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It's Eating Disorders Awareness Week in Canada (Feb.1-7, 2017). It has taken me about 15 years to ADMIT that I had an eating disorder (anorexia nervosa) as a child and teenager. If you know someone with an eating disorder, here are a few things to be aware of.
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By and large, we live in a diet-obsessed society, so my health nuttiness went unnoticed. Plus, like most individuals with eating disorders, I was a master at hiding all this dysfunctional behaviour for many years. I was also incredibly successful at outwardly presenting a well put-together front when facing the world. I had been a model student, a star employee, a good friend and doting auntie to my young nephews. Until it all came crashing down on me.
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Eating disorders don't care if you're male or female, under 10 years old or over 50 years old. They'll destroy anyone who's ripe for the picking. When I speak at school or to parents about body image, the issue of media manipulation always comes up and for good reason. We are definitely influenced by what we see and hear in our magazines and TV screens, but does the media CAUSE eating disorders? I say no.
Eating disorders are more than just "extreme dieting," they are psychological disorders that stem from complex underlying issues. There are many stereotypes and myths surrounding eating disorders, and the resulting stigma can make it more difficult for those affected to seek treatment.
At a recent function, a young woman takes me aside, and complains bitterly about the holidays. She finds them stressful, but not for the reason we might think. She explains that, like thousands across Canada, she had waited for the Status of Women report on eating disorders, and that she was praying that it might offer some hope for 2015, a plan to help struggling families. But these hopes have been dashed. She continued to say that many Canadians are so sick that they need urgent help, and that long wait times, few hospital beds and lack of help in the community are killing people needlessly in our communities.