There are three main types of eating disorders: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating.
They can affect anyone and have varying degrees of consequences. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, as many as 10 per cent of people with anorexia die as a result of health problems associated with the disease.
Fingers are pointed in many directions when it comes to discussing the issue of eating disorders.
Media, the modelling industry, society as a whole (particularly Western society) are all blamed, for pressuring everyone into the mindset that looking good means looking thin.
Certainly, there are messages being delivered through various sources that impact the way we feel about ourselves. However, eating disorders are a mental health issue, and when it comes to mental health, while there can be many contributing factors, pinpointing blame is not possible.
The problems start from within. People with low self-esteem are particularly at risk.
The blame game will always be played, but it rarely serves a constructive purpose, and this issue is no different in that regard.
The key to addressing a suspected eating disorder with a loved one is to do just that – address it.
Sweeping such a disorder under the proverbial rug does no good, and can do a lot of damage. Rarely will anyone afflicted with an eating disorder simply “work their own way through it.” They need help, and the importance of support from those closest to them cannot be overstated.
The CMHA offers many useful tips on how to help a loved one. They include:
• Remember that eating disorders are a sign of much bigger problems. Avoid focusing on food or eating habits alone.
• Be mindful of your own attitudes and behaviours around food and body image.
• Never force someone to change their eating habits or trick someone into changing.
• Consider family counselling.
Feb. 1-7 is Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Take some time to discuss the issue with your children, your spouse, your siblings, even your parents. Eating disorders can affect anyone.