CONTACT: STEVE PARROTT
5 Old Capitol
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-0557; fax (319) 335-0558
UI to offer free eating disorders screening Feb. 24
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Do you or your friends exercise compulsively and
count calories in an effort to lose weight and be extremely thin? Does
your roommate run to the bathroom to throw up after a big meal? Is your
girlfriend always dieting and thinking about the food she eats? Once you
start eating, do you find that you are unable to stop? These behaviors
are all signs that you or your friend may have an eating disorder. Before
these illnesses get out of hand, learn how to get help. The University
of Iowa will join hundreds of colleges across the country in the second
National Eating Disorders Screening Program (NEDSP) during Eating Disorders
Awareness Week, Feb. 23-28. The UI will hold the free program Feb. 24
from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Student Health Service. All screenings are free
NEDSP is a public outreach effort designed to educate students about
the serious consequences of eating disorders and direct those in need toward
treatment. The program provides students with the opportunity to hear
an educational presentation on eating disorders, complete a screening questionnaire
and meet one-on-one with a health care professional. Those who show symptoms
of an eating disorder will be encouraged to make an appointment for a full
evaluation. "Each year we see students with advanced eating disorders
brought into the health center only after they have passed out while trying
to jog. Even then, lying in a hospital bed with a weak heartbeat and almost
no blood pressure, it often takes days for the students to admit they have
been eating practically nothing and exercising compulsively," said
Julie Gallagher, UI dietitian for Health Iowa/Student Health Service and
In order to reach as many students as possible, athletic departments,
sororities and other collegiate organizations will be encouraging members
to go to the screenings as a team or group activity. Students are also
encouraged to bring a friend if they are concerned about his or her eating
Eating disorders are illnesses that are associated with severe body
image distortion and an obsession with weight. Sufferers are terrified
of gaining weight and continue to diet, binge, or binge and purge even
as their mental and physical health deteriorate. In addition to depression
and substance abuse disorders, victims of eating disorders can also develop
heart problems, osteoporosis, and reproductive difficulties. Left unchecked,
eating disorders can kill.
"Many individuals who are vulnerable to developing an eating disorder
may start with a diet simply to improve self esteem, become more 'healthy'
or change their weight or body shape," Gallagher said. "As dieting
progresses, however, individuals may become increasingly more obsessed
with weight loss and less able to eat normally. For those who develop
an eating disorder, this can be the beginning of a downward spiral which
can have tragic medical and emotional consequences."
People with anorexia nervosa literally starve themselves by dramatically
restricting their caloric intake. Symptoms include significant weight
loss, loss of menstruation, dry skin, sallow complexion, and an intense
fear of gaining weight, even when underweight.
Bulimia nervosa is characterized by binge periods in which the sufferer
consumes an unusually large amount of food while feeling out of control
of his or her eating. As the binge ends, fear of weight gain causes the
person to purge, generally by vomiting, using laxatives or compulsively
exercising for hours. Bulimics often develop swelling of the feet, hands
and cheeks, and serious dental, throat and intestinal problems.
Binge eating disorder is similar to bulimia but without the purging
behavior. The binge eater sometimes eats enormous amounts of food very
quickly, even when not hungry, until he or she feels uncomfortably full.
Binge eaters often feel embarrassed by their inability to stop the binge.
NEDSP is sponsored nationally by a large number of eating disorders advocacy
groups as well as groups specifically interested in college students.
Those include American College Health Association, Association of University
and College Counseling Center Directors, National Collegiate Athletic Association
(NCAA) and National Panhellenic Conference. The program is funded nationally
by the McKnight Foundation with additional funding from Remuda Ranch, a
treatment center in Arizona for girls and women.