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Nutrition Counseling

Nutrition Counseling

Marissa Rudley, MS, RD, LD
Campus Dietitian
Student Health Clinic
831 Ash Street
Office 101
University of Idaho
Moscow, ID 83843
Phone: (208) 885-6717

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Eating Disorders

How to Help a Friend with an Eating Disorder

If you and others have observed behaviors in your friend or roommate that are suggestive of an eating disorder, you are in a position to help.

  • Make a plan to approach the person in a private place when there is no immediate stress and time to talk.

  • Present what you have observed and what your concerns are in a caring but straightforward way. Tell him or her that you are worried and want to help. (Friends who are too angry with the person to talk supportively should not be a part of this discussion.)

  • Give the person time to talk and encourage them to express their feelings. Ask clarifying questions. Listen carefully; accept what is said in a non-judgmental manner.

  • Do not argue about whether there is or is not a problem--power struggles are not helpful. Perhaps you can say, "I hear what you are saying and I hope you are right that this is not a problem, but I am still very worried about what I have seen and heard, and that is not going to go away."

  • Provide information about resources for treatment. Offer to go with the person and wait while they have their first appointment with a counselor, doctor, or nutritionist. Ask them to consider going for one appointment before they make a decision about ongoing treatment.

  • If you are concerned that the eating disorder is severe or life threatening, enlist the help of a doctor, therapist, counseling center, relative, friend, or roommate of the person before you intervene. Present a united and supportive front with others.

  • If the person denies the problem, becomes angry, or refuses treatment, understand that this is often part of the illness. Besides, they have a right to refuse treatment (unless their life is in danger). You may feel helpless, angry, and frustrated with them. You might say, "I know you can refuse to go for help, but that will not stop me from worrying about you or caring about you. I may bring this up again to you later, and maybe we can talk more about it then." Follow through on that and on any other promise you make.

  • Do not try to be a hero or a rescuer; you will probably be resented. If you do the best you can to help on several occasions and the person does not accept it, stop. Remind yourself you have done all it is reasonable to do. 

  • Eating disorders are usually not emergency situations. But, if the person is suicidal or otherwise in serious danger, GET PROFESSIONAL HELP IMMEDIATELY.

The above material was adapted from material produced by Dr. Herrin, Dr. Fishman, and Eating Disorder and Prevention, Inc.

What are Eating Disorders?

We all worry about food sometimes, overeat at holidays or skip a meal. In some people, the worry becomes extreme and they live in constant fear of food and fat, often struggling to hide eating patterns they cannot control. When this occurs, an Eating Disorder may result. Eating Disorders are extreme expressions of a range of weight and food issues experienced by both men and women. They include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and compulsive overeating. All are serious emotional problems that can have life-threatening consequences. For more information and understanding on eating disorders go to the Counseling and Testing Center page. Also available is an anonymous Online Screening to help you make a decision about getting professional assistance.

Signs and Symptoms

BE AWARE: A sufferer DOES NOT need to appear underweight or even "average" to suffer ANY of these signs and symptoms. Many men and women with Eating Disorders appear NOT to be underweight... it does not mean they suffer less or are in any less danger.


  • Dramatic weight loss in a relatively short period of time.
  • Wearing big or baggy clothes or dressing in layers to hide body shape and/or weight loss.
  • Obsession with weight and complaining of weight problems (even if "average" weight or thin).
  • Obsession with calories and fat content of foods.
  • Obsession with continuous exercise.
  • Frequent trips to the bathroom immediately following meals (sometimes accompanied with water running in the bathroom for a long period of time to hide the sound of vomiting).
  • Visible food restriction and self-starvation.
  • Visible bingeing and/or purging.
  • Use or hiding use of diet pills, laxatives, ipecac syrup (can cause immediate death!) or enemas.
  • Isolation. Fear of eating around and with others.
  • Unusual Food rituals such as shifting the food around on the plate to look eaten; cutting food into tiny pieces; making sure the fork avoids contact with the lips (using teeth to scrap food off the fork or spoon); chewing food and spitting it out, but not swallowing; dropping food into napkin on lap to later throw away.
  • Hiding food in strange places (closets, cabinets, suitcases, under the bed) to avoid eating (Anorexia) or to eat at a later time (Bulimia).
  • Flushing uneaten food down the toilet (can cause sewage problems).
  • Vague or secretive eating patterns.
  • Keeping a "food diary" or lists that consists of food and/or behaviors (ie., purging, restricting, calories consumed, exercise, etc.)
  • Pre-occupied thoughts of food, weight and cooking.
  • Visiting websites that promote unhealthy ways to lost weight
  • Reading books about weight loss and eating disorders.
  • Self-defeating statements after food consumption.
  • Hair loss. Pale or "grey" appearance to the skin.
  • Dizziness and headaches.
  • Frequent soar throats and/or swollen glands.
  • Low self-esteem. Feeling worthless. Often putting themselves down and complaining of being "too stupid" or "too fat" and saying they don't matter. Need for acceptance and approval from others.
  • Complaints of often feeling cold.
  • Low blood pressure.
  • Loss of menstrual cycle.
  • Constipation or incontinence.
  • Bruised or calluses knuckles; bloodshot or bleeding in the eyes; light bruising under the eyes and on the cheeks.
  • Perfectionistic personality.
  • Loss of sexual desire or promiscuous relations.
  • Mood swings. Depression. Fatigue.
  • Insomnia. Poor sleeping habits

Compulsive Overeating/Binge Eating Disorder

  • Fear of not being able to control eating, and while eating, not being able to stop.
  • Isolation. Fear of eating around and with others.
  • Chronic dieting on a variety of popular diet plans.
  • Holding the belief that life will be better if they can lose weight.
  • Hiding food in strange places (closets, cabinets, suitcases, under the bed) to eat at a later time.
  • Vague or secretive eating patterns.
  • Self-defeating statements after food consumption.
  • Blames failure in social and professional community on weight.
  • Holding the belief that food is their only friend.
  • Frequently out of breath after relatively light activities.
  • Excessive sweating and shortness of breath.
  • High blood pressure and/or cholesterol.
  • Leg and joint pain.
  • Weight gain.
  • Decreased mobility due to weight gain.
  • Loss of sexual desire or promiscuous relations.
  • Mood swings. Depression. Fatigue.
  • Insomnia. Poor Sleeping Habits.
The above information was adapted from

Useful Links

NEDA - National Eating Disorders Association

UI Counseling and Testing Center

Depression Screening

If you are struggling with depression, an eating disorder or alcohol, take this online assessment. More

Crisis Line 885-6716

The University of Idaho Counseling & Testing Center has an after-hours crisis line with counselors available to talk 24 hours a day. More