February 1 marks the beginning of Eating Disorder Awareness Week (EDAW). In these challenging times, we have seen an increase in disordered eating and eating disorders, often as a way to cope with stress and uncomfortable emotions.
Knowing that eating disorders have one of the highest mortality rates of any mental illness, we're sharing five common Q+As to help you support yourself and others.
Despite what we might imagine, eating disorders can develop in people of all ages, cultures, life contexts, genders and body sizes. Anyone can be affected and there's no single cause. Eating disorders often develop as a coping mechanism to help people feel in control, and to disconnect from painful thoughts and feelings. Eating disorders exist on a spectrum and many people experience disordered eating with or without a diagnosis.
Eating disorders don't happen overnight. They develop slowly in a continuum of eating behaviours and body-image perceptions. Eating disorders are not a choice; they are eating patterns that take on a life of their own. As people move from disordered eating into a diagnosable eating disorder, they may experience behaviours such as persistent restriction, binging and purging, which lead to psychological and physical consequences.
Common symptoms that can become concerning include:
- Preoccupation with healthy eating, body image, body weight and shape;
- Restricting food intake, binging or purging with food or excessive exercise;
- Constant dieting or focus on healthy food;
- Persistent thoughts of losing weight or needing to be healthy, strong or well; and/or
- Disinterest and disengagement with social and other life activities.
Where can I get resources and support?
Regardless of where people are at with their eating, we live in a culture immersed in fat phobia and weight stigma, which can make it far more difficult to feel good about eating and body shape and can affect our quality of life. Finding supportive people and role models can be very helpful in navigating this challenging cultural context.
If you are concerned that you may be experiencing disordered eating or an eating disorder, we encourage you to connect with your primary care provider.
We know early intervention can be very helpful
so even if you're not sure, consider finding out more about eating attitudes
and body image with the Jessie's Legacy Eating
We hope everyone can find ways to cope that support mental health in these challenging times.