Jen has the photo of a slim bikini model taped to her refrigerator door as a reminder that she should stop eating.
Every time she is stressed or angry, Jen turns to food. This tendency creates a snowball effect that pushes her to either starve or purge her meals by forced vomiting to keep her waistline small.
“I look like a cow,” the 18-year-old college student says. “I’m so fat.”
Jen is one of three fictional characters who stars in a new CD-ROM created to show how thousands of college-age women in the United States fall prey to unhealthy eating habits and put themselves at extreme health risk.
The two-hour-long CD-ROM program, developed by an MU researcher in collaboration with Northeastern University and Inflexxion Inc., is designed to help college women prevent and deal with eating disorders.
Universities will be able to buy the program in two to three weeks.
Laurie Mintz, one of the lead researchers and an MU associate professor of counseling psychology, said the multimedia program, called “Food, Mood and Attitude,” will educate young women about good nutrition.
She said that women entering college are more likely to develop bad eating habits due to social pressure and lack of self esteem. She added that eating disorders are acute among sorority members and athletes.
Eating disorders, such as binge eating and vomiting, can quickly lead to anorexia or bulimia.
“There are great numbers of college women at risk,” Mintz said. “This multimedia program is showing great progress in preventing eating disorders.”
About 10 percent of college-age women report symptoms of eating disorders, according to the Academy of Eating Disorders.
A study used to the determine the program’s effectiveness showed that women who view the CDs were less concerned about their weight and over-exercising during a long period of time.
The MU Health Promotion Program has four of the program’s CD-ROMs, which are available for students at the Student Health Center, 1101 Hospital Drive.