How many times in your life have you been on a diet? If you’re anything like the average woman (or man), you’ve probably dieted at least once in your life. But when losing weight and thoughts about food become an obsession, a diet could become a potentially life-threatening disorder.
This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness week, and Sheena’s Place, a Toronto-based support centre for people and families affected by eating disorders, has declared today a "No Diet" day in the hopes of raising awareness about eating disorders, says Julie Notto, program manager at Sheena’s Place.
There’s a stigma attached to eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and orthorexia, and many who suffer often do so in silence. Children just 10-years-old are expressing dissatisfaction with their bodies and some may already be dieting.
Notto says it’s a real problem when young kids learn to start valuing themselves based on how they look and what they weigh. "There’s this diet dialogue that’s happening at such a young age," she says. "Adults really need to model good behaviour and eating habits."
A form of mental illness, some people are more susceptible to developing an eating disorder, and according to Notto there are often trigger points throughout someone’s life at which the disorder may emerge or flare-up. At Sheena’s Place, coping strategies for dealing with life’s stresses during these transition phases is a big part of therapy. "We really want to stress that you’re not alone, and there is support and help out there," says Notto.
According to this New York Times article, experts estimate that one-third of those with an eating disorder will remain chronically ill, one-third will die of their disorder and one-third will recover¸’ though what being "recovered" entails is not entirely clear, as many who consider themselves "recovered" will often continue to be preoccupied with their weight and body image.
Use this week to educate yourself about eating disorders, and let’s focus on maintaining a healthy lifestyle, rather than a quick-fix diet.