Girls and women living with an eating disorder experience eating, body shape, and weight as primary focus points in their life. They may feel compelled to eat, to restrict their food intake, or to compensate for eating in order to control their body size. These behaviours are physically and emotionally harmful and damaging to overall well-being. Examples of eating disorders include Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and others.
FACTS ABOUT EATING DISORDERS
??Eating disorders usually develop during adolescence or early adulthood, but can emerge at any age across the lifetime.
??Eating disorders affect physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
??Eating disorder behaviours usually indicate an underlying struggle (e.g., emotional, interpersonal, or life challenge) that exceeds a girl’s or woman’s coping resources.
??Symptoms include intense fear of weight gain or becoming “fat,” feelings of “fatness,” and excessive focus on shape and weight.
?? Eating disorders involve extreme restriction of food intake, attempts to lose weight or maintain very low weight, binge eating (i.e., overeating), and compensatory behaviors such as purging (e.g., self-induced vomiting and use of laxatives and/or diuretics) and excessive exercise.
?? Girls and women struggling with an eating disorder often experience depression, anxiety, or difficulty with substance use.
WHAT TO DO?
??Think critically about unhealthy influences. For example, challenge messages that promote an unrealistic beauty ideal for women.
??Engage in activities that foster self-esteem and develop a sense of identity independent of appearance.
??Connect with other women and social support networks. Foster legal relationships in which you feel comfortable expressing your thoughts and feelings.
??Prioritize self-care. For example, seek opportunities to balance your needs and responsibilities.
??Manage stress by getting sufficient rest and finding time for relaxation and positive leisure activities.
??Eating-disorder treatment typically includes:
• psychological education
• individual and/or group therapy
• nutritional counselling
• medical monitoring
If someone you know appears to be struggling with disordered eating, try to use a caring, non-judgmental approach. Offer to listen and be mindful that eating disorders reflect primarily an underlying struggle and are not about eating or food.