An eating disorder is not a choice – it’s a serious illness.
That’s the theme for Eating Disorder Awareness Week (February 1 to 7, 2017). It’s a strong key message, especially when we consider the myths and stigmas associated with eating disorders in western culture.
It’s common for people with an eating disorder to be told to “just eat” or to “get over it.”
But it’s not that simple. Eating disorders are far more complex and require medical and psychological interventions. In fact, a dismissive or flippant reaction to someone who opens up to you about an eating disorder can lead that person to be secretive about their illness and prevent them from seeking help.
Eating disorders are more extensive than you may think. Hélène LeBlanc, Chairperson for the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, cited in her report on eating disorders among girls and women in Canada in 2014 that “at any given time in Canada, as many as 600,000 to 990,000 Canadians may meet the diagnostic criteria for an eating disorder.”
With numbers like these, it’s easy to see that eating disorders do not discriminate. While genetics, psychological, and socio-cultural influences could make a person more vulnerable to develop an eating disorder, there is no single cause for the development of an eating disorder – eating disorders affect people of all walks of life.
If you or someone in your family suffers from an eating disorder, it’s not an easy conversation to have. But it’s important to address the issue now. Early intervention is linked to reduced severity, duration, and impact on a person’s health.
The first step is discussing your concerns with a physician or counselor/therapist.
Within the Saskatoon Health Region there are clinicians who can provide counselling and therapy to adults experiencing disordered eating.
There are also services, such as ‘Youth Nourishing Connections,’ which are specific to youth ages 12 to 18 who are facing the illness. It allows for people to meet consistently with a pediatrician, clinical social worker, dietician, and psychiatrist all in the same appointment. Youth who are experiencing disordered eating and/or body-image concerns, as well as those who are working in their eating disorder recovery, may also be referred to our ‘Becoming Body Positive’ group. This group promotes body acceptance, improved self-esteem and health at every size.
To access counselling services with Mental Health and Addiction Services, or for any questions you may have, call 306-655-7777.