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Services Offered: Eating Concerns


Students with eating concerns and eating disorders often consult with clinicians at Health Service. All of our clinical staff are trained in the evaluation and common health issues for students with eating concerns. Students present on their own, or on the recommendation of a coach, friend, parent, counselor, dean, advisor, or other concerned person in their lives. The initial evaluation includes a detailed discussion of the student's concerns and health status. A physical examination is recommended and some laboratory work may be suggested as well, depending on the situation. Once the initial evaluation is completed, the clinician will provide an assessment of the student's current health status, and an individual treatment plan is developed. Some students just come to Health Service once or twice, while others may need frequent visits to monitor their health status. The medical recommendations are highly individualized and tailored to the students' specific situation.

Treatment of a more significant eating disorder typically involves care by several types of clinicians. A medical clinician will monitor the health of the student. A therapist will work with the student to understand the risks and benefits of the eating disorder, and to help develop healthier coping mechanisms. A nutritionist can be extremely useful in providing detailed information about healthier eating. The Health Service clinician can guide the student and help them access the services that will be most helpful to them.

Eating Disorder FAQs

Will Health Service tell my parents if I am seen for an eating disorder?
Good Question! Let me quote from our confidentiality policy: "Our clinicians are bound by Massachusetts's law not to disclose confidential medical information about a patient without the patient's consent, except to meet a serious danger to the patient or others. This means we will not disclose information about your care or treatment to: Deans, Professors, Coaches, Residential Life, or other University staff unless there is a serious danger to you or someone else. Additionally, we cannot discuss your care with friends, or parents without your consent." This holds true whether we are seeing a student for a sexual health issue, a cold or flu, or an eating disorder. There are certainly rare circumstances where the clinicians feel that the student is medically unstable from their eating disorder and at imminent risk of a serious medical complication. If that were the case we would work with the student to get their permission to speak with their parents—and usually the student gives it to us. If the student refused treatment when in imminent medical danger, and would not give us permission to speak with their parents, we would consider breaking confidentiality. This has happened only several times in the past 10 years.

Is there a nutritionist at Health Service?
Unfortunately there is not. We can give you information about nutritionists in the local area.

What should I do if I'm worried that a friend has an eating disorder?

  • Talk to your friend. Let him or her know that you care about them and are worried about them. Don't try to diagnose. Share your specific concerns about what you have observed: "I want to talk to you because you're my friend and I really care about you. I'm worried about your health because I see you limiting what you eat. I think it is really important for you to get a check up at the Health Service. The Counseling and Mental Health Service is also a good place to talk about eating and body image concerns."
  • Consult with a counselor about how to approach your friend. Feel free to talk to a counselor to get some guidance and support about how to talk to your friend. You don't have to be in it alone.
  • Try not to worry about your friend's reaction. People with eating disorders often deny their problem. They often have to repeatedly see and hear the negative consequences of their behavior before they are motivated to change. You may not realize it at the time, but your concerns are heard and do have impact. You are being a compassionate friend by not ignoring the problem.
  • Get support for yourself. Students often find that having a close friend with an eating disorder is so distressing that they need some support for themselves. You can talk to a clinician at Health Service, or a counselor at the Counseling and Mental Health Service about what is going on. You may need some help figuring out how to be a good friend while also taking care of yourself.
  • Talk to someone who can intervene. If you are seriously worried about your friend's safety, you should let an adult know who can intervene. If you know your friend's parents, call them. Or you can go speak to the Dean of Students Office (Dean Marisel Perez) and share your concerns. This can be done anonymously if you prefer. The Dean can contact the student and ensure that they have an evaluation.

Are there treatment resources in the area for students with eating disorders?
In addition to Health Service, and Counseling and Mental Health Service, there are a number of off campus resources in the Tufts area for students with eating disorders. There are private therapists who specialize in treatment of eating concerns, nutritionists skilled in this area, and several private multidisciplinary eating disorder treatment programs. The two multidisciplinary programs closest to Tufts are Laurel Hill Inn in Somerville, and Cambridge Eating Disorder Center (CEDC) in Cambridge. These programs have a number of treatment options available including intensive evening programs, intensive day treatment programs, and residential programs. Health Service has a list of area resources that we would be glad to share with you.

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