The Louisville Cardinal

U of L’s Cheri Levinson combats eating disorder stereotypes

By Chelsea Wright–

The National Eating Disorder Association spread awareness of eating disorders from Feb. 26 to March 4 for National Eating Disorder Week.

Although data has not been collected for U of L, 14 percent of college students have a diagnosable eating disorder, including bulimia nervosa, binge-eating and anorexia nervosa.

As the Director of Eating Anxiety Treatment Laboratory Clinic, U of L professor Cheri Levinson oversees research and clinical work. Their purpose is to research the prevention and treatment of eating disorders.

“If we broaden this definition to include disordered eating, which we know can be as impairing as a diagnosable eating disorder, it is estimated that up to 60 percent of college students engage in disordered eating behaviors,” Levinson said.

Disordered eating behaviors include binge eating, vomiting and excessive restriction. According to Levinson, approximately 82 percent of college women report body dissatisfaction.There are many stereotypes about who suffer from eating disorders.

“Eating disorders affect everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual preference, athlete status or cultural background,” Levinson said.

Both men and athletes are underrepresented when it comes to this illness. With U of L being a sports-heavy school, there is a lot of pressure put on athletes to keep up.

Levinson says Kentucky is lacking in services for individuals with eating disorders. There is no eating disorder specific treatment center that offers a higher level of care than outpatient therapy.

“Unfortunately, across the world, there is a huge lack of well-trained professionals, funding for treatment and research that can treat eating disorders,” Levinson said. “That means that anyone who needs treatment often has to go multiple states away to get help.”