February is Eating Disorder Awareness Month
Did you know? Eating Disorders have the highest overall mortality rate of any mental illness in Canada. While eating disorders are serious mental health conditions, they are also treatable. Unfortunately, research indicates that the majority of people with eating disorders don’t seek treatment, or when they do there are lengthy delays in receiving treatment. Many factors influence the development of an eating disorder including biological factors like genetics, psychological factors like mental health, and social factors like cultural attitudes around food and appearance. Those that struggle with their identity and self-image, dieting and weight loss, body dissatisfaction, experience weight stigma, as well as those who have experienced trauma are at risk. Eating disorders don’t discriminate, they affect people from all ages, genders, racial and ethnic identities, sexual orientations, socioeconomic backgrounds, and body sizes. Contrary to the public and even medical assumptions, eating disorders do not have a certain look to them. People living in large bodies can be affected by anorexia nervosa, just like people living in smaller bodies can be affected by binge eating disorder.
Here are some ways to counteract the negative social messages around food and bodies:
Help others (and yourself) develop self-esteem based on qualities other than physical appearance: Comment on and affirm characteristics that are not related to the body, but rather skills, talents, personality traits, passions, achievements, etc.
Get rid of your diet and your scale: Learn to understand your body and listen to its cues. Your weight is not a measurement of your health or self-worth. Learn about the Health at Every Size® philosophy.
Avoid labeling food as good or bad: Labeling food as good or bad ties morality to food. Food is morally neutral, as is body size. When food is tied to morality it can lead to feelings of guilt and shame around food leading to disordered eating like restricting, bingeing, and hiding eating behaviours.
Stand up against size or body-based bullying: Do not encourage or laugh at jokes that make fun of anyone’s body or size (including your own). A person’s worth and morality are not related to how they look. Celebrate body diversity.
Criticize the culture that promotes unhealthy body image, not yourself: Look at how encouraging people to dislike their bodies helps to sell products. Encourage people to question, evaluate and respond to the messages that promote unhealthy body image and low self-esteem.
Do you spend most of your day thinking about food and your body?
Do you avoid meals, restrict certain foods, binge eat, or purge after eating?
Do you feel guilty or out of control when eating?
Do you think that life will only be good if an ideal weight is achieved?
If you answer yes to any combination of these thoughts and behaviors, you may have an eating disorder. There are programs in Manitoba which can help you wherever you are on the journey to recovery.
Where to get help:
- Call the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC) helpline at 1-866-633-4220
- (18+ only) Call Women’s Health Clinic in Winnipeg for information and referrals 1-866-947-1517 ext. 137
- (All ages) Make an appointment with your family doctor and ask for a referral to the Health Sciences Centre Eating Disorder Program