New eating disorder focus of lecture

Faculty and staff were encouraged to look for signs of orthorexia nervosa, an obsession with eating healthy that some consider a clinical disorder, in their students during the first event of Feed Your Body and Soul Week on Monday.

Orthorexia is a term used to describe an individual’s obsession with healthy eating that results in an unusually restrictive diet that damages the person’s health and impairs their lifestyle. It is not recognized as an official medical condition, said Kelsey Latimer, a university clinician. Some of the symptoms of orthorexia are changes in lifestyle to fit unusual eating habits, preoccupation with food, an emaciated look and being overly worried and concerned.

Latimer said it is essential to inform faculty and staff about orthorexia and other unusual eating behaviors since they have more access to students.

“When people come to see is almost always because (faculty and staff) has referred them,” Latimer said.

Latimer said orthorexia is similar to anorexia and bulimia, but unlike those eating disorders, it stems from a desire for eating healthy rather than an a negative body image.

Emily Haeussler, event speaker and registered dietitian, said a study that compared university students’ body perception to students at other Texas universities reported a much higher drive for thinness among university students. The study also reported university students scored high on asceticism toward food, a form of rigourous self-denial, she said.

Haeussler said the reason for the study’s findings may be because many of the students at the university can be considered members of a privileged population who tend to be overly concerned with safety and control.

Orthorexia is often associated with extreme popular diets like the raw food diet, Haeussler said. People who use this diet can only eat uncooked organic foods, and meat is not included in the diet.

Eric Wood, a university psychologist and outreach coordinator, said the discussion of orthorexia was one event of several outreach programs designed to promote a healthy lifestyle and a positive body image. The event was for faculty and staff and focused on recognizing orthorexia and other eating disorders in students and how to help them.

Wood said it is important to raise awareness since many people do not realize that getting involved with health food diets can turn into harmful behavior.

Haeussler said faculty could help students they suspect may have orthorexia by approaching them in a non-judgmental way and referring them to places on campus like the health center where they can seek help.

Karen Morgan, assistant dean of Campus Life in health promotion, said she feels eating disorders are a problem on all college campuses and raising awareness is an important factor in dealing with the problem.

“It’s just important to take a week out to raise awareness about it and about the resources people can go to on campus,” Morgan said.

According to a university e-mail update, senior dietetic students will provide free nutrition assessments starting Thursday and continue through next week.

Free Nutrition Assessments

When: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday

Where: Brown-Lupton University Union

When: 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. March 9 and 11

Where: Brown-Lupton Health Center

When: 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. March 10

Where: University Recreation Center