There have been ample arguments suggesting why eating disorders occur, but fighting the illness is rarely discussed in depth. Linda Yarrow, assistant professor of human nutrition, discussed the topic of life after an eating disorder and tactics on how to handle the illness at Wednesday’s “Fighting the Beast Within” lecture.
Yarrow discussed how she personally dealt with two separate eating disorders, despite her status as a registered dietitian and a human nutrition professor. Her struggle with an eating disorder began when she started college.
“I had no idea about eating disorders, which is why I could justify not seeking help,” she said.
Yarrow began college at a healthy weight, but after her sorority sisters began dieting for an upcoming dance, she began to join in on the dieting and exercising. The way Yarrow went about the diet, however, was not healthy.
“I put myself on a 500 calorie a day diet,” Yarrow said. She later stopped eating at the dining hall because it proved to be “too much of a temptation,” so she began eating only out of her room. The consequence was losing 30 pounds that school year.
Yarrow then went through lifestyle changes. She married and transferred to K-State. Instead of dieting, Yarrow began to eat more out of loneliness and an outlet to make her feel better.
Loneliness is not the only trigger of eating disorders, however, Yarrow said. Some other triggers of eating disorders include depression, anger and sexual and physical abuse.
“Deal with your feelings first,” said Tim Underwood, psychology intern at Counseling Services. “You’re not going to get a hold of the food until you get a hold of your feelings.”
Feelings, Yarrow and Underwood said, are usually the underlying reasons why a person develops an eating disorder. TV shows like the “Biggest Loser” and “I Used To Be Fat” do not reinforce healthy eating either. Yarrow recounts a story from “I Used to be Fat” about a young man, who with the help of a trainer, lost 140 pounds in 90 days to get ready for college. This quick-fix encourages a person who may not have the same resources to take drastic, unhealthy approaches to lose weight, Yarrow said.
“It’s not dieting; it’s lifestyle change,” said Dianna Schalles, registered dietition at Lafene Health Center. “Gradual lifestyle changes that are realistic for a person and not looking at the number just on the scale.”
Health risks for eating disorders include heart disease, malnutrition, tooth decay and high blood pressure. Underwood emphasized that getting outside help besides counseling is very important.
“Get help from not just (Counseling Services) but also people you are close to,” Underwood said.
While Yarrow is still dealing with her compulsions, like obsessively counting calories and wanting to binge on food, she believes she is dealing with the illness and has not binged in five years.
Sensible Nutrition and Body Image Choices, the K-State peer education group, offers resources and support to anyone interested in more information on eating disorders and healthy eating. Their website is www.k-state.edu/lafene/SNAC
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