Dy­ing to be thin: Rais­ing aware­ness about eating disor­ders

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page - News

BY AN­GELA BROWN

Staff Women and girls are likely more apt to worry about their weight in an ef­fort to ap­pear slim and at­trac­tive but at what point does a de­sire to look good be­come an ob­ses­sion that can put their health at risk?

That is one of the is­sues health pro­mot­ers want to high­light dur­ing Eating Disor­der Aware­ness Week, which ends Fe­bru­ary 7, af­ter ob­serv­ing an in­crease in the num­ber of women and girls di­ag­nosed with eating disor­ders.

The “Report of the Stand­ing Com­mit­tee on the Sta­tus of Women” lat­est study “Eating Disor­ders Among Women and Girls in Canada” of Novem­ber 2014 in­di­cates the is­sue is more of a prob­lem for women than men, with 80 per cent more woman iden­ti­fied.

Some of the alarm­ing sta­tis­tics in­di­cate 10 per cent of in­di­vid­u­als di­ag­nosed with anorexia ner­vosa will die within 10 years of di­ag­no­sis. The over­all mor­tal­ity rate for anorexia ner­vosa is es­ti­mated at be­tween 10 and 15 per cent, while mor­tal­ity for bu­limia ner­vosa is es­ti­mated at about five per cent. These two disor­ders kill an es­ti­mated 1,000 to 1,500 Cana­di­ans per year.

Per­sonal trainer and weight loss spe­cial­ist Rox­anne Lau­zon, who runs fit­ness and healthy eating pro­grams in Glen­garry, said eating disor­ders are con­nected to the fast-paced life­style.

She gave a talk one evening about anorexia and had a young teen in at­ten­dance share her story.

“What I no­ticed most that evening is that peo­ple, with rea­son, thought it was so sad that this pretty young lady was killing her­self to be thin,” she said. “My mes­sage that night was: What is the dif­fer­ence be­tween some­one that is anorexic and some­one that is obese? None. Both are head­ing in the same di­rec­tion. Both have an eating disor­der.”

Ms. Lau­zon added that peo­ple would be best to have a healthy ap­proach about their life­style and sim­ply eat nu­tri­tious food, and ex­er­cise, in mod­er­a­tion.

“There is no magic so­lu­tion to achiev­ing op­ti­mal health; there is no magic pill or short­cut,” she said, adding the most im­por­tant thing in­di­vid­u­als can do for them­selves is in­vest in their body’s well­be­ing.

Cham­plain East Cana­dian Men­tal Health As­so­ci­a­tion (CMHA) men­tal health pro­moter Angele D'Alessio said the CMHA vis­its schools to speak to Grade 9 stu­dents about the im­por­tance of hav­ing a healthy body im­age. Chil­dren learn un­healthy at­ti­tudes to­wards food and weight at a very young age.

In a study of five-year-old girls, a sig­nif­i­cant pro­por­tion of girls as­so­ci­ated a diet with food re­stric­tion, weight-loss and thin­ness. As many as 37 per cent of girls in Grade 9 and 40 per cent in Grade 10 per­ceived them­selves as be­ing too fat.

She rec­om­mends teach­ers and par­ents look into the Dove Self­Es­teem Project avail­able on­line that dis­cusses the is­sue in more de­tail.

Ms. D’Alessio added eating disor­ders are of­ten con­nected to de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety. With de­pres­sion af­fect­ing one in 10, and eating disor­ders as many as one in 200, eating disor­ders re­main a sig­nif­i­cant prob­lem. Peo­ple with anorexia are ob­sessed with re­strict­ing their caloric in­take and se­vere di­et­ing, while bu­limia in­volves binge eating and self-in­duced vom­it­ing. Both cases of­ten start with an un­healthy pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with di­et­ing.

Ottawa-based Hopewell helps peo­ple in East­ern On­tario who have eating disor­ders and of­fers sup­port groups and on­line sup­port. Some clients are as young as 13.

“Our num­bers are up from be­fore. We would get re­quests from peo­ple, both men and women,” said ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Kath­leen Cum­mings. “It’s a se­ri­ous men­tal health is­sue and peo­ple that are close to some­one liv­ing and strug­gling with an eating disor­der are af­fected by it.” Wait times for treat­ment may also cre­ate chal­lenges for peo­ple suf­fer­ing from eating disor­ders. “There is so much stigma still around eating disor­ders,” she added. An Ip­sos Reid study shows 95 per cent of eating disor­ders can be lifethreat­en­ing and as many as 50 per cent of Cana­di­ans know some­one who has an eating disor­der, based on the poll con­ducted on be­half of the Na­tional Eating Disor­der In­for­ma­tion Cen­tre (NEDIC).

Be­tween 600,000 and 990,00 Cana­di­ans suf­fer from an eating disor­der. NEDIC of­fers in­for­ma­tion to any­one need­ing help about what is avail­able in their area. NEDIC also has a help line: 1-866-NEDIC-20.

“Eating disor­ders are not nec­es­sar­ily pre­ven­tible,” NEDIC out­reach and ed­u­ca­tion co­or­di­na­tor Mar­bella Car­los said. “There are a lot of dif­fer­ent fac­tors that can in­flu­ence a per­son’s be­hav­iour that might lead to dis­or­dered eating, in­clud­ing ge­net­ics, psy­cho­log­i­cal, and so­cio-cul­tural fac­tors.”

She said what’s im­por­tant is to show chil­dren they are fine the way they are and to do “ev­ery­thing we can to help our chil­dren build self­es­teem.”

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