Jan 212009
Authors: Brian Anthony

In response to a National Eating Disorder Association survey that reported 20 percent of college students admitted to struggling with an eating disorder, health officials said that the college years pose some of the highest risks for disordered eating, exercise and body image.

Because there was no outpatient treatment center in Northern Colorado, La Luna, a Boulder eating disorder treatment center, opened a branch in Fort Collins in March 2008 and started seeing patients last fall.

Alex Heimann, the office manager for the Boulder office said, “(The Boulder center) is the only treatment center in the county and it became apparent that it was needed because of the high prevalence of eating disorders in the area.”

After seeing the success that the Boulder center had, Clinical Director of La Luna’s Fort Collins’ office Dr. Diana Hill said they opened the new branch because there was a “deficit of resources in Northern Colorado.”

The center treats all forms of disordered eating including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder, and Hill said La Luna tries to improve their patients through in-depth programs depending on the patient’s unique case.

She added that many of La Luna’s clients do not meet diagnostic criteria for the “textbook” categories of anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorders but “suffer greatly in their relationship with food, exercise, and their body.”

Hill attributed disordered eating among college-age people to the “Freshman 15” myth that assumes college students gain 15 or more pounds their freshman year.

“Research conducted at Tufts University and Washington University with almost 1,000 students has found that just because you come to college you are not guaranteed to gain 15 pounds,” she said. “Weight may fluctuate, but it does so in a much smaller range.”

Hill said, too, that there are other reasons for the growing problem, including the stress and significant changes in eating patterns when students start college. Extreme social pressures placed on body shape and weight, psychological and biological influences are among other factors.

Zak Pramik, a senior sports medicine major, said that he had never heard of the center but thought that if an individual were struggling with one of the disorders, “people would go if their friends brought them.”

The La Luna program is 11 hours a week, which consists of three three-hour sessions and an hour of nutrition therapy and individual therapy.

The sessions start on Monday and patients are able to participate in different therapeutic exercises, such as psychodrama, yoga, movement and art therapy.

Patients learn to live a healthier life and develop positive life skills and have the opportunity to support each other’s progress during group meetings.

Eating disorders are curable and Hill said, “At La Luna Center we believe that freedom from disordered eating is possible and that individuals can fully recover from their eating disorder.”

A free friends and family meeting is offered the first Tuesday of each month, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at La Luna.

Staff writer Brian Anthony can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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