How to Cope with an Eating Disorder in College

Four Methods:Seeking HelpAdjusting to College LifeManaging Food DifficultiesMaintaining a Healthy Sense of Self

College can be a wonderful experience, but if you have an eating disorder, it can be difficult and scary. You don’t have to let your eating disorder stop you from having a positive college experience. You need a strong support system and to learn how to manage your routine. It will also help to surround yourself with positive people and know how to face potentially triggering situations. You can effectively manage your eating disorder while in college so you can stay healthy and succeed.

Method 1
Seeking Help

  1. Image titled Know when to Get Mental Health Counseling Step 6
    Find a counselor. College can be a very stressful time in your life. As soon as you go to college, look into finding a counselor to help you through this transition. Moving to a new place, meeting new people, and being in a completely new situation can lead to a lot of stress. This stress may cause you to fall back into destructive habits or make bad choices. [1]
    • Meeting with a counselor as soon as you can can help give you the support you need to overcome temptation.
    • If you set up a counselor early, you may have a better chance of adjusting to college without any unhealthy eating habits.
    • Talk to your current counselor about a referral to a counselor near your campus. You can also contact the campus counseling center to find a counselor.
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    Go to a support group. Joining a support group near your campus may be a good idea. This can provide you with a safe space to meet with other people with eating disorders. You can go to this group on a regular basis to help stay on track, or you can go when things get hard and you find yourself struggling. [2]
    • You can search for groups like Overeaters Anonymous or Anorexics and Bulimics Anonymous in your area.
    • Search online for support groups or talk to your campus counseling center. Many colleges don’t have on-campus resources available, but local hospitals or clinics may have groups you can join.
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    Maintain contact with your support network. Just because you go to college doesn’t mean you should lose touch with everyone at home. It is important that you stay in contact with your support network of family and friends. Set up times to talk on the phone or via Skype, make plans to see each other in person, and ask them if you can call them if you need support. [3]
    • You should also continue to see and update your medical treatment team. Maintain appointments as often as you can.
    • Tell your family or friends, "I would like to call you if things get difficult for me at college" or "Can we have weekly Skype dates so we can stay in touch?"
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    Choose who to tell carefully. When you make the decision to tell others about your eating disorder, do so carefully. Think about why you want to tell this person and if that person is trustworthy. You want to share your eating disorder so you can find support and be able to talk about your struggles, so you want positive people knowing. [4]
    • If you have a new, positive group of friends, you may want to tell them so you can share your difficulties with them and get them to help you be accountable. They may be able to support you in tough times.
    • Refrain from telling people who will not understand, make you feel bad about yourself, or encourage you to participate in unhealthy behavior.
    • When you finally tell your friends, start by saying, "I have an eating disorder. I want you to know because I trust you and want to be myself around you."
  5. Image titled Start Using Accutane Step 5
    Consider regular check-ins. If you have been doing well with your eating disorder recovery, you want to make sure you keep up with your progress. You may think that you are doing okay and not realize that you are accidentally falling into unhealthy habits until it’s too late. Consider setting up regular check-ins with counselors, dietitians, or health care professionals. This can help you notice any changes before they become too serious. [5]
    • For example, you may be eating enough calories, only exercising during your PE class, studying, and socializing with your new group of friends. You may be limiting your portions in the dining hall and not purging. However, your weight or health may be fluctuating without you knowing.
    • Stress can cause health changes that may negatively affect you.
    • Setting up regular check-ins with your treatment team, or a local counseling center, can help you stay healthy and on a regular routine.
    • Any weight and health changes may cause a relapse, which can lead to severe negative consequences.

Method 2
Adjusting to College Life

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    Prioritize your recovery. Since your focus will be on your studies and other aspects of your college experience, your recovery may not be your main priority. However, you should keep your recovery as your first priority. Keeping yourself healthy will lead to better performance in your classes and an overall healthier, more positive experience. [6]
    • Maintain your mealtimes and healthy food choices. Manage your food consumption as you did before you went to college. You may need to make sure you eat enough calories or limit your portions.
    • Continue any treatments agreed upon by you and your treatment team.
    • See your counselor or call your doctor if things start to get too difficult for you to handle.
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    Choose the right type of housing. Moving to college gives you freedom to live in environments you’ve never experienced before. This can be very exciting, but if you have an eating disorder, it may present problems. You should think about your eating habits, your triggers, and your eating routines as you decide where to live. [7]
    • Most colleges offer dorm living. You may also have the option of living off-campus or in campus apartments, or even living in a sorority or fraternity house. Decide how each of these will impact your eating routine and management.
    • Dorms usually don't have an easy way to cook your own meals, but you can eat at the dining hall or in the student center. Off-campus living allows you to be able to cook your own meals, but it may be easy to skip meals, purge, or binge eat.
    • Sorority or fraternity living and dorms put you around people that may make it easier for you stay on a regular schedule and refrain from purging.
    • College housing may put you in contact with people who diet, drink alcohol, or have unhealthy eating habits. Make sure to adopt healthy habits for yourself.
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    Pick your friends wisely. A large part of the college experience is socializing. You will be hanging out with old friends and making new friends while you are there. You need to make sure that you end up with friends who respect your situation and your choices. Find friends who make you feel good about yourself, your body, and your self-esteem. [8]
    • There may be people you interact with in college who make you feel like you need to stop eating to change yourself, or that stress you out until you want to binge eat. If you find yourself with these people, distance yourself.
    • You may be pressured into doing things to fit in, which may be harmful to your progress. You should be prepared for these situations. Come up with a mantra or technique to avoid temptation if it arises.
    • Take a friend with you to parties or other situations where you think you may face peer pressure. Having a trusted friend with you can help give you support so you can make healthy choices.
    • Make positive, healthy friends who don’t put you in situations where you are tempted or may participate in unhealthy behavior. Join a club or try new activity where you can meet people. For example, if you like writing, join the school paper.
  4. Image titled Help a Friend Who Has an Eating Disorder Step 1
    Identify your triggers. One way to keep yourself healthy and safe is to be able to identify your triggers. Make a list of what triggers your into unhealthy eating habits. This might be stressors, certain feelings, or situations. Just being able to know your triggers is one step in dealing with them. [9]
    • Avoid the triggers you are able to. This might be unhealthy social situations or certain activities.
    • For example, you may end up in a group of friends who decide to go on a strict diet and start working out to get ready for summer. This may trigger you. To cope, you can tell your friends that talking about those things triggers your eating disorder and you would appreciate it if they did not talk about it around you. You may distance yourself from these friends and spend time with friends who don't do things that trigger you.
    • For those things you can’t avoid, like class, exams, or people, you should figure out how to cope with those things. For example, you may come up with a semester organizational plan to help you manage your time, or interact with people in small groups at campus activities instead of parties.
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    Have fun. Just because you have an eating disorder doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your college experience. You should enjoy yourself by making friends, trying new things, and participating in activities. Do things that make you happy and try not to focus on food and your appearance all the time. Instead, stay positive about your progress, your schoolwork, and your activities. [10]
    • For example, join clubs and campus organizations, take yoga classes through the college, read new books, go to movies and concerts with friends, and go hiking with a group.

Method 3
Managing Food Difficulties

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    Determine the best meal plan. College puts you in charge of all your meals. You can buy a meal plan through the college dining hall if you don't want to cook for yourself. Most campuses also have an option to place money on a card to be used in student center food areas.
    • Many dining hall meal plans gives you open access to all dining hall food. If you are struggling with overeating or a food addiction, this may be too much for you. You may do better with putting money on your card so you can choose what food you want and be charged for those items, which limits how much you eat.
    • If you are dealing with anorexia, a dining hall may provide many different choices. You may be able to find something that you want to eat more easily.
    • Find out what healthy options your college dining hall and student centers offer. Many campuses offer salads, pasta bars, sandwich stations, and a variety of fruits and vegetables.
    • If the dorm has a stove, oven, and refrigerator, or you live in off-campus housing, you may decide to cook your own meals to maintain your eating habits.
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    Explore nearby food options. The dining hall is not the only source of food while you are at college. You can look into local restaurants or food trucks. Buy food at grocery stores. You can also visit local farmer’s markets. Decide what your needs are and what is available to you. [11]
    • You may also want to prepare for any temptation or trigger foods. For example, if you know there are three donut shops in town, you show be aware of this and avoid them.
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    Regulate your meals. Depending on your eating disorder, you may need to make sure you eat every meal or make sure you don’t eat too much between meals. Finding a way to regulate your eating can help reduce stress. This can help you keep your focus on the college experience instead of food. [12]
    • For example, during high stress times, like exam times, make sure you are scheduling breaks so that you can eat and not skipping meals. During times of stress and when doing important coursework, it’s important to keep your energy and nutrition up.
    • Make yourself contained, healthy study snacks. If you splurge on junk food, do it in small doses. For example, have one serving of ice cream or potato chips instead of the whole container or bag. Take a break to eat so you can pay attention and enjoy the food. Don’t mindlessly snack so that you overeat.

Method 4
Maintaining a Healthy Sense of Self

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    Focus on your positive characteristics. Don’t place all your worth in your appearance. Instead, think about the things that make you interesting and unique that don’t have to do with how you look. This can help lessen the need to control your eating or over-exercise. [13]
    • Make a list of your positive attributes. This may be your sense of humor, your intelligence, or your caring nature. List things you are good at, like sewing, painting, or photography.
    • Keep this list with you. When you start feeling down, read the list to remind yourself that you have worth outside of your appearance.
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    Don’t isolate yourself. One of the worst things you can do with your eating disorder in college is to isolate yourself. It may be easy for you to just go to class and not interact with others. This may lead to skipping meals or binge eating in private, along with obsessive exercise behavior like hours in the gym. [14]
    • Join campus activities, make friends, or study in the student center. Go to the dining hall and sit with people from one of your classes.
    • If you find that you are isolating yourself, go to a support group.
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    Seek healthy activity. Many people with eating disorders exercise obsessively, and college offers that opportunity. It may be easy for you to spend hours in the gym without anyone noticing. However, try to avoid isolating behaviors.. [15]
    • For example, use your walk between classes as daily activity.
    • Take a physical education class. Choose an activity that you’ve never tried, like dance or tennis.
    • Join an intramural sports team.
  4. Image titled Create Study Guides Step 8
    Avoid letting the media get to you. The media has a negative effect on those with eating disorders because they present an unrealistic version of the way a body should look. Work on accepting that the people you see on television, in the movies, and in the news are not realistic. Don’t hold yourself to those same standards. [16]
    • Remember that many women and men in magazines have been photoshopped or photographed in certain ways to make them look “perfect.” What you see isn’t always the truth of what the person looks like.
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    Deal with a relapse. If you have started to relapse, you should try to figure out what has caused the relapse. Is it school stresses? Did you just have a big exam or paper due? Is it due to social pressures? Figuring out what has caused a relapse can help you deal with or remove the source, and then get back on track. [17]
    • A small relapse is not the end of the world. Face your relapse, try to fix any problems that caused it, and then get back on your routine.
    • Try not to stress too much about relapsing because that could cause additional, unneeded stress.
    • Relapses can happen during eating disorder recovery. It doesn’t mean you are a failure or that you will never be better. Everyone has trouble from time to time. If you relapse, try to learn from it. Think about what you could have done differently and how you can more positively react to the same situation in the future.
    • Remember that you should take your recovery one step at a time.

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Categories: Campus Life | Eating Disorders