Student Health Center

Eating Disorders

What are eating disorders?
Do I have a problem?
Where can I go to get help?
What do I do if a friend needs help?
Information for athletes

Eating Disorders

Losing weight is one thing. Losing perspective is another. Are you satisfied with your eating habits? Do you eat in secret? Do you constantly think about eating, weight and body size? Does the number on the scale determine whether you have a good or bad day? A number cannot change your life, but you can. You are not alone. Studies show 1 out of every 4 college-age students has some form of eating disorder.

What are eating disorders?

People with eating disorders use weight and dieting success as measures of their self-esteem. The person becomes trapped in a cycle that is difficult to change and as a result, they feel like a failure - ashamed, hopeless, and embarrassed. To add to this, although eating disorders are psychological in nature, they can lead to serious physical problems and even death. As a result, the person with an eating disorder lives a very secret life feeling that no one can understand their pain and frustration as they continue a vicious cycle of self-destructive behavior.


The physical symptoms of anorexia are easy to spot since they are obvious, centering on substantial weight loss. The extreme fear of weight gain overrides severe hunger pains and gives a feeling of self-control. There is a preoccupation with food but a refusal to eat. The body is denied essential nutrients that help it to function properly. Signs include dry skin and hair, cold hands and feet, weakness, menstrual problems, and may progress to include irregular heart rate, anemia and malnutrition.


This disorder is most common in college-age women. Bulimics can be hard to identify as they are usually of normal weight and shape. Bulimics eat large quantities of food in a short period of time (binge) and then attempt to "compensate" for their overeating through purging. Purging can take the form of self-induced vomiting, use of laxative, diuretics, enemas, diet pills, or fasting and excessive exercise. The person can purge using one method or may use a variety of techniques to purge. As a consequence, stress can be placed on digestive system and dehydration and ulcers may occur. Heart irregularities, dental problems and muscle weakness are other problems that may arise as a result of purging.

Binge Eating (Compulsive Overeating)

Usually people with this disorder have episodes of out of control eating without the purging. They tend to use food for comfort

Binge eaters often have a history of many failed diets and are often overweight. As their weight increases they may begin to suffer shortness of breath, high blood pressure and joint problems.

Do I have a problem?

Many people go on diets or overeat once in a while. These questions are designed to help examine your attitudes about your body and your relationship with food.

  • Do you feel guilty after eating?
  • Do you weigh yourself frequently?
  • Are you exercising excessively to lose weight?
  • Do you constantly think about your physical appearance and weight?
  • Do you feel that food or thoughts of food control your life?
  • Do you eat meals in secret?
  • Do you feel the need to vomit or exercise after eating?
  • Do you use laxatives, diuretics (water pills) or diet pills to help you keep weight off?
  • If you are a female, are your menstrual periods infrequent or absent?

If you answered "yes" to any of the above questions, it may be that your eating habits are making you sick and preventing you from enjoying life here at RIT. It may be time for you to make some changes.

Where can I go to get help?

Eating disorders are treated with both medical care and counseling. Early help is important to avoid long-term health problems. Knowing that you have an eating problem is the key to getting better. Asking for help may be difficult, but it is a very necessary step toward recovery. There are people who understand and care.
On-campus resources:

Student Health Center
Call to schedule an appointment at 585-475-2255.
Information, evaluation, medical screening, referral and nutrition counseling are available.

Donna Rubin
Assistant Vice President for Student Wellness or call to schedule an appointment at 585-475-6402.

An eating disorder group is offered jointly and is facilitated by staff from both Student Health and Student Wellness. These services to students are confidential.

Web resources:

What do I do if a friend needs help? (back to the top)

People who are struggling with an eating disorder need professional help. The sooner treatment is started, the greater the likelihood of physical and emotional recovery. Some suggestions on how to confront the person in a caring manner include:

  • Plan your discussion before you begin. Choose a time when you are not likely to be interrupted and outline the major points you want to make.
  • Be simple and direct as you speak. Focus your concerns on the person's health, not on their weight or appearance.
  • Convey that your discussion is only an initial step; there are understanding professionals who can help.
  • If the person resists help or denies the problem, they may not be ready to admit they have a problem. You cannot force anyone to seek or accept help. Do not take their refusal to get help personally, and try to end the conversation in such a way that you could bring up the subject at another time.
  • Know your limits. Do not take on the role of therapist or food police - it is a difficult, thankless and frustrating job
  • Get support for yourself. Being a friend, roommate or significant other can be stressful. It is important to take care of yourself!

As an athlete I occasionally need to get to a certain weight quickly. How do I do this safely?

Fad or crash diets sap your body of important nutrients and strength. Expensive protein powders and supplements are not a short cut and may cause serious health effects. These diets can make you more prone to injury and decreased performance as percentage of body fat reduces through improper eating or excessive exercise. As the weight loss progresses, more severe problems may develop such as stress fracture, chemical imbalances, and weakness of the heart muscle. Most athletes do not realize what they are doing to their bodies until performance suffers or serious health consequences arise. Some athletes either need to slim down or bulk-up during their career here at RIT. On-campus resources are available at SHC to achieve this goal in a safe and healthy manner.


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