi, an assistant dean for research in the College of Pharmacy, observes. The EPA granted the UA $1.75 million to fund a U.S. and Mexico Binational Center for Environmental Science and Toxicology.

    Food and body issues are prevalent on the UA campus and are being addressed in ways ranging from guest lectures to modified meal choices at the student unions.

    Students who are concerned they might have an eating disorder or who simply want to learn more about issues like anorexia, bulimia and overeating can come to the eating disorder recovery showcase from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the UA Mall today.

    The showcase, which is being funded by the UA Women’s Resource Center, will feature art displays, music, skits and information from groups and organizations like the Mirasol treatment center, Campus Health Service, Anorexics and Bulimics Anonymous and Overeaters Anonymous, said Women’s Resource Center Director Leslie Marasco.

    Marasco said the showcase will be informative and serious but also upbeat, which is something many lectures and information sessions regarding eating disorders are not.

    Eating disorders dramatically affect the lives of many students and staff on the UA campus.

    Beth, whose full name is not being used because of the sensitivity of this issue, is a UA employee and member of Overeaters Anonymous. She said she will be attending the showcase to help inform others about a problem that has plagued her for 22 years of her life.

    Beth said she first started binge eating and purging, or forcing herself to throw up, when she was experiencing a lonely, frightening freshman year of college. Beth said although she realized she wasn’t treating herself right, she could not get away from her addiction to eating.

    “”I was not being honest with my food,”” Beth said. “”I was obsessed and addicted.””

    Beth described the extent of her addiction to food in a narrative she wrote about overeating, and the role OA has played in helping her recover.

    “”I became an expert at throwing up my food. I hid while I ate, and I stole food,”” Beth wrote. “”Who wants to go to the checkout with so many sweets? I focused on nothing but eating and ‘getting rid’ of the food for hours and days on end.””

    Beth said she finally turned to OA’s 12-step program, which is based on the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program, after she hit her “”bottom”” in 2001.

    Beth said on a beautiful November day she realized she had plenty of time to herself to do anything she wanted. But instead of going on a walk or doing something enjoyable, she stayed home and binged. This realization is what finally drove her to OA after years of wanting to get help, but not being able to accept it, Beth said.

    “”Nobody says, ‘I want to grow up and be on a 12-step program,'”” Beth said.

    Beth said OA uses sponsors, or recovered overeaters, and frequent meetings to help encourage and motivate members. There are no dues or fees to become a member and no religious alliances. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop eating compulsively.

    Kendra, whose full name is not being used because of the sensitivity of this issue, is a former UA student.

    She said that although she had an unhealthy attitude toward food her whole life, she didn’t start binging and purging until her late teens, when extreme personal problems drove her to overeat compulsively.

    After a breakup with her boyfriend and the death of her mother, Kendra’s already unhealthy attitude with food turned into a full-blown obsession with eating, she said.

    This obsession eventually led to her decision to leave the UA to get help.

    I became an expert at throwing up my food. I hid while I ate, and I stole food. Who wants to go to the checkout with so many sweets? I focused on nothing but eating and ‘getting rid’ of the food for hours and days on end.

    – Beth,
    UA employee and member of Overeaters Anonymous

    After having little success with dieting and attending therapy to help with her eating disorder, Kendra discovered an overeating program that motivated her to improve her eating habits.

    “”I had to have somebody who understood what I was going through,”” Kendra said.

    Kendra said going on a date, talking on the phone with a potential romantic interest or even thinking about a certain memory would often trigger her compulsive eating.

    Kendra warned that individuals who notice similar triggers may want to have their health evaluated, as they can be indicative an overeating problem.

    She said that sometimes she found herself going to measures as extreme as eating out of a garbage can to fulfill her cravings.

    “”I felt so ashamed about the food,”” Kendra said. “”I was terrified of myself.””

    Kendra said the overeating program made her realize that food itself was not what was driving her compulsion.

    “”My problem wasn’t food,”” Kendra said. “”It was my abusive past, or loss, or things I didn’t want to deal with. It made me irresponsible, it made me bitchy, and it made me not care about other people or myself.””

    Kendra said by continuing therapy and joining her overeating program, she has come to the realization that her problem was based on her low self-esteem and that she deserves much more than the harsh punishment she was inflicting on herself.

    I wasn’t used to asking for help. I was used to doing everything on my own.

    – Kendra,
    former UA student

    She said being able to reach out and share her past with people who can relate to her was difficult at first but has made a huge difference in her life.

    “”I wasn’t used to asking for help,”” Kendra said. “”I was used to doing everything on my own.””

    Services are available on campus for students who may need to address possible eating disorders and healthy lifestyles.

    The Counseling and Psychological Services program provides counseling for students who are struggling with eating disorders. Additional information about eating disorders and a “”Do I have a problem?”” self-evaluation are available on the Campus Health Web site as well.

    Victoria Christie, assistant director of dining services at the UA, said the student unions are doing their part to assist students in making healthy choices by making conscious efforts to improve the variety and nutrition of meal options.

    “”We’ve had the ‘Healthy Options’ brochure for quite a while, but we decided we needed to take a bigger stand than that,”” Christie said.

    Christie said the Dining Services Advisory Group, which is composed of students, staff and a registered dietician, was formed to help address student desires and needs.

    The group meets once a month to discuss issues and trends regarding healthy food. Currently, the group is working to make organic foods prevalent in the unions.

    “”People really want to see organics everywhere,”” Christie said.

    The IQ Fresh smoothie and wrap restaurant was developed by the members of dining services, who created the unique concept, idea and even menu recipes together about two years ago in an effort to introduce more healthy foods to the campus.

    Christie said students will see some healthy changes next semester, like a farmer’s market that will be on campus on Fridays starting next September and more additions to menus in the unions.

    Christie said options like vegan and whole-grain cakes at the Cactus Grill, and healthy tostadas at CafǸ Sonora have been successfully introduced.

    Students can be on the lookout for all the new vegan, vegetarian, whole grain and low-fat options at next year’s second annual “”Taste of the Student Union,”” which will take place early next semester.

    Christie said these changes are being made in response to today’s “”sophisticated”” and health-minded student, who demands healthy options.

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