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Mental Health

Navigating Eating Disorder Recovery on a College Campus

My experience at college has been unique, as alongside my classes, work, extra curriculars, and my social life, I am recovering from anorexia. 

It took me a full year, including taking a semester off of school because I was too unwell to continue my academics, to really develop a system at school that would help me maintain my recovery. Here are several strategies and routines I have implemented into my life at college that have helped me stay healthy and happy. 


Build a support team

The most important piece of my recovery has been the support of a team of providers and people. 

Each week I have a scheduled phone session with my therapist from home. During busy days where I can barely find a minute to sit down, it feels impossible to take a break. On those days it feels counterintuitive to fill up an entire hour of my time on something nonacademic. Before those phone calls I always begin stressing about everything else I could be getting done during that hour; but almost without fail, I feel so much better after an hour on the phone with my therapist, talking about how things are going. 

Meeting with a dietitian, whether that is on campus or somewhere local to your school, is also an important part of building a support team. While therapists help you process the emotional aspect of recovery, a dietitian can help you ensure you are giving your body the nutrients it needs, while on campus, and help you come up with goals and plans in terms of your intake. 

There are countless avenues to pursue when it comes to getting support on campus. Research your campus health center: even if the support that you need is not available there, they will likely be able to refer you to someone nearby off campus. 

Reach out to friends and family to help you stay accountable. I make an effort to reach out to someone in my life, each day, that I haven’t spoken to in a while. Saying hi and talking to friends I haven’t seen in weeks or even months, is a refreshing way to take my mind off of things and remember how loved I am. 

Build a routine

At times you may feel busy with classes and work, but at other times you may feel yourself getting into a lull. This is where building a routine becomes a crucial part of eating disorder recovery. Having something scheduled, each day, to aid in and benefit your recovery, can be a helpful way to get through the week while staying accountable. 

Scheduling weekly or biweekly appointments with a therapist or counselor builds a basis for individual support. Many college campuses offer support groups, which can not only provide more schedule for you, but present opportunities to meet other people on campus who are going through something similar. 

Designating a specific time, whether that is daily or a few times a week, to journal, meditate, or even watch a favorite TV show, is an effective way to bring more scheduled self care time into your week. 


Build a meal plan

Dining halls can be scary: at the beginning of the week, try to plan out where/when/with whom you will eat meals. For me dinner has always been the hardest, and putting in time at the beginning of the week to ask friends which days they are around and able to meet up for a meal, makes things a lot less stressful. Some schools have specific apps you can download  to see what is being served at the dining hall. This is a helpful tool to utilize if you are nervous about the dining hall. By checking what food will be available ahead of time, you can make a plan and prepare yourself, possibly reducing the anxiety that can come with eating on campus. 

If you’re living off campus, try to designate one day a week to plan meals for the week and go food shopping. I like to meal prep at the beginning of the week, which saves me time throughout my week.


Remember: You are not alone

Struggling with an eating disorder during college can feel alienating and isolating. The sad truth is that a majority of college students have either experienced an eating disorder themselves, or, more commonly, know somebody struggling with one. 

Reach out to others for support: you are not in this alone. Eating disorders are overwhelming and scary, but there are people who care about you. 

Stay strong.


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Sarah Dwyer

U Mass Amherst '21

Sarah is a psychology and English double major at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and is hoping to become an English teacher. Sarah is a writer, a runner, and a registered yoga teacher. On campus Sarah is a member of Alpha Chi Omega sorority, a member of the UMass chapter of CHAARG, writes articles for the UMass chapter of Hercampus, and teaches yoga classes at the campus recreation center. Look out for Sarah’s posts on mental health, fitness, study abroad, and all things wellness.
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