Five Common Misconceptions About Eating Disorders

With so many misconceptions about anorexia, bulimia and overeating, can you spot fact from fiction? We talked to Julie Notto, the program manager at Sheena's Place in Toronto to help us decipher some common, confusing information.

MYTH: It's Easy To Spot An Eating Disorder

"We only see the sensationalized stories. There are many people who struggle with eating disorders and look like the average person on the street. People go to Sheena's and are worried they won't be believed" if they tell people they have an eating disorder, says Notto.

MYTH: Eating Disorders Only Affect Teenagers And Young Adults

"Eating disorders are [beginning] to start younger and younger. There have been cases of five and six-year-olds [being diagnosed with them]. They're on the rise for young women and men, too. Eating issues can flare up during transitional periods such as adolescence, during high school and through university. [They even] affect busy career women in their 40s."

MYTH: The Intervention Approach Is The Best Way To Help Someone With A Disorder

"You have to say, "I am concerned about you. I'm just wondering if things are OK. It seems like you've lost weight." If [signs and symptoms] gets worse, tell friends and family members. It's about keeping the lines of non-judgmental communication open around [eating disorders], because there's so much shame around having [one]."

MYTH: An Eating Disorder Will Be Completely Cured After Treatment

"People go into treatment and become weight stabilized. Physically they're in a safe place, but they're not in a safe mental state. There are still underlying emotional issues. It's completely about the food and completely not about food. [People] may be weight restored, but they may not be completely emotionally restored."

MYTH: Anorexia Nervosa Is Caused By Vanity And The Media

Thirty per cent of people with an eating disorder have been abused at some point in their life. Abuse can result in low self-esteem and difficulty with relationships. These can be contributing factors to an eating disorder. Notto says studies have found evidence there's a definite link between dieting and eating disorders. Four or five years ago, the dieting industry was a 42 billion dollar industry and it continues to grow.

Sheena's place offers support programs for people who are struggling with eating disorders. Thursday night, Sheena's Place hosted The Fireball -- an annual event aimed at educating the public about eating disorders. To learn more about Sheena's support services -- or eating disorders -- visit