Watching for signs of eating disorders

September 8, 2008 9:59:26 AM PDT
For students heading to college, there is always a concern that extends beyond the classroom. The dreaded freshman 15, or the extra pounds students gain at school.But there's also a more serious concern, leading to an eating disorder.

"It really stayed this secret that I was keeping," Hilary Yohlin said. "And I kept it very, very well."

Yohlin first showed signs of an eating disorder in elementary school. Her bulimia and anorexia escalated in high school. She received treatment, and her parents thought she was better. But then college hit.

"You walk around college campuses and all the girls looks beautiful," Yohlin said. "They all look more beautiful than you, and there's this competition for the guys on campus and to get into the right sorority or the right club."

The now-healthy 26-year-old was more than 30 pounds underweight while she attended Columbia University.

She suffered exercise bulimia and, at times, anorexia.

"It's kind of a silent suffering that you go through until someone sits you down and says look at you, you're sick," she said.

Experts say one third of people with eating disorders die from those eating disorders. Another third will continue minimal treatment, and the remaining third will have to have constant treatment for the rest of their lives.

A friend told Hilary's parents what was going on, and she got help at the Renfrew Center.

The center offers a six-week college-bound program, which helps students recovering from eating disorders prepare for college.

"The college-bound, six-week psychoeducational group is to really talk about what to look for, in terms of symptoms and what the stresses are, that could lead to symptom use in terms of eating disorder," Renfrew Center day treatment team leader Dr. K. Loan Mai said.

The program prepares patients for the stress of college, like overwhelming school work, partying and cafeteria eating. It also shows friends and family how to identify symptoms like social anxiety, over sleeping, missing classes or skipping meals.

Hilary believes the program will help students avoid what she went through and simply be college kids, which she plans to do in graduate school.

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STORY BY: Eyewitness News reporter Carolina Leid

WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King

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