Nursing students help women deal with eating issues

Stress can bring on many of the eating issues university students face. (Submitted)

Every semester the counseling services and the UNB nursing faculty team up to show the women with eating issues on both campuses that they aren’t alone.

The support group, called “It’s not about food,” was created in 2008 and is back again this year.

It’s put together by Dr. Kathleen Pye, a research assistant for the nursing faculty, and Dr. Kathryn Weaver, an associate professor in nursing, every semester and run by peer facilitators.

“It gives us the opportunity not only to train new health professionals on how to deal with eating issues, because a lot just don’t have that training initially so it’s great for them, but [it] also provides [an] atmosphere so that women with eating issues can actually get to talk about it,” Pye said.

The facilitators have open conversations with the women to discuss various eating issues. They’re usually from the nursing department, but they’ve had some from other faculties as well.

“We’ve had increasing support in numbers of women coming to the groups,” Weaver said. “[That] shows that the group is responding to their needs [and] providing a safety net.”

Weaver has a lot of respect for women struggling to eat properly in university, because they’re “trying to do the best that they can.”

Pye says the eating issues experienced by the women who come to the group range along a very large spectrum.

“On one side of the spectrum you have women who restrict, so they eat less than they actually require, and you have people on the other end of the spectrum who are more in the binge eating category, so eat more than required. And people all through the middle.

“We also have a lot of individuals who have [other problems, like a] purging-type thing, like excessive exercise, or vomiting, or laxative [or] diuretic.”

The underlying issues, however, tend to be similar.

According to Weaver, whether it’s body shape or image issues or trouble eating healthy while in university, stress can be a factor.

“With some individuals, stress can bring on the need to eat. And for some individuals stress would bring on the need not to eat. So it’s very all over the place. I would say that stress absolutely has to do with eating issues and it’s probably all over the board,” Pye said.

University itself doesn’t cause eating issues, Pye said. However, it can show the women with eating issues that there is help out there.

“In some cases [university] can cause women, and men I should say, to feel the need to disclose that because it’s becoming that much harder to keep a secret.

“I would just encourage people to be open to talk about an eating issue and seek out the resources on campus and know that our group is available those two semesters.”

The group meets Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. To sign up, email to book a 30-minute pre-interview.

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