Eating disorders are becoming more common than we think. Previously labelled as a ‘teenage girl’s problem’, we now find this medical issue affecting our kids as young as the age of 6. This week is ‘Eating disorder awareness’ week. Here are some tools to help you know the warning signs of this very life-debilitating disorder, and also where to seek help.
What are the warning signs of someone with an eating disorder?
- Eating patterns: dieting/fasting periods, fear of fatty foods, preference of low-fat foods, secretive eating, reading constantly nutrition/cooking books, cutting foods in small pieces and eating very slowly, spreading/playing with food on the plate, weighing foods, drinking a lot of water or diet sodas before meals and snacks, going to the washroom right after eating.
- Social eating: avoiding events where eating is involved (family events, birthdays, social events)
- The scale: weighing oneself daily or more than once a day, weighing oneself before and after meal time
- Physical changes: drastic weight fluctuations, loss of menstrual cycle, pale complexion, teeth erosion/increased cavities, loss of hair, always being cold
- Overall: avoiding seeing friends, doctors, dentists; lack of pleasure in activities and being with friends; over-exercising
What to do if a friend or a family member suffers from an eating disorder?
- Do not blame yourself: many factors can bring a person to develop an eating disorder (namely genetics, environment, personality traits, stressful events…). Do not dwell on what you could have done, but focus on what you can do to move forward.
- Get informed and seek professional help: do not take the role of a therapist. Seek medical, nutritional and psychological help since an eating disorder is a problem not to be taken lightly.
- Make your home and surrounding environment healthier: avoid buying diet foods, nutrition books, fitness books, tabloids and magazines, talking and following a diet, talking about weight.
- Have fun: sometimes, when someone close to us suffers from an illness, food becomes our focal point. This puts more pressure on the person who is afflicted with the issue, and can hinder their healing process. Try having some fun (play board games after meal time, plan a weekend trip as a family, spend more time as a family outside of meal time) to help take the focus away from food.
- www.AnebQuebec.com (French resource)
- http://www.anebquebec.com/pdf/outils/aneb_guide_semaine_sensibilisation_ta2012.pdf (French resource)
- www.Nedic.ca (English resource)
An eating disorder is an important issue not to be taken lightly. The sooner the person seeks treatment, the sooner he/she can find peace and enjoy life to it’s fullest. An eating disorder can be debilitating, but with the proper professional help, it doesn’t have to be.