College eating habits can mirror binge eating

Binge eating can be a serious problem for college students with the stress of school and jobs. (Samantha Williams)
Binge eating can be a serious problem for college students with the stress of school and work. (Samantha Williams)

Stressors may cause unhealthy eating habits that mirror the physical characteristics of binge eating disorder for many college students.

Students often skip meals in order to get everything done on campus during the day, but they then eat huge amounts in one sitting at the end of the day.

Landon Pliler, a junior in recreation management, said he felt that school makes it harder to find time to eat. “I definitely try not to eat out, but just because there’s no time, I definitely do it,” he said.

Pliler described a time when he hadn’t eaten all day and finally stopped at a Mexican restaurant for a “massive burrito.”

“It was like 10:30 at night, and I just stuffed myself … it was great in the moment, but it was so bad afterwards,” he said.

Binge eating disorder is characterized by rapidly eating large amounts of food, even when one is full. Binge eaters stockpile food to eat in secret, gorging when they are alone but eating normally in front of others. Binge eaters feel that eating relieves stress.

Rickelle Richards, a nutrition professor at BYU, said the actual diagnosis of binge eating disorder is very specific. “It (binge eating) has to occur at least two days a week for six months,” Richards said.

Students may regularly skip meals then overeat because they feel stressed. Others may gorge when they are alone, for fear of being judged, and stockpile food for later.

Most BYU students would not be classified as having binge eating disorder unless psychological reasons were connected to the eating.

“Really when we think about eating disorders, it’s not just the average person who misses a meal one day or overeats at one meal. We all do that at Thanksgiving,” Richards said.

Binge eating differs from anorexia and bulimia because it does not include compensatory behaviors like purging, taking laxatives or over-exercising. However, binge eating disorder is similar to the others because it is psychological.

Richards said binge eating and other eating disorders are not really about food. “It’s really about a coping mechanism to deal with some other emotional issues,” Richards said.

Daniela Barriga, a senior double-majoring in psychology and Spanish, said that “for a lot of people, eating can relieve stress.”

Barriga had an old roommate who struggled with her eating. “They’ve been eating all day, and I know they’re not hungry because they say they’re not hungry, but they just eat because it’s there … it calms anxiety, I guess,” Barriga said.

Richards said college-aged students are more prone to eating disorders than others.

Pliler said he “definitely could think of a couple people” who could qualify for binge eating disorder. “I think it’s more of a problem than we think it is,” Pliler said.


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