What is Eating Disorder? Who are affected? What are the associated stigma with the illness and the prevailing myths in the society?

There are three major types of eating disorders, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder. All manifest themselves through a variety of symptoms, appear in the general population in varying proportions but all are considered to be significant mental health issues.

Eating disorders are sometimes associated with a range of weight-related problems. These problems include: unhealthy dieting practices, binge eating and preoccupation with food. Observable physical characteristics of someone having an eating disorder are being extremely underweight or extremely overweight. It should be noted that there may not be any physical signs. Eating disorders are serious psychiatric disorders that interfere with the way one eats and thinks about food. They keep people from enjoying life and moving forward (NEDIC, 2014). Eating disorders also often overlap with other health issues such as obesity.

The disorders that affect weight “may overlap as girls move from one problem, such as unhealthy dieting, to another, such as obesity” (Eating Disorders and Obesity, n.d., ¶ 1). Obesity, which is not a psychiatric disorder, is characterized by higher than average body weight that can have negative impact on your health and well-being (Canadian Obesity Network).

For eating disorders, over one million Canadians are affected and an estimated 1,500 Canadians will die each year as a result of the life-threatening medical complications of eating disorders (NEDIC, 2014). Furthermore, as many as 10% of people who experience anorexia nervosa die as a result of health problems or suicide (CMHA, 2016). For obesity, it is 1 in 4 adults now living with obesity, which approximates to six million Canadians (Canadian Obesity Network). Below are additional facts about obesity and eating disorder.

Six Truths about Obesity (Adopted and modified, Canadian Obesity Network)

1) Obesity is a chronic and often progressive condition, similar to diabetes or high blood pressure

2) Obesity is a leading cause of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and cancer

3) Canadians living with obesity face widespread weight bias and discrimination – from strangers, educators, employers, health professionals, media and even friends and family

4) Barriers to living a normal life are common (e.g., undersized chairs in public locations or lack of appropriate-sized medical equipment such as blood pressure cuffs and patient gowns)

5) Obesity is a medical condition that can be caused by multiple factors

6) Obesity does not occur because an individual eats too much or does not exercise enough

Six Truths about Eating disorders (Adopted and modified, Nedic 2014)

1) You can’t tell by looking at someone whether they have an eating disorder

2) Families are not to blame

3) Families can be the patients’ best allies in treatment

4) Eating disorders are not choices, but serious biologically-influenced mental illnesses

5) Eating disorders affect people of all genders, ages, races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic statuses

6) Eating disorders carry an increased risk for both suicide and physical/medical complications

There are a number of resources for Eating disorders and Obesity that can be of support and provide further education. For eating disorder, this includes: The Eating Disorder Helpline – 416-340-4156 /1866-633-4220, The Nedic Website, which is http://nedic.ca/ and Sheena’s place that can be reached at (416) 927-8900 or via website at http://sheenasplace.org. There are also resources for obesity including: The Canadian Obesity Network website at http://obesitynetwork.ca/public. This website provides numerous resources, such as 5As Tool and Webinars.

Knowledge has the potential to empower one to help themselves and the community. As we acquire knowledge, it is important to put it into action. We can transform the lives of people who struggle with eating disorders by broadening our perspective of the physical and emotional traits sufferers may present with. My hope is that this article provides some general knowledge about eating disorder and obesity and inspires you to learn more and/or support those important in our lives, including family, friends and the community. Each one, teach one!

National Eating Disorder Information (2014). Retrieved from: http://nedic.ca/
Canadian Obesity Network (2017). Retrieved from: http://www.obesitynetwork.ca/
Eating Disorders and Obesity. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://athealth.com/topics/eating-disorders-and-obesity-2/