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Eating disorder rates soaring high before spring break

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As students head back to school for winter semester, New Year's resolutions may be fading – but spring break looms near.

And according to a recent report from the University of Alabama, it's the prime time for eating disorders to flare up on college campuses across the nation.

Nutritionist Sheena Gregg, assistant director of health education and prevention at the U of A Student Health Center, said there are many reasons for the increase.

“This can be due to students wanting to prepare for spring break by engaging in extreme forms of diet and exercise, or feeling pressured to lose weight [gained] from the holidays,” Gregg said. “Diets are difficult to maintain, and in turn, many people develop dangerous eating habits, which can then lead to eating disorders.”

A critical time

According to research from the National Eating Disorders Association, conditions like anorexia and bulimia tend to begin between the ages of 18 and 21, which, for most people, represent the college years.

Pressure to slim down before spring break or losing weight gained during holiday festivities can lead to risky behaviors, said Kate Crawford, a counselor for Bradford health Services in Northport, Alabama.

“Stress is difficult because it will always be a trigger and will always be present in a person’s life,” Crawford said. “I think the awareness of one’s own stressors and triggers can be beneficial to stop the ‘automatic’ response to stress that people adopt, [like dieting].”

Students who are struggling with eating disorders should seek help through campus counseling resources or programs like Eating Disorders Anonymous, Gregg said.

“Treatment and recovery for eating disorders involves a team approach of mental health therapy or counseling, medical observation from a primary care physician or psychiatrist, and medical nutrition therapy provided by a registered dietitian,” she concluded.

Source: University of Alabama