A program for students dealing with food, weight, and body image concerns. We are a multidisciplinary team of professionals dedicated to your physical and emotional well being. Whether you are struggling with an eating disorder or just worried about food and weight, we can help. Our focus is to provide a thorough assessment and give you clear feedback so you can get the help you need. The faster you get help, the greater your chances for recovery. Call 512-475-3515 to set up an assessment.
What The Mindful Eating Program is all about…
Assessment & Referral
Guidance & Support
Outreach & Prevention
Assessment & Referral
The Mindful Eating assessment ideally consists of 3 separate appointments: a counseling assessment, a medical evaluation, and a nutrition consultation. If recommended, you may also need to meet with a psychiatrist and/or an off-campus medical specialist to assess specific medical conditions.
It is best to begin the assessment process with The Counseling and Mental Health Center. You can make an appointment for a Mindful Eating assessment within 2 weeks of the first day of classes and at any time during the semester by calling 512-471-3515.
Guidance & Support
Based on your Mindful Eating assessment, the ME Team will discuss your situation and give you guidance on how to get the help you need. You will get personalized treatment recommendations which might include individual counseling, group counseling, nutrition consultation, psychiatric services, and/or medical monitoring. We provide support to you and your family to find the most effective treatment options.
If you are eligible to join the Mindful Eating Program, we'll support your recovery by providing:
time-limited individual therapy,
medical monitoring and
These are all crucial aspects of recovery from eating and body image issues but participation in the program looks different for everyone. Some factors that influence your plan for recovery include:
motivation for treatment, and
Your treatment goals are evaluated and revised by the ME team throughout the semester so treatment recommendations may change at any time.
The Mindful Eating Program isn't the best fit for everyone. If, after your assessment, we recognize that intensive, long-term, or specialized treatment is the best option for you, we will refer you off-campus for this treatment. We give detailed referrals and offer support for students transitioning to off-campus services.
Whether you are joining the Mindful Eating Program or you are being referred off-campus, we are here to support your journey to full recovery. We'll provide guidance through the assessment and referral process so that you know exactly what kind of treatment you need and how to get it.
Outreach & Prevention
The Mindful Eating Program provides trainings and presentations about disordered eating, body image, and food related topics for the UT community.
The Mindful Eating Program has partnered with Tri-delta and The Reflections program to implement a structured prevention program for UT women. This peer-led program has a proven track record of preventing eating disorders in college women and we are proud to co-sponsor this important initiative with UT Panhellenic Council. We will also be launching a body image prevention program called The Body Project in the near future.
Do I have an Eating Disorder or is it just disordered eating?
Do I have an Eating Disorder?
You may have an eating disorder if you find yourself described here. You might find that you're struggling with disordered eating instead.
Eating Disorders: Anorexia Nervosa is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss. You may have anorexia if you have missed you period, you obsess about being thin, or you skip meals and avoid food related social situations.
Bulimia Nervosa is also a potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by a cycle of binge eating and compensatory behaviors such as self-induced vomiting, laxative abuse, or exercise in an ineffective attempt to compensate for binge.
Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is a type of eating disorder characterized by recurrent binge eating without the regular use of behaviors to try to "make-up" for the binge eating.
Do I have Disordered Eating?
You may not have an eating disorder but disordered eating can take a toll on your mental, emotional, and mental well-being. Disordered eating can be a real problem and can lead to eating disorders if it continues.
constantly calculate fat grams and calories?
weigh yourself often and find yourself obsessed with the number on the scale?
exercise to burn off calories and not for health and enjoyment?
ever feel out of control when you are eating?
feel ashamed, disgusted or guilty after eating?
constantly worry about the weight, shape or size of your body?
feel like your identity and value is based on how you look or how much you weigh?
feel like weight loss, dieting, and/or control of food has become one of your major concerns?
If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you could be dealing with disordered eating.
Any food behaviors that cause you distress can be disordered. The Mindful Eating Program can help you sort out if there is a problem with your relationship with food.
Treatment for eating issues is individualized for each person. Through a Mindful Eating assessment, we can provide you with guidance about what the best treatment plan will be for you.
If your treatment needs are appropriate for the Mindful Eating Program at UT, you could expect that you might have a treatment plan involving some of these elements:
Individual therapy every 2-3 weeks,
Monthly consultation with a dietitian,
Occasional appointments with a UHS physician, and/or
Periodic sessions with a psychiatrist.
Student being referred off-campus are recommended to seek treatment in one of the following ways:
Outpatient Therapy- Weekly individual therapy, nutrition counseling, and medical monitoring by an off-campus team of providers who can follow you more closely than the team at UT is able to.
Intensive Outpatient- 3-20 hours a week of therapy, nutrition, and medical care provided in a facility with other patients working on the same goals. You do not spend the night in this setting and you can usually go to work or school while getting treatment.
Residential Treatment- A 24/7, overnight treatment model that allows you to get away from your daily stress and focus on recovery. This is often in a home-like setting and you can sometimes continue studies while in treatment if you can negotiate with your school.
Inpatient Treatment- A hospital-based treatment setting where the focus is on medical stabilization. This if often a short treatment not aimed at long term recovery so most people who go inpatient must continue treatment in Intensive Outpatient in order to be successful at recovery.
Treatment can take many different forms but most are compatible with staying in school. However, sometimes the best way to heal from eating issues is to take a semester or two away from school so that you are more prepared to focus on your studies once you are working on recovery from your eating issues. Staying in school or withdrawing is something you can talk with The Mindful Eating team about if you decide to seek help at UT.
Those who are obsessed with healthy eating may be suffering from "orthorexia nervosa," a term which means literally "fixation on righteous eating." Orthorexia starts out as an innocent attempt to eat more healthfully, but the orthorexic becomes fixated on food quality and purity.
Eventually food choices become so restrictive, with both variety and calories, that health suffers – an ironic twist for a person so completely dedicated to healthy eating. Eventually, the obsession with healthy eating can crowd out other activities and interests, impair relationships, and become physically dangerous. While orthorexia is not a condition your doctor will diagnose, recovery usually requires professional help. A practitioner skilled at treating those with eating disorders is the best choice.
being able to eat when you are hungry and continue eating until you are satisfied.
being able to choose food you like and eat it and truly get enough of it—not just stop eating because you think you should.
being able to use some moderate constraint on your food selection to get the right food, but not being so restrictive that you miss out on pleasurable foods.
giving yourself permission to eat sometimes because you are happy, sad, or bored, or just because it feels good.
three meals a day or it can be choosing to munch along.
leaving some cookies on the plate because you know you can have some again tomorrow, or it is eating more now because they taste so wonderful when they are fresh.
overeating at times: feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. It is also under-eating at times and wishing you had more.
trusting your body to make up for your mistakes in eating.
Something that takes up some of your time and attention, but keeps its place as only one important area of your life.
In short, normal eating is flexible. It varies in response to your emotions, your schedule, your hunger, and your proximity to food.
Intuitive eating is a nutrition philosophy based on the premise that becoming more attuned to the body's natural hunger signals is the most effective way to attain a healthy weight; rather than keeping track of calories or fats for example. Intuitive Eating goes by many names, including non-dieting or the non-diet approach, normal eating, conscious eating, mindful eating and more.
10 Principles of Intuitive Eating
Reject the diet mentality. Throw out the diet books and magazine articles that offer you false hope of losing weight quickly and permanently. Get angry at the lies that have led you to feel as if you were a failure every time a new diet failed you and you gained back all of the weight.
Honor your hunger. Keep your body biologically fed with adequate energy and carbohydrates. Otherwise you can trigger a primal drive to overeat.
Make peace with food. If you tell yourself that you can't or shouldn't have a particular food, it can lead to intense feelings of deprivation that build into uncontrollable cravings and, often, bingeing.
Challenge the food police .Scream a loud "NO" to thoughts in your head that declare you're "good" for eating salad or "bad" because you ate cake.
Respect your fullness. Listen for the body signals that tell you that you are no longer hungry.
Discover the satisfaction factor. When you eat what you really want, you will experience genuine satisfaction and pleasure which means it will take less food to feel full.
Honor your feelings. Find ways to comfort, nurture, distract, and resolve your issues without using food. Food may briefly comfort you or distract you from the pain but you'll eventually have to deal with the difficult feelings.
Respect your body & accept your genetic blueprint. Just as a person with a size 8 shoe wouldn't expect to fit into a size 6, it is equally as futile (and uncomfortable) to have the same expectation of your body size. Respect the strengths of your body and appreciate the things you CAN do with your body.
Exercise for fun! Forget militant exercise. Shift your focus to how it feels to move your body, rather than the calorie burning effect of exercise. More energy, better mood, and having fun are much more motivating exercise goals!
Honor Your Health. Intuitive Eating and gentle nutrition means making food choices that honor your health and tastebuds while making you feel healthful. Remember that you don't have to eat a perfect diet to be healthy.
Emotional eating is when people use food as a way to deal with feelings instead of to satisfy hunger. We've all been there, finishing a whole bag of chips out of boredom or downing cookie after cookie while cramming for a big test. But when done a lot — especially without realizing it — emotional eating can affect weight, health, and overall well-being.
Not many of us make the connection between eating and our feelings. But understanding what drives emotional eating can help people take steps to change it.
One of the biggest myths about emotional eating is that it's prompted by negative feelings. Yes, people often turn to food when they're stressed out, lonely, sad, anxious, or bored. But emotional eating can be linked to positive feelings too, like the romance of sharing dessert on Valentine's Day or the celebration of a holiday feast.
Sometimes emotional eating is tied to major life events, like a death or a divorce. More often, though, it's the countless little daily stresses that cause someone to seek comfort or distraction in food.
It's not easy to "unlearn" patterns of emotional eating. But it is possible. And it starts with an awareness of what's going on.
Of course many feel the effects of negative body image- a distorted perception of your shape and size, comparing your body to others, and feeling shame and anxiety about your body. In our culture we are irrationally focused on unattainable thinness and perfect beauty so most of us have felt some aspect of poor body image. Not liking your body can lead to emotional distress, low self-esteem, unhealthy dieting habits, anxiety, depression, and eating disorders.
A positive or healthy body image, means having a realistic perception of your size and shape. It also means feeling comfortable with your body in most situations. You may not be able to have a perfect body image but you CAN feel good about yourself.
Top 10 ways to feel good about your body- yourself!
Appreciate all that your body can do. Every day your body carries you closer to your dreams. Celebrate all of the amazing things your body does for you --running, dancing, breathing, laughing, dreaming, etc.
Keep a top-10 list of things you like about yourself – include things that are physical and non-physical. Read your list often. Add to it as you become aware of more things to like about you.
Remind yourself that "true beauty" is not simply skin-deep. When you feel good about yourself and who you are, you carry yourself with a sense of confidence, self-acceptance, and openness that makes you beautiful regardless of whether you physically look like a supermodel. Beauty is a state of mind, not a state of your body.
Look at yourself as a whole person. When you see yourself in a mirror or in your mind, choose not to focus on specific body parts. See yourself as you want others to see you – as a whole person.
Surround yourself with positive people. It is easier to feel good about yourself and your body when you are around others who are supportive and who recognize the importance of liking yourself just as you naturally are.
Shut down those voices in your head that tell you your body is not "right" or that you are a "bad" person. You can overpower those negative thoughts with positive ones. The next time you start to tear yourself down, build yourself back up with a few quick affirmations that work for you.
Wear clothes that are comfortable and that make you feel good about your body. Work with your body, not against it.
Become a critical viewer of social and media messages. Pay attention to images, slogans, or attitudes that make you feel bad about yourself or your body. Avoid these messages and protest them!
Do something nice for yourself -- something that lets your body know you appreciate it. Take a bubble bath, make time for a nap, find a peaceful place outside to relax.
Use the time and energy that you might have spent worrying about food, calories, and your weight to do something to help others. Sometimes reaching out to other people can help you feel better about yourself and can make a positive change in our world.
"Yo-yo" dieting (repetitive cycles of gaining, losing, & regaining weight) has been shown to have negative health effects, including increased risk of heart disease, long-lasting negative impacts on metabolism, etc.
Dieting forces your body into starvation mode. It responds by slowing down many of its normal functions to conserve energy. This means your natural metabolism actually slows down.
Dieters often miss out on important nutrients. For example, dieters often don't get enough calcium, leaving them at risk for osteoporosis, stress fractures, and broken bones.
Dieters often experience health consequences such as: loss of muscular strength and endurance, decreased oxygen utilization, thinning hair, dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, fainting, weakness, and slowed heart rates.
Dieting also impacts your mind. When you restrict calories you restrict your energy, which in turn can restrict your brainpower.
Medical studies indicate that people on diets have slower reaction times and a lesser ability to concentrate than people not on a diet.
All of the stress and anxiety about food and weight that preoccupy dieters actually can consume a portion of a dieters' working memory capacity.
Numerous studies link chronic dieting with feelings of depression, low-self-esteem and increased stress.
Dieting can lead to an eating disorder.
Many studies and many health professionals note that patients with eating disorders were dieting at the time of the development of their eating disorder. Dieting may not cause an eating disorder, but the constant concern about body weight and shape, fat grams and calories can start a vicious cycle of body dissatisfaction and obsession that can lead all too quickly to an eating disorder.
More importantly- all of these risks and dieting doesn't even work! 95% of all dieters regain their lost weight and more within 1 to 5 years.
Exercise is universally recommended as a way to be healthy but many people are taking it to an extreme. Some gym members and marathon runners are not exercising for fitness or pleasure but instead are focused on getting thin and adhering to their strict workout for a sense of control. People who continue to exercise in spite of medical and/or other consequences have been referred to as obligatory or compulsive exercisers because they seem unable to stop exercising, even when injured, exhausted, and begged or threatened by others to stop. Compulsive exercisers are "addicted" to exercise because they are consumed by the need for physical activity to the point of damage to their lives.
Features of a compulsive exerciser:
This person maintains a high level of exercise and is uncomfortable with taking a break to rest.
This individual depends on exercise for self-definition and/or mood stabilization.
There is an intense, driven quality to the activity that becomes self-perpetuating and resistant to change, compelling the person to continue while feeling the lack of ability to control or stop the behavior.
These people will use rationalizations and other defense mechanisms to protect their involvement in the activity.
Although there is no particular personality profile, these people are often achievement oriented, independent, self-controlled, perfectionist, and persistent so they often appear as healthy, high-functioning individuals.
Why would I feel the need to over exercise?
Compulsive exercise can be a defense against emotions and is often used to soothe, organize, and maintain self-esteem. These people feel a sense of control of their bodies through exercise and are overly conscious of input versus output equations. They are extremely committed individuals and pride themselves on putting mind over matter, valuing self-discipline, self-sacrifice, and the ability to persevere.
There are serious health consequences related to compulsive exercise including:
Compulsive exercise typically requires professional help to overcome. Healthy exercise means finding a balance between overtraining and inactivity. If you or someone you know may be over exercising, get help today.
Perfectionism is an unrealistic expectation that everything you do must be perfect. The goals of a perfectionist are extreme, rigid, and inflexible. Rather than taking their strengths and weaknesses into consideration, perfectionists set goals according to impossible standards. When these goals are not achieved, their sense of identity is threatened and they feel like a failure.
So, what is the connection between perfectionism and eating disorders?
An eating disorder is an example of perfectionism played out in its most destructive form. The extreme, rigid, and inflexible rules that the perfectionist can develop about eating, appearance, and body weight typically result in destructive behaviors. Though success is usually the motivation for the perfectionist, the real failures that come from striving for perfection can be devastating. Along with the "perfect" diet or body come poor nutrition, reduced motivation, waning energy, isolation, and self-centeredness. The pursuit of perfect eating and the perfect body hijacks other life goals like friends, school, family, and a career. Not surprisingly, many people who struggle with perfectionism and an accompanying eating disorder lose sight of their own identity. The rigidity of the perfectionism is paralyzing.
You can move away from unhealthy perfectionism and become a healthy striver. To learn more about perfectionism and how to become a healthy striver go to
Assertiveness involves speaking up for one's feelings and needs or saying "No" if you don't want to do something. So if you don't like that restaurant that your friend suggested or you are offended by something someone said it is healthy to be able to speak up about it.
So what does assertiveness have to do with eating disorders?
Many people with an eating disorder have difficulty identifying and expressing feelings and often don't like asking for help. Instead, the eating disorder behaviors become a non-verbal "voice" that they use to communicate their emotions, challenges, and needs that might otherwise go unexpressed. After all, eating disorders have a way of poignantly saying, "Leave me alone," or "Back off!" or "I just wish I could disappear."
Moreover, individuals accustomed to distracting, soothing, or avoiding their feelings with exercise, binging, purging, or restricting calories, may find it intimidating to get in touch with those feelings. Yet, learning to comfortably express one's opinions, thoughts, and feelings can provide significant help along the road to recovery. This is where assertiveness training comes in.
Assertiveness training is a straightforward process of learning how to become more comfortable expressing one's own feelings, reactions, wants, and needs to others. Studies show that assertiveness training can help build confidence, assist with managing stress and anger, and improve coping skills for emotional health and well-being.
Would you benefit from assertiveness training?
Take this brief quiz to see if you could benefit from assertiveness training:
Complete the following statements by answering with:
(A) Always. (B) Frequently. (C) Sometimes (D) Rarely (E) Never
I stand up for my own needs.
I feel I deserve to be heard.
I believe I have a right to my own feelings and opinions.
I share those feelings and opinions with others.
I ask for what I want and need.
I am able to say "no" when I do not want to do something.
I am afraid it will seem selfish if I express my feelings or opinions.
If you answered C, D, or E to most of questions 1–6, and/or answered A or B to question 7, you will likely benefit from assertiveness training.
How do I help a friend with food or body image issues?
It can be heart wrenching when someone close to you is struggling with eating or body image issues but there are some things you can do.
You can talk to your friend directly.
What to Say—Step by Step:
Set a time to talk. Set aside a time for a private, respectful meeting with your friend- some place away from other distractions.
Communicate your concerns. Share your memories of specific times when you felt concerned about your friend's eating or exercise behaviors. Explain that you think these things may indicate that there could be a problem that needs professional attention.
Ask your friend to explore these concerns with a counselor, doctor, nutritionist, or other health professional who is knowledgeable about eating issues. If you feel comfortable doing so, offer to help your friend make an appointment or accompany your friend on their first visit.
Avoid conflicts or a battle of the wills with your friend. If your friend refuses to acknowledge that there is a problem or any reason for you to be concerned, restate your feelings and the reasons for them and leave yourself open and available as a supportive listener. Express your continued support. Remind your friend that you care and want your friend to be healthy and happy.
Avoid placing shame, blame, or guilt on your friend regarding their actions or attitudes. Do not use accusatory "you" statements like, "You just need to eat." Or, "You are acting irresponsibly." Instead, use "I" statements. For example: "I'm concerned about you because you refuse to eat breakfast or lunch." Or, "It makes me afraid to hear you vomiting."
Avoid giving simple solutions. For example, "If you'd just stop, then everything would be fine!"
After talking with your friend, if you are still concerned with their health and safety, find a trusted person or medical professional to talk to. This is probably a challenging time for both of you. It could be helpful for you, as well as your friend, to discuss your concerns and seek assistance and support from a professional. You can contact CMHC and set up an appointment with someone from the Mindful Eating Program.
You can be supportive and you can be a positive influence for your friends.
Learn all you can about anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. Genuine awareness will help you avoid judgmental or mistaken attitudes about food, weight, body shape, and eating disorders.
Discourage the idea that a particular diet, weight, or body size will automatically lead to happiness and fulfillment.
Choose to challenge the false belief that thinness and weight loss are great, while body fat and weight gain are horrible or indicate laziness, worthlessness, or immorality.
Avoid categorizing foods as "good/safe" vs. "bad/dangerous." Remember, we all need to eat a balanced variety of foods.
Decide to avoid judging others and yourself on the basis of body weight or shape. Turn off the voices in your head that tell you that a person's body weight says anything about their character, personality, or value as a person.
Avoid conveying an attitude that says, "I will like you better if you lose weight, or don't eat so much, etc."
Become a critical viewer of the media and its messages about self-esteem and body image. Talk back to the television when you hear a comment or see an image that promotes thinness at all costs. Rip out (or better yet, write to the editor about) advertisements or articles in your magazines that make you feel bad about your body shape or size.
If you think someone has an eating disorder, express your concerns in a forthright, caring manner. Gently but firmly encourage the person to seek trained professional help.
Be a model of healthy self-esteem and body image. Recognize that others pay attention and learn from the way you talk about yourself and your body. Choose to talk about yourself with respect and appreciation. Choose to value yourself based on your goals, accomplishments, talents, and character. Avoid letting the way you feel about your body weight and shape determine the course of your day. Embrace the natural diversity of human bodies and celebrate your body's unique shape and size.
Support local and national nonprofit eating disorders organizations.
Esteem comes from the Latin word 'aestimare' meaning - 'to put a value on'. So self-esteem simply means the value you put on yourself. The more you value yourself, the more confident you will feel. Having high self esteem means that you practice self-care and that you aren't critical or judgmental toward yourself. You do recognize your limitations or weaknesses and because you value yourself, you work in constructive ways to improve yourself by setting personal goals.
Of course, poor self-esteem means that you don't value yourself.
Why is poor self-esteem linked with disordered eating?
Identity development and a "sense of self" is a milestone of adolescence. You must know yourself so that you can value yourself. Unfortunately, identity development in adolescence can be hijacked by many things- a parent's divorce, a difficult break-up, sexuality questions, depression, etc. When the process of identity formation is disturbed, youth are left with a great amount of confusion and instability about their "self".
Given the media influence related to appearance and beauty, many young men and women solve their "identity crisis" by turning to their physical bodies as a means of self-definition. In other words, girls and boys disregard their personalities, morals, values, and intelligence and instead focus only on their physical appearance as the source of their identity. Thus, the body becomes of the utmost importance, the concrete notion of self-esteem, and making it attractive and perfect is the primary priority. Many young adults have developed a false sense of self-value in their appearance and struggle to maintain positive self-esteem as their bodies change over time.
Many researchers and professionals believe that you don't have to be thin to be healthy and in fact, thinness is not healthy at all. In the Mindful Eating Program, we support the ideas of Health at Every Size.
Health at Every Size is based on the simple premise that the best way to improve health is to honor your body. It supports people in adopting good health habits for the sake of health and well-being (rather than weight control). Health at Every Size encourages:
Accepting and respecting the natural diversity of body sizes and shapes.
Eating in a flexible manner that values pleasure and honors internal cues of hunger, satiety and appetite.
Finding the joy in moving one's body and becoming more physically vital.