Eating Disorders

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Dordt University is dedicated to helping students get the most out of their university life, both in and outside of the classroom. Students' rights to make their own decisions will be respected. However, when a student's behavior or choices create either serious risk of harm to himself/herself or others, the university has both a professional and Christian responsibility to intervene. A student with an eating disorder may pose such a risk.

When staff or faculty members are made aware of a student's struggle with an eating disorder, every effort will be made to collaborate respectfully and in a caring manner with the student. The student will be informed about the reasons for the concern and will be encouraged to voluntarily participate in assessment and treatment. The assessment will in most cases begin at the Student Health and Counseling Center. Students may also receive appropriate help off campus. Because successful treatment of eating disorders usually involves both medical and psychological aspects, both counseling and medical supervision are considered to be essential elements of a good treatment plan.

A good treatment plan involves teamwork. The team often includes the student, the student's counselor, a medical doctor, and frequently a dietician/nutritionist. Good treatment consists of an open and willing sharing of pertinent information with all members of the team. Students affirm this by giving permission to share information among team members. A Release of Information Form-Coordinated Care Agreement is signed by treatment team members.

General goals for treatment involve the return of normal eating and the elimination of destructive eating patterns and behaviors so that the student can remain in his/her primary vocation at this stage of his/her life: being a student at Dordt University. When the student's medical condition and stability warrant it, minimal expectations for the student to remain in treatment and/or remain enrolled as a student will be stated and communicated to the student. A student's safety and health is the highest priority. Parameters of health and wellness for determining a student's medical stability are listed below.


It is the university's desire to do all that is possible, with the student's active participation, to assist the student to remain enrolled as a student. However, if a student's physical or emotional/psychological status is judged to place the student at serious risk of harm to self or others, and if the student refuses to cooperate with treatment recommendations or fails to make adequate progress toward previously identified goals, for the wellbeing of the student it may be necessary for the university to take action to remove the risk of harm.

This action may include contacting the student's parents and/or guardian, spouse, or other family members for purposes of discussing treatment options. The purpose of this communication is to safeguard the student from harm. If necessary, good treatment may involve suspension and/or a medical withdrawal in cases where the student's physical and/or emotional/psychological health condition is judged to be incompatible with continued enrollment. For some students, more intensive treatment than what can reasonably be provided by an educational institution may be necessary.

The following list of medical and behavioral criteria helps define minimal health standards for students at Dordt University. Since all people are unique, it is not necessary for a student to meet all criteria fully in all instances. These criteria are intended to be used as guidelines only and it is recognized that a certain amount of subjectivity is necessary in order to make an assessment of risk.

Minimal physical health criteria include:

  • The maintaining of a weight no less than 85 percent of normal for the individual prior to the eating disorder onset.
  • For female students, body mass index (BMI) of at least 18, or body fat of 15 percent as determined by a 6-site skin fold assessment.
  • Normal physical health condition as measured by other standard medical indicators including normal blood count, regular menses (females), and absence of weight-related osteoporosis or other medical conditions.
  • Abstinence from abuse of substances such as laxatives, diuretics, alcohol, diet pills, emetics, enemas, or any other drugs except as prescribed by a physician.
  • Abstinence from behaviors of disordered eating including overly restrictive eating, binge eating, and purging (including self-induced vomiting, use of laxatives, diuretics, diet pills, or excessive exercise).
  • Consistent and appropriate use of prescribed medications.
  • Cooperative and active engagement in all phases of treatment.
  • Demonstrated progress toward overcoming the eating disorder and related behaviors and toward cessation of symptoms that pose a risk to the student's health.