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Nutrition, Body Image and Disordered Eating

Questions and concerns about nutrition, body image and disordered eating are often on the minds of university students. These resources are intended as a starting point to help provide some answers. 

Concerns about diet, weight and attractiveness are prevalent among Stanford students. These concerns can lead to unhealthy preoccupations with body weight and eating, affecting self-esteem, well-being, and vitality. When preoccupations become serious, they can lead to significant health problems. Eating problems fall within a broad spectrum of eating-related feelings, attitudes, and behaviors.

Disordered eating is more common. Sometimes a person’s attitude toward food, weight, and their body leads to restrictive eating habits and/or rigid and excessive exercise, both of which can jeopardize health and well-being. 

Eating disorders are less common, but quite serious. These are the conditions known as anorexia nervosa and bulimia, which are clinical disorders that affect 3-4 percent of students, with the prevalence highest among young women

Struggling with eating problems can be painful and frightening. The first step to overcoming an eating problem is acknowledging that you have a problem. Often this can be the most difficult step. An important aspect of this is realizing that your eating behaviors and distressed feelings are impacting your food choices, as well as other aspects of your life.

The next step is to talk with professionals who are experienced in helping students who struggle with eating problems. Treatment can comprise many elements, including nutritional counseling, education, individual and/or group counseling, and, when needed, medical monitoring.

Proven approaches can effectively prevent, reduce, or stop troublesome behaviors while helping people develop new and positive ways of coping with underlying feelings.

If you or a friend needs additional support in making healthier choices, consider the following resources:

Services and Campus Resources

  • The Well-Being at Stanford nutritionist offers students assistance with nutrition, weight management, body image and disordered eating. Help includes educational activities, individual nutrition counseling, consultation and referral.
  • Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) is available for confidential assessment, therapy, medication management, and referrals for a range of nutritional, body image, and disordered eating concerns.
  • Medical Services at Vaden provides help with nutritional disorders, disordered eating, and their complications.
  • We will help determine if you should be evaluated by eating disorder specialists from Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. This team provides onsite medical and nutritional services for students who require intensive, ongoing medical care and monitoring. A referral from Vaden Health Center and Cardinal Care or private insurance is required for specialty consultations.
  • Workshops and Presentations
  • Academic Courses
  • Eating Disorders Program: Confidential assessment and psychotherapy for students under age 22
  • Eating Disorders Program: (Department of Psychiatry): Adult
  • Eating Disorders Research Program: Treatment studies for eating disorders; patients often recruited for free treatment.
  • Behavioral Medicine Laboratory: Research studies examining mental health promotion and prevention programs (e.g., body image, eating disorders).
  • The Well-Being at Stanford health library, located on the ground floor of Kingscote Gardens, carries books on body image, healthy eating, intuitive eating, prevention and treatment of eating disorders, and related topics to help you to thrive at Stanford. Students may borrow books for two-week, renewable loans.

 Online Resources

These sites investigate the relationship between the food we eat and good health. They also address how ineffective diets and body image disparagement can lead to serious health problems.

General Nutrition, Vegetarian Diets, Cooking Tips

Body Image and Disordered Eating

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