From Personal Counseling

Do you exercise compulsively, even when you are tired or sick? Do you avoid eating around other people, watch every mouthful or just feel so bad about how you look that you can’t enjoy life?

If so, you may find it helpful to talk to counselors at the University of St. Thomas Personal Counseling Center, who will be offering screenings for eating disorders and information on how to stop letting food, weight and calories control your life. A brief program and the screenings will be held from noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 15, in the Commuter Student Lounge in the lower level of Murray-Herrick Campus Center.

"Our overriding message to students is that people come in a broad range of shapes and sizes and that the most important thing is how you feel inside,” said Dr. Colette Kuhn, a psychologist at the UST Personal Counseling Center. “It is a shame when the excitement of the college experience is overshadowed by calorie counting, compulsive exercising and worry about clothing size."

Of particular concern for counselors is the prevalence of bulimia nervosa, an eating disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of binge-eating followed by purging, dissatisfaction with body shape and size, and fear of gaining weight. Studies indicate that bulimia may be as high as 15 percent in college-aged women.

Other eating disorders include anorexia nervosa and binge-eating disorder. Anorexia involves self-starvation and an intense fear of gaining weight. Binge-eating disorder is characterized by recurrent binges when the person eats a large amount of food at one sitting while feeling out of control. In contrast to bulimia, binge-eaters do not purge their body of the food.

But counselors emphasize that even those who do not have a diagnosable eating disorder can benefit from this program. Food concerns, body dissatisfaction and low self-esteem can keep a student from achieving at school or sports and hinders social activities like dating or being with friends. The good news is that life does not have to be this way.

"If the number on the scale determines whether or not you have a bad day, we can help you learn how to refocus that energy onto other things. You can free yourself, and we are here to help you learn how," Kuhn said.

This program is being offered as part of the National Eating Disorders Screening Program (NEDSP), a national nonprofit program being held at some 1500 sites in conjunction with Eating Disorders Awareness Week. NEDSP is funded primarily through a grant from the McKnight Foundation in Minneapolis.