This week is National Eating Disorders Awareness and the Fresno State Student Health Center will be holding an eating disorder screening day for students on Thursday to help spread the word and encourage students to seek help.
Sokun Terry Chhoeung, a senior kinesiology major, is aware of eating disorders. She has known others who have suffered from eating disorders, but also has gone through it herself.
“I used to be depressed often, which caused me to just not want to eat. I used to buy Panda Express on campus, take one bite, sit there and throw the whole box away,” Chhoeung said.
Chhoeung said she would start working out to use up her energy, and that by keeping busy and doing more productive activities – it helped her.
“I have no more problems eating,” she said. “Being productive with a positive mindset will distract one from losses or depression, once you use your energy, you will be hungry.”
Hearing about the health center offering a screening day for students, Chhoeung commented on the importance of the event.
“It is important and yes they should offer this for our college students because some may not know that they may have this problem,” Chhoeung said.
Jennifer Lombardi, marriage and family therapist and executive director of Eating Recovery Center of California, said research about eating disorders has grown over the last five years.
“We know that most people who struggle have preexisting anxiety and/or depression,” Lombardi said. “We also know that individuals with eating disorders have very common personality traits: harm avoidance and perfectionism to name only two.”
There can be many causes of an eating disorder. Lombardi mentioned that an eating disorder can develop due to someone’s genetics, cultural issues, family dynamics, personality traits, trauma, or loss.
Lombardi talked about why she believes awareness week is so important, especially for college students. Lombardi mentioned a 2006 National Eating Disorders Association study, that stated nearly 20 percent of college students struggle with an eating disorder. She also mentioned that eating disorders have the highest death rate compared to any other mental illness.
“Bringing awareness to the severity of eating disorders brings hope to anyone suffering in silence, and afraid to seek help,” Lombardi said.
Working in eating disorder treatment, Lombardi has personal reasons for why she chose to enter into the profession.
“Having recovered from anorexia 17 years ago, I know firsthand that treatment options were incredibly limited,” Lombardi said. “There were very few treatment centers at that time of my own personal struggle, and insurance often did not cover the cost of treatment. Fortunately, much of this has changed.”
Discussing screening day, Lombardi encourages students who may not know that they are suffering from an eating disorder to get checked.
“My best advice is to not wait,” Lombardi said. “The sooner the person can be assessed by a true eating disorder specialist, the better the chance for full recovery.”
In order to recover from an eating disorder, Lombardi said people need to follow in their treatment plans.
“Eating disorders are life-threatening illnesses that require intense medical, nutrition, and psychological treatment,” Lombardi said. “One of the most important components of treatment is that the person develops a close, supportive and honest relationship with someone,” Lombardi said. “This is important so that the person suffering can focus more upon the relationship with another person, rather than the relationship they have with their eating disorder.
The Department of Food Science and Nutrition dietetics program coordinator, Lisa Herzig, noted how important she believes proper nutrition is for people suffering from eating disorders.
“Nutrition is important because adequate calories and protein need to be calculated to prevent any long term loss of lean body mass,” Herzig said. “Anytime someone eats less than they require, they are compromising their nutritional health.”
Herzig also mentioned how an eating disorder can affect someone’s personal well-being. She said depending upon the severity, an eating disorder can cause dizziness, black-outs, significant weight loss, loss of muscle, bone loss, compromised immune system, organ failure, and even death.
For anyone seeking information, help or treatment for eating disorders should email email@example.com. You can also visit www.eatingrecoverycenterca.com or www.nationaleatingdisorders.org for more information.