The Growing Concern of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are any of a range of psychological disorders involving a serious disturbance in eating behavior – eating too much or too little – as well as a preoccupation with weight. The unhealthy eating patterns that come with an eating disorder tend to “take on a life of their own”. Though the voluntary eating of smaller or larger portions of food than usual is common, for some individuals this develops into a compulsion leading to extreme eating behaviors. Full blown eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa, can involve not only physical problems, but emotional, psychological and social problem as well.

There is a growing concern with respect images-1to the development of eating disorders in youth. Eating disorders affect girls and women more than boys and men, with 1.5% of girls between ages 15-24 having an eating disorder in 2002. Also, approximately 3% of women will be affected by an eating disorder during their lifetime.

There are certain tips to keep in mind to reduce the chance of your child developing an eating disorder:

– Avoid complaining about your body weight in front of your children
– Don’t focus on the physical appearance of your child, highlight their talents and qualities
– Avoid comments about your child’s weight
– Live with a positive attitude towards body image instead of focusing on food and weight

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It is not always easy to tell when someone has an eating disorder, as these individuals tend to try very hard to keep their behaviours a secret. Although people with eating disorders try and hide the problem, there are many behavioural, physical and psychological warning signs that may indicate someone has an eating disorder.

Behavioural signs
– Avoidance of all social situations involving food
– Strong focus on body shape and weight
– Social isolation or withdrawal from friends
– Constant or repetitive dieting
– Excessive or compulsive exercising patterns

Physical signs
– Sudden or rapid weight loss
– Fainting or dizziness
– Always feeling tired and unable to perform normal activities
– Loss of menstrual cycle in females

Psychological signs
– Intense fear of gaining weight
– Depression or anxiety
– Heightened anxiety around mealtimes
– Easily irritated and moody
– Extreme body dissatisfaction or negative body image

It is possible to prevent the development of eating disorders and it is also possible to prevent an existing eating disorder from worsening. UnknownHowever, the longer someone experiences an eating disorder, the more difficult it is to change. Whether it is yourself or someone you know, it’s important to get help as quickly as possible. The best place to start is with a visit with a family doctor. As an employee of UHN, you can also work with Shepell FGI (our EAP provider) to have a private consultation. (See earlier post, ‘EAP: Don’t Forget about Me’ for more information on what is available through the Employee Assistance Program)

For more information and resources, visit:
http://www.fraserhealth.ca/your_health/school_health/communityresources/school_health_tips/eating-disorder-awareness-month

http://www.eatrightontario.ca/en/Articles/Adolescents-teenagers/When-Eating-and-Weight-are-Concerns–A-Glimpse-at-Eating-Disorders.aspx

http://www.nedic.ca/knowthefacts/overview.shtml

http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/publicat/miic-mmac/chap_6-eng.php

http://www.eatingdisorders.org.au/eating-disorders/warning-signs-a-symptoms

http://www.camh.ca/en/hospital/Pages/home.aspx

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