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
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
- 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
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.