Disordered Eating Assessment and Treatment

When your relationship with food or obsession with body image interferes with your life, you may be suffering from an eating disorder. Disordered eating involves destructive patterns of restrictive dieting, purging, exercising, and bingeing that lead to serious physical and psychological consequences. Recovery is most possible when disordered eating is identified early, treated by trained professionals, and when treatment is supported by close friends and family.

Services available at Sindecuse Health Center

Successful treatment for disordered eating requires a collaborative care model. To meet the need for this service at WMU, we've assembled a dedicated team to care for individuals along the full spectrum of needs.

  • A social worker, Christine Heffron, LSW, treating individuals in coordination with our psychiatrist and medical director, Dr. Gayle Ruggiero, MD. 
  • A dietitian specializing in eating disorders, Trina Weber, R.D. works with a health center clinician, Melissa Shields, PA, in treating patients from a medical perspective.

Services will be charged to insurance. Students will need referrals to these providers. Referrals can be ordered by counseling services or the primary care department at Sindecuse. Call Counseling and Psychiatric Services at (269) 387-1850 if you have questions.

Reaching out to someone with disordered Eating


  • Do speak to the person privately and allow time to talk
  • Do tell the person you are very concerned about her or him
  • Do calmly tell the person all the specific observations that have aroused your concern
  • Do allow the person time to respond. Listen carefully and non-judgmentally
  • Do keep the focus on problems (for example, withdrawing from others)
  • Do know about some of the resources at your school and in your community

If the information you receive suggests disordered eating, share with the person that:

  • You think the person might have a problem with eating (or body image or weight management)
  • You are concerned about his or her health and well-being
  • You are concerned that the matter needs to be evaluated by somebody who understands disordered eating
  • Tell a nurse, guidance counselor, teacher or coach immediately if the person has problems that scare you. For example, if the person is:
    • Bingeing and throwing up several times per day
    • Passing out or complaining of chest pains
    • Complaining of severe stomach ache and/or vomiting blood
    • Suicidal


  • Don’t speak to someone else without first speaking privately to the person whom you suspect of having an disordered eating (unless the situation is an emergency)
  • Don’t confront the person with a group of people, all of whom are firing concerns and accusations at the person
  • Don’t threaten or challenge the person
  • Don’t be judgmental. Don’t tell the person what they’re doing is “sick,” “crazy,” or “stupid"
  • Don’t give advice about weight loss, exercising or appearance
  • Don’t diagnose
  • Don’t get into an argument or a battle of wills:
    • Calmly repeat your evidence, your concern, and your strong belief that they need to have the problem evaluated
    • End the conversation if it is going nowhere or if either of you becomes too upset
  • Don’t promise to keep what you have observed a secret
  • Don’t try to keep track of what the person is eating or try to force the person to eat or not to eat
  • Don’t let the person monopolize your time and energy

Kinds of disordered eating

Disordered eating may look very different from person to person. The following list is for reference only, not as a guide to diagnosis.

Anorexia nervosa

Individuals with anorexia nervosa are unwilling to maintain the weight that is considered normal or expected for their age and height. Less than 85 percent of the normal weight is often used as a guide. The individuals with anorexia nervosa display excessive fear of gaining weight even though they are often severely underweight.

Bulimia nervosa

Although there are variations in behavioral patterns for individuals with bulimia nervosa, a typical episode involves consuming a large amount of food that would be considered as excessive under normal circumstances. Then behaviors such as self-induced vomiting, misuse of laxatives, enemas, diuretics, severe calorie restriction or excessive exercising follow the overeating in an attempt to compensate for calorie intake.

Binge eating disorder

Individuals with binge eating disorder binge eat but do not regularly engage in behaviors to compensate for over eating to control their weight. A binge eating episode is often described as rapid consumption of food with a sense of loss of control, uncomfortable fullness after eating, and eating a large amount of food when not hungry. Feelings of shame and embarrassment often follow binge eating. Binge eating disorder is often associated with obesity.

Media, body image, and eating disorders

From the National Eating Disorders Association:

Eating disorders are complex conditions that arise from a variety of factors, including physical, psychological, interpersonal, and social issues. Media images that help to create cultural definitions of beauty and attractiveness are often acknowledged as being among those factors contributing to the rise of eating disorders.

American Medical Association condemns photoshopping

in 2011, the AMA  formally denounced retouching pictures and asked ad agencies to consider setting stricter guidelines for how photos are manipulated before becoming advertisements. "We must stop exposing impressionable children and teenagers to advertisements portraying models with body types only attainable with the help of photo editing software," said AMA board member Barbara McAneny.


National Eating Disorders Association
Academy of Eating Disorders
National Eating Disorder Information Centre
National Assn. for Males with Eating Disorders
Eating Disorders Anonymous
Food Addicts Anonymous.org
Overeaters Anonymous