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Ten Tips for Managing an Eating Disorder at College

How to Rule at School

Manage an Eating Disorder in College


Whether you are off to college and out of the nest for the first time, or returning for another year of learning, it’s important that you have a plan to follow for the best chances of success. It’s not easy to cope with an eating disorder among all the other stresses in the life of a college student. Have a plan, and work it so that you can stay healthy and succeed.

#1 Counseling

Find a counselor on campus or near campus, and set up an appointment the first week of school. You’ll want to get started right, and transitions can be challenging for people in eating disorder recovery. Don’t forget that your eating habits will be affected by this change, and talking to a therapist or counselor can help you recognize your feelings and habits before they take hold. If you don’t have a counselor in mind, call the college and ask for the contact information for their counseling services center.

#2 Housing

When deciding on where to live during the school year, make sure to consider the influences you’ll experience in each of the different locations. Also, review the people you’ll be living with and assess their impact on your eating disorder recovery process. This will help you decide if dormitories, sorority housing, or off-campus housing are the right choice for you. Don’t be afraid to make a change if you find too much pressure or a lack of support in your living situation.

#3 Location

One of the factors that may affect your college campus is the location – is it in a big city or a small town? Somewhere in the middle? Based on the setting of your school, you may need to adapt different strategies. In a city, you’ll have a lot of choices and the high energy setting may affect your decision making. Know yourself and plan accordingly. A small town may give you the slower pace you need but it may also allow boredom to creep in. Take steps to prepare for the new environment, and pay attention to your reactions.

#4 Food

While you’ll have lots of food options, try to check out the quantity and quality of each location. Today, many menus for restaurants or the dining halls are online and you can plan ahead. Don’t forget to shop local grocery stores, as well as farmers markets, for additional options. Explore your preferences ahead of time to make sure you plan for success.

#5 Friends

If you will be reconnecting with friends on campus, review how they make you feel and how you act around them. Is this a healthy relationship where your choices will be encouraged and respected? If so, make plans to get together. If not, look into campus clubs and activities you can be a part of to make new friends.

#6 Medication

Ensure that if you take regular medication, that you understand how to refill your prescriptions. You may need to call in and transfer your prescription, or your doctor’s office may need to. You may want to consider asking your doctor to give you additional refills or samples in case there is a delay when you arrive at school. Or, ask your counselor (see #1) for advice in the best way to obtain your medication in your new location.

# 7 Support

It’s important to find local and specific support as you are working your plan to recover from an eating disorder. Check online for meetings of Overeaters Anonymous, Anorexics and Bulimics Anonymous and plan to attend soon after arriving at school. Check with the counseling center to see what kind of support groups they may have. Attend regularly to make sure you are able to have people who understand what you have been through and are going through.

#8 Connect

As you start your new college year, don’t forget to stay connected with your “at home” support network. Your parents, siblings and friends can help you deal with stress and provide an anchor during your time of change. Don’t forget your treatment team and doctors, either. Stay in touch with them and provide updates on your progress.

#9 Peer Pressure

Living with so many people your own age means that there’s bound to be peer pressure to fit in and participating in some things that aren’t for you — Have a plan for dealing with it as it arises. Try to surround yourself with positive people who make healthy choices and in that case, you may find that positive peer pressure helps you stay on track.

#10 Disclosure

Knowing who to tell about your eating disorder journey is a big decision. You don’t have to tell everyone, but you don’t have to keep it to yourself either. You may find that sharing your challenges with others helps them understand you better, or that it helps hold you accountable to taking care of yourself and staying on track. You may find that you aren’t alone, either, and having others with similar struggles may build your support network.

So make a plan, take all these factors into account and then stick to it! You will learn so much in college – about the world and about yourself! Click here for information on the Freshman Fifteen.

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