Groups raise eating disorder awareness

Local and national groups have offered support and fight pro- disorder Web sites.

Tiff Clements

According to Boynton Health Service’s 2004 Student Health Survey, 1.74 percent of undergraduate and graduate students said they had been diagnosed with anorexia or bulimia in their lifetime.

That amounts to approximately 1,000 University students.

To mark National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, health care professionals and activists have organized events to raise awareness and support for those battling and recovering from eating disorders.

As part of the week, free eating disorder screenings were offered Thursday in Coffman Union. University Counseling and Consulting Services, Boynton and the Services for Teenagers At Risk Center for Eating Disorders teamed up to provide this free confidential service to University students.

The screening consisted of a roughly 30-question written test followed by a consultation with mental health professionals. Questions on the exam related to attitudes toward eating, exercise and food-related behaviors. Students then were taken into private consultation rooms to speak with mental health professionals about results where referrals for treatment were made if necessary.

This week Becky Henry, founder of Minnetonka-based Healthy Options for Personal Education Network, started a campaign to shut down pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia Web sites.

According to a statement against pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia Web sites from the National Eating Disorders Association, “These sites provide no useful information on treatment but instead encourage and falsely support those who, sadly, are ill but do not seek help.”

Henry said, “It’s like if someone were an alcoholic and a Web site was made saying we want to support you in continuing your alcoholism.”

Henry said the Web sites often are run by those suffering from these diseases and used as a way to support one another. Such sites offer tips on how to conceal eating disorders from parents and loved ones. They also contain dieting advice and tricks alongside images of emaciated men and women.

Kerri Boutelle, director of the Services for Teenagers At Risk Center for Eating Disorders, said health care professionals can see the impacts of these sites when patients come in for treatment.

“One of the scariest things on these Web sites is (information about) how to trick your professional; for example, how to come into the clinic and weigh more, but not actually eat more,” she said.

Third-year doctoral student Kevyn Ziemann works in an outpatient eating disorder treatment clinic off campus. He said these Web sites can hinder eating disorder patient recovery.

“These sites sometimes view eating disorders as a lifestyle trend rather than an illness,” he said.

“There are some sites that are more oriented toward recovery and they can be really positive in that regard,” he said.