Nutrition and Healthy Eating

While college is a great time for students to learn to make healthy eating and lifestyle choices independently of family influences, it can also be a time that is difficult to navigate. Common concerns that can surface are negative body image, weight maintenance, proper nutrition for athletes, and eating disorders.

Body Image and Eating Issues

Do I have an eating disorder?

Eating disorders can appear in all types of people, male and female, overweight or skinny, athlete or non-athlete and can effect VMI cadets as easily as any other college in America. Eating disorders are non-discriminatory; what characterizes them is an unhealthy relationship with food, body weight, and self-perception. 

Eating disorders are not always just about food and body weight. Just as an individual may turn to anger to cover a more serious problem such as depression, a cadet  can use food as a coping mechanism to deal with difficult emotions or situations, or to help them re-gain control when feeling overwhelmed.

Continuum of Disordered Eating

 Healthy behavior begins at the top with healthy eating habits and step by step progress shows different levels of concern all the way into disordered eating habits and distorted body image:                                                                                                    eating   

Where do you fall along this continuum? What about your friends? If this chart has given you concern about any of your friends, please contact our office to set up a consultation.

3 Common Types of Eating Disorders

 There are three main categories of eating disorders: Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorder. 

Anorexia Nervosa (AN)

Anorexia is characterized by an intense fear of weight gain, a distortion of body image, a relentless pursuit of thinness as well as an unwillingness or inability to maintain a normal or healthy body weight. In females it presents with amenorrhea (absence of menstruation). A person who develops anorexia will often become obsessive about eating, food, and weight control. Frequently checking body weight, careful control of food portions, and food restrictions are common with this disorder. 

Often an individual with anorexia believes they are overweight, even though they may clearly appear poorly nourished or emaciated. There are different types within the subcategory of Anorexia, Restrictive Type and Binge-Eating/Purging type. These types refer to the way in which the individual consumes food when they do eat. 

Warning Signs of Anorexia:

Deliberate Food Restriction 

Fear of Gaining Weight 

Refusal to eat of incredibly restrictive eating

Continuous Dieting 

Compulsive Exercise 

Abnormal Weight Loss 

Sensitivity to Cold 

Amenorrhea or irregular menstruation in females 

Increased facial hair/body hair due to lack of protein in diet

Hair Loss (on scalp)

 

Bulimia Nervosa (BN)

Individuals struggling with bulimia have similar concerns to those struggling with anorexia. But unlike anorexia, people with bulimia often fall within the normal range for their age and weight. Bulimia is characterized by frequent and recurring cycles of binging (eating atypically large amounts of food) followed by a period of purging (vomiting, overuse of laxatives or diuretics). The purge phase of bulimia is often in hopes to compensate for the binge behavior, and to help the individual feel they have regained control. This cycle typically repeats several times within one week. 

As with any eating disorder, there is often another underlying psychological illness (e.g. depression, anxiety, and substance abuse) that accompanies bulimia nervosa. This behavior can have serious physical implication, including dental decay, gastrointestinal problems, and nutritional imbalances.

Warning Signs of Bulimia 

Preoccupation with Food 

Binge Eating ( secretive) 

Vomiting after bingeing 

Abuse of Laxatives, diuretics, and/or diet pills

Denial of Hunger  

Compulsive exercising 

Swollen salivary glands 

Broken blood vessels in the eyes (from purging) 

It is important to note, again, that individuals with bulimia may not appear to be under weight. In fact, they can range anywhere from overweight, normal weight, or underweight. For this reason, it can be more difficult to immediately identify bulimia in a friend or family member. 

Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

While BED is not yet recognized in the DSM-IV, it is proposed as a new addition to the DSM V. Binge Eating Disorder is characterized by insatiable cravings that can occur at any point during the day or night. Thebehavior is usually secretive and filled with shame for the individual. It is estimated that BED occurs in1 out of every 35 adults in the U.S, approximately 3-5% of women and 2% of men. 

It is also important to note that Binge Eating Disorder does not co-occur with Anorexia or Bulimia. In BED, the individual does not purge after bingeing, so individuals with this disorder are more likely to be overweight.  

Proposed Criteria for BED Diagnosis:  

  • Loss of control of amount eating.  
  • Distress over binge episode
  • Occurs at least 1 time per week for a 3 month period 

and,

  • Eating more rapidly than normal 
  • Eating until feeling uncomfortably full
  • Eating large amounts of food without feeling hungry
  • Eating alone due to embarrassment
  • Guilt after overeating.

It is important to note that obesity and BED are not the same situation. Obesity exists as a medical illness, while BED is a psychiatric disorder and simply being overweight does not mean you have BED.  

Related Resources on Eating Disorders

Information for parents, families, male and female resources on eating disorders, toolkits, general information, contacts for professional care. 
National Eating Disorders Association. Information & Referral Helpline 1.800.931.2237 

Education, support, and inspiration to sufferers of eating disorders.
Eating Disorder HOPE  

Information on Binge Eating Disorders
Binge Eating Disorder Association

Answers to common questions about eating disorders. 
Mental Health America - Eating Disorders

"About-Face" is dedicated to helping women and girls combat harmful media messages that have damaging affects on self-esteem and body image.
About-Face.Org  

Health and Nutrition

Nutrition information

 Health and nutrition are vitally linked. How and what you eat affects your energy level, your academic performance, and your long-term and short-term health. A positive relationship with food and your body is essential for your physical and mental well-being. Virginia Military Institute cadets list nutrition among the top health topics on their minds. Sports nutrition, body image, keeping weight in balance, eating problems - are a few of the key areas of interest.

Related Resources:

101 Health and Wellness Tips for College Students. 
RN Central 

Information on Healthy Living from skin care to mental health.
HealthyPeople.GOV

Online Self-Assessment
For concerns about food choices, weight fluctuations, or healthy eating for athletes, visit the infirmary. The physician will help navigate decisions about your health and nutrition. For concerns contact our office, 540-464-7667, or evaluate yourself by using our online Self-Assessment.