Sometimes food can be a way we comfort ourselves, and sometimes a way to punish ourselves. Dieting and making ourselves sick can be ways we try to cope with feelings inside ourselves related to guilt, trauma, control and sadness.

Students often report very erratic eating habits when studying or when stressed but will return to normal healthy eating at other times. Concerns about weight, appearance and eating habits become a problem when they begin to affect your physical or mental health and well-being. If you are starving yourself, vomiting, exercising excessively or using laxatives, it is very important that you talk to your doctor about it, as there are many physical and medical problems that can arise and you can even put your life at risk.

What are eating disorders?

The most common eating disorders are anorexia and bulimia, where the person is preoccupied with their body weight and control over their eating.

People with anorexia might:

  • Refuse to eat enough food even though they are hungry.
  • Have a strong fear of gaining weight, even though they are underweight.
  • Have inaccurate perceptions of their body size and shape.
  • Deny weight loss.
  • Stop menstruating.
  • Exercise excessively.
  • Use other means to lose weight such as diuretics and laxatives.

People with bulimia might:

  • Binge eat a lot of food (often high in fat or sugar).
  • Feel out of control when binging.
  • Make themselves vomit to avoid weight gain.
  • Use other means to lose weight such as diuretics and laxatives.

Learn more about eating disorders and at Headspace.

Online support

The Butterfly Foundation’s web counselling is a live, one-to-one counselling service over the internet to anyone who is concerned about an eating disorder, disordered eating or body image problems.

Community support

For support, guidance, information and referrals for people with an eating disorder and their families, partners and friends contact the Eating Disorders Victoria Helpline.

Other tips

  • Be honest with yourself about your eating habits, if you think they might be a problem, there probably is.
  • Seek support from people you can trust and who are honest with you. Telling someone can be the first step to breaking the cycle.
  • Listen to what your family or friends are saying about your eating, they are concerned and have a different perspective to yours.

Eating disorders and your study

Your brain is an organ and like everything else in your body requires energy to do its job properly. If you do not eat an adequate amount of healthy food your ability to concentrate will be reduced and your ability to learn, recall and analyse information will decrease.