Body Image & Eating Concerns

There are a variety of eating, nutrition, body image, and exercise issues that negatively impact college students. These may include obsessions, compulsions, and preoccupations with food, body image, exercise, or weight. Poor body image could become a vulnerability to developing disordered eating, so it is important to assess. Disordered eating is more intense than just dieting and counting calories. It can result in significant physical and mental health concerns and often requires extensive treatment. However, even if you do not have a diagnosed eating disorder, you may be able to benefit from a healthier relationship with food and exercise.

If you are at all concerned about your feelings and/or behaviors around food and/or your body, please reach out to CAPS. One of our clinicians will provide you with safe space to talk about your experiences with food and your body. If you are concerned for a friend’s eating habits, exercise habits or negative body talk, you may submit a student of concern form, talk to your RA, or talk to a Dean.

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  • Symptoms of Eating Concerns
    • Significantly low body weight but sees oneself as overweight
    • Compulsion to exercise to lose weight, despite being in healthy range
    • Significant guilt for not exercising or for overeating, and using exercise as a punishment
    • Uncontrollably eating a larger than normal amount of food and experiencing guilt or shame afterwards
    • Unrealistic body image distortion and excessively negative body dissatisfaction
    • Weight loss through self-induced vomiting, laxatives, enemas, or excessive exercise
  • Tips for Mindful Eating
    • Shift Out of Autopilot Eating: What did you have for breakfast? Be honest. Many people eat the same thing day in and day out. Notice whether you are stuck in any kind of rut or routine.
    • Take Mindful Bites: Did you ever eat an entire plate of food and not taste a single bite? Bring all of your senses to the dinner table. Breathe in the aroma of a fresh loaf of bread. Notice the texture of yogurt on your tongue. Truly taste your meal. Experience each bite from start to finish.
    • Attentive Eating: Sure, you’re busy and have a lot “on your plate.” It’s hard to make eating a priority rather than an option or side task. If you get the urge for a snack while doing your homework or studying, stop and take a break so that you can give eating 100% of your attention. Try to avoid multitasking while you eat. When you eat, just eat.
    • Mindfully Check In: How hungry am I on a scale of one to ten? Gauging your hunger level is a little like taking your temperature. Each time you eat, ask yourself, “Am I physically hungry?” Aim to eat until you are satisfied, leaving yourself neither stuffed nor still hungry.
    • Think Mindfully: Observe how self-critical thoughts like “I don’t want to gain the Freshman Fifteen,” or “I’m so stupid, how could I do that?” can creep into your consciousness. Just because you think these thoughts doesn’t mean you need to act on them or let them sway your emotions. Negative thoughts can trigger overeating or stop you from adequately feeding your hunger.
    • Remember: A thought is just a thought, not a fact.
    • Mindful Speech: Chit chatting about dieting and weight is so commonplace that we are often truly unaware of the impact it might have on our self-esteem. When you are with friends and family, be mindful of your gut reaction to “fat talk” (e.g., “I’m so fat!” or the “I’m so fat – No you’re not” debate). Keep in mind how the words might affect someone struggling with food issues.
    • Mindful Eating Support: Friends provide an enormous amount of support, but often it’s helpful to obtain assistance or a second opinion from a trained professional. If you would like to learn more about mindful eating, or if you have concerns about your eating habits, email CAPS at, or consult the NEDA website for information and treatment referrals.
    • Information adapted from National Eating Disorders Association (
  • Books
  • Online Resources
  • Campus and CAPS Resources