Eating disorders: where to get help

Eating disorders: where to get help

Looking Forward: Campus Initiatives

Martha Mosley, a senior who has recovered from anorexia, is working with a friend, Natalie Parys, to create a support group for students in various stages of recovery.

Natalie, a junior political science major who is studying abroad in Spain, said the group is still developing while she is away for the semester.

“We want a place where people struggling with an eating disorder, or people who know someone struggling with an eating disorder can go and find encouragement,” she said in an email.

Martha said she hopes they will have a student organization by Fall 2013. In the meantime, she will host an informal meeting to ask students what they would like to see in the support group.

To reach a larger community, they have started a blog called Beyond Blessedto offer support and perspective for people struggling with eating disorders.

“It’s kind of crazy the outpouring we’ve been seeing lately,” Martha said, smiling.

People have been reading the blog and commenting anonymously on posts they find inspiring, Martha said.

The blog also has a list of resources and counselors to contact that come personally recommended.

“Either we’ve had specific experiences with them, or someone has had a specific experience with them,” Martha said.

Natalie struggled with an eating disorder on and off her whole life.

“I was a gymnast and I grew up in a family where weight was very important,” Natalie said.

For Martha, it all started with her not wanting to eat her lunch and realizing she could lose weight and that people noticed.

Dancing and gymnasts played a role, as did the media and her thin friends, she said.

Martha has a personal blog called Leaving Perfection Learning Grace, where she discusses her journey through recovery.

But Martha didn’t stop there.

This year, she partnered with the TCU Panhellenic Council and administrators, including Cavins-Tull, to bring speaker Lori Hansen to campus on Feb. 26 for National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

Lori Hansen is an inspirational speaker, who founded the company Learn2Balance. She struggled with bulimia from age 13 into her forties.

Hansen’s presentation for TCU was titled, “Behind the Whispers: The Secret Life of Eating Disorders.”

TCU Panhellenic chose body image as one of its community issues this year, counselor Shelly Long said.

The event was sponsored by the Panhellenic Council, but was open to all students, Martha said.

“As scary as it is, taking that first step is the best you could take,” Martha said. “More than we realize, there are people on campus who are suffering who think we don’t understand.”

The counseling center also hosts Feed Your Body and Soul Week. The next one is scheduled for the spring.

Feed your body and soul week is an opportunity for students to learn about wellness, for all aspects of their life, said Wood, a former coordinator for the week. Possible events could include a luncheon with staff development training, partnership with the rec center for an event, and an event in the BLUU.

One of the problems Wood sees is that students don’t know how to change their lifestyle in healthy ways. Then, bad habits form, and an eating disorder can develop.

“The main thing we found is that people wanted to get healthy and work out but didn’t know how,” Wood said.

That’s where the Feed Your Body and Soul week comes in.

“We can show them: these are healthy ways to reach your goals,” Wood said.

Last fall, around 800-900 people attended Feed Your Body and Soul, Wood said.

They also received support from student affairs, athletics, and the University Recreation Center for programming, and will partner again with them this year.

This partnership is important to teach students about overall wellness, Jay Iorizzo, University Recreation Center associate director of facilities said.

“We are working towards taking action steps to help individuals learn how to exercise correctly,” he said.

The rec center tries to have a health and wellness fair every semester, Iorizzo said. Sometimes, this fair is hosted in conjunction with Feed Your Body and Soul Week.

“We do really well in terms of people coming to this facility… but we can’t neglect the spiritual wellness,” he said.

The resources are available for students to learn how to live a healthy lifestyle, they just need to use them, Iorizzo said.

“The challenge is how to get that information to students,” he said.

National Resources

One of the most important things a friend can do to help someone with an eating disorder is to research, Martha said.

In the DFW area, the eating disorders program at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas can be a great resource. For more information, call 214-345-7355.

Students can call this number for more information about the Texas Health program, or to get a referral to a therapist or psychiatrist on their insurance plan, said Jim Harris, the program manager.

“The earlier you intervene the better and easier it is to recover,” he said. “Don’t wait until they hit rock bottom.”

Here are some good national resources MentorConnect Director Cutts recommended for information and support:

The National Association for Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (or ANAD) has a free helpline. You can call 630-577.1330 or email [email protected]

The National Eating Disorders Association (or NEDA) also has a free helpline, and a program called NEDA Navigators that helps people struggling and their families find resources.

Lastly, MentorConnect provides free non-medical support to men and women struggling with eating disorders or disordered eating, Cutts said.

The MentorConnect team will match a person with an eating disorder with a mentor to give them emotional support. The group is password protected and completely confidential, Cutts said.

“We can offer them confidentiality and that is very important in recovery,” she said.

Campus Resources

For students struggling with disordered eating, there are resources in the Counseling and Mental Health Testing Center, the Health Center, and with Watson, TCU’s new registered dietician.

“She is someone who is a go-between our Health Center and Counseling and Mental Health Center,” Cavins-Tull said. “From a structural perspective we have what students need here. If we need more I look to the students who help us define that.”

Watson said the first step is coming in and talking.

“You would come in and do a consult, where we would talk about your typical day, in terms of what you eat, drink, anything else you think is relevant, and we probably would talk about exercise too,” she said.

Next, Watson would work on developing a plan, and set goals for improved health. If the student hadn’t seen a physician, she would have them schedule an appointment. In addition, she would recommend the student see a counselor at the counseling center.

“If we feel like the student needs to be referred off campus… we help them with that process,” she said.

Watson started working with TCU students this fall, and said there has been a big response. Students have been using her services, and she has been working with Market Square and Sodexo on improving food services to accommodate all types of diets.

Watson said students should see her regularly if they need assistance, particularly to make sure that all food groups are being incorporated into their diet.

It’s not much of an adjustment to eat healthy, she said.

“You can take what you’re eating and modify it to make it more well- rounded,” Watson said.

Watson said cutting out food groups, like carbs, is not only unrealistic, but potentially harmful. She said students should work on incorporating all foods into their diet.

Student should check out to get advice on how to portion meals, she said.

“It’s a good resource to learn and understand what a healthy diet is.”

“It’s important to not be afraid to get help if you need it,” Watson said.

The counseling center has a list of resources, and while anyone in the counseling center is qualified, some counselors treat more eating cases than others.

Shelley Long is one of these counselors.

She was instrumental in helping senior Martha Moseley recover from anorexia.

“Had I not had Shelly’s personal assistance it would have been a very different story,” Martha said.

She understands that it can be overwhelming to look at a list of resources, and not know where to turn. Martha recommends seeing Long to make an action plan for recovery.

If the problem is too intense for the counseling center to handle alone, they will get outside help, Martha said. Her eating started when she was 10 years old, but she didn’t admit she had a problem until her sophomore year. She finally got help her junior year.

In addition to counseling center, Martha said she also relied on Campus Life, which acts as the go-between for the counselors, health center, and professors if classes start to conflict with treatment.

“There was a point where I couldn’t function well, and campus life was a huge resource,” Martha said.