Last week, The Chronicle reported that the Duke Center for Eating Disorders has initiated a new treatment program for patients with moderate to severe eating disorders. Not only is the new plan a huge improvement to what Duke previously offered, but it also provides students with the opportunity to remain enrolled at Duke, should they choose, while receiving treatment.
Today, eating disorders are an unfortunate reality in a society whose values are molded by a pop-culture influence that puts an unhealthy emphasis on body image. Duke is no exception. Among students, appearance matters, and that pressure can lead to eating disorders.
The Intensive Evening Program is a positive step towards mitigating body image issues for two particular reasons. First, the DEDC’s treatment can help students without compromising their academic ambition. Second, its very presence raises awareness to a problem that is far more complex than it is often regarded.
Still, issues persist. A recent study by the University of Missouri found that 16 percent of college students restricted calories due to drinking. Of those who took part in the survey, three times as many women engaged in the practice, known informally as “drunkorexia.”
The combination of alcohol, social pressure and excessive dieting is not new, and it is clearly dangerous. “Drunkorexia” teeters on the edges of two severe disorders – alcoholism and anorexia, and mixes body image insecurities with the worry-purging effects of drinking.
Currently, Duke employs one notable method of alcohol-abuse prevention, the bewailed first-year AlcoholEDU course. Although AlcoholEDU serves a purpose, its effectiveness at educating students and preventing alcohol abuse seems unclear, at best.
Perhaps a superior method of addressing alcohol, eating disorders and their perilous combination is to consider the realities of college life. Alcohol use and abuse are inevitable, and eating disorders plague modern American culture. We advocate a program of campus awareness that stresses the basics: enjoying a wholesome meal before going out, promoting mutual accountability among friends for healthy eating and suggesting general tips for safer drinking. The bulletin boards and bathrooms in dormitories are already filled with information about physical and sexual health. Adding alcohol-related content is the next logical step.
East Campus is the most important target for a healthy eating and drinking campaign. Its residents are students who have never before lived on their own or had easy access to alcohol, offering the unique opportunity to impart a profound, preventative influence. East Campus also has The Marketplace, which is the only traditional sit-down eating venue at Duke and a space that affords students an environment where they and their friends can be held mutually accountable for eating habits.
In addition, we recommend that Counseling and Psychological Services conduct, across the student body, a survey similar to the one at the University of Missouri. The more information CAPS, DEDC and the Wellness Center have, the more effective new educational programs can be.
The recent and significant improvements to Duke’s eating disorder treatment options are great. The next crucial step is to implement effective education that can more deeply penetrate the complicated causes of these illnesses.