Take a moment to think about how you see yourself in terms of health and body image.
In our weight/body image obsessed society, dietician Lindsey Mazur says it’s possible for some to have abnormal behaviors and perceptions regarding our weight and body image, and mistakenly see them as normal. These perceptions, which are at the heart of eating disorders, are going to be the focus of a free Community Education Forum held February 5 at Unitarian Universalist Church as part of Eating Disorder Awareness Week.
Mazur, along with Women’s Health Clinic counsellor Lisa Naylor, will be featured speakers at the event.
“I think our society’s focus on weight gets in the way [of people seeking treatment] because we think some of the behaviors that are actually eating disordered are normal,” Mazur says.
Like many mental illnesses, there is a stigma around eating disorders which can prevent people from getting help. Naylor says education is important to move away from this stigma.
“People tend to assume that extreme thinness is an indicator of an eating disorder - and it is one symptom for some people - but there are many people with clinical eating disorders who don’t fit that stereotype,” she says.
Are eating disorders more common for women or men? Naylor says that even though there are several types of eating disorders, not a lot of research has been done recently with the general population of Canada.
“One of the well-known Canadian studies on the prevalence rates of Bulimia Nervosa was completed almost 20 years ago,” she points out. “That study concluded that the prevalence rates for females was about 11 out of every 1,000 females and about 1 out of every 1,000 males.”
Different types of eating disorders include anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder, all with varying symptoms. The underlying obsession with weight is the same, but the cause behind it is still more complex than just a desire to be skinny.
“Eating disorders often start out as a diet or with the goal of being thinner,” Naylor says. “Other times, certain behaviours such as binging or over-exercise may initially begin because someone uses the food or the activity to soothe distress or give themselves a sense of control when other aspects of their lives feel out of control. ED’s can start out as a response to trauma, bullying or problems with family function.”
As a dietician, Mazur hopes to challenge the perception of “black and white thinking” about foods.
“When we take away the power of the worries around weight then we can help people move forward and take care of their bodies with food and activity in a balanced way,” she says.
The forum is being presented by the Provincial Eating Disorder Prevention and Recovery Program during Eating Disorder Week, which runs February 2 to 8 this year.
“It is a great opportunity for individuals who may be worried about themselves or someone they love to come and get more information,” Naylor says.
Published in Volume 68, Number 18 of The Uniter (January 29, 2014)