Healthy Living in the North

Talking saves lives

Purple for #PEDAW poster

When it comes to eating disorders, talking saves lives! There are many myths and stereotypes about eating disorders that we have to challenge and Eating Disorders Awareness Week is a great opportunity to do that! Poster courtesy of PEDAW.

This blog post was co-written by Marianne Bloudoff, Sandi DeWolf, and Rilla Reardon. To learn more about all of our blog writers, visit our Contributors page.

This week, February 1-7, is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. This year’s theme is “Love Our Bodies, Love Ourselves.”

There are many stereotypes and stigmas surrounding eating disorders that continue to persist in our society: they only affect women, they are just about vanity, and that they would get better if people would “just eat.” Talking openly about eating disorders can be a taboo subject and many people may feel ashamed of their eating disorder so they suffer in silence. But dispelling the myths and talking about eating disorders can save lives.

On the surface, it may seem like eating disorders are simply about food and weight, but they are much more complex. Eating disorders are mental illnesses that are influenced by social and cultural experiences as well as biology. They do not discriminate against sex, age, or ethnicity. They can arise in those struggling with their identity and self-image or from traumatic life experiences.

Eating disorders can result in medical complications – anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness. It is important to be aware of the signs that someone may have an eating disorder and how to assist them to seek out the help they need.

Signs that someone may be struggling with an eating disorder:

  • They spend a great amount of time counting calories, weighing themselves, eating only “healthy” foods, and thinking about dieting and their weight.
  • They talk about feeling “fat” despite a noticeable weight loss.
  • They avoid meal times and look for excuses not to eat.
  • They may have low energy or exercise excessively.

Some people may show no obvious signs, however, as they can become very good at masking symptoms.

It can be difficult to approach a loved one who you suspect may have an eating disorder with your concerns. Remember that talking really can save lives and keep the following in mind:

  • Discuss your concerns openly, in a caring and supportive way. Give examples of what you‘re seeing.
  • Avoid battles, blaming, or shaming. Use statements like “I am concerned for your health.”
  • Offer to support them through seeking help.

There are a variety of places where you can help your loved one find help for their eating disorder:

Marianne Bloudoff

About Marianne Bloudoff

Born and raised in BC, Marianne moved from Vancouver to Prince George in January 2014. She is a Registered Dietitian with Northern Health's population health team. Her passion for food and nutrition lured her away from her previous career in Fisheries Management. Now, instead of counting fish, she finds herself educating people on their health benefits. In her spare time, Marianne can be found experimenting in the kitchen and writing about it on her food blog, as well as exploring everything northern B.C. has to offer.