Eating disorders are conditions that pertain to abnormal or disturbed eating habits. They are mental illnesses that, although common among adolescents and young adults, are often forgotten or neglected when discussing mental health in schools.
With the help of Guidance classes, Wellness initiatives, and Assemblies discussing mental health issues, TFS students are actively trying to destroy the stigma surrounding mental illness. These assemblies in question generally start conversations on the topic of stress and anxiety disorders, including panic attacks, and depression. The persistent presence of these issues in mental health conversations is appropriate, considering the fact that these specific problems may be more common in everyday life. It is disappointing, however, that many do not feel the same way about eating disorders.
Eating Disorder Awareness Week (EDAW) took place throughout Canada from the 1st to 7th of February 2019, and, quite fittingly, passed by almost unnoticed, much like those suffering from the conditions themselves. In school settings, us students are accustomed to discussing how mental illness isn’t always something you can see. And we are given the standard list of warning signs to watch out for when spotting common mental illnesses: a sudden change in appearance, disinterest, mood swings, quiet or reserved demeanors, etc. Eating disorders, however, are rarely mentioned in our school Health or Guidance classes, even though they have a definite presence in our lives and the lives of those around us, especially in female adolescents.
Maybe it is due to the very physical aspect that often accompanies eating disorders that causes people sometimes to forget about their less-obvious manifestations. The neglect surrounding this mental illness could be due to the fact that an eating disorder may not be as easy to spot as one may think. The eating disorder stereotype depicts an unnaturally skinny teenage girl who lives off carrot sticks and constantly admires photos of stick-thin supermodels in magazines or online. This stereotype is a part of the stigma surrounding eating disorders, caused by a lack of awareness on the subject. In truth, anyone of any age can be affected by an eating disorder.
It is important to note that eating disorders make up a list of conditions surrounding food and eating. Four common types of eating disorders are as follows:
Anorexia nervosa: a condition where one has an obsession with food, eating, and exercise and will go to extreme lengths to remain slim, resulting in weight loss. Anorexia is most likely the most well-known type of eating disorder.
Bulimia nervosa: a condition accompanied by repeating episodes of purging (vomiting) food caused by an obsession with being slim, resulting in weight loss. Bulimia is sometimes accompanied by binging.
Binge Eating Disorder: a condition accompanied by frequent, repeating episodes of eating large quantities of food at a time. Binging is sometimes accompanied by purging.
Avoidant or Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID): previously known as Selective Eating Disorder (SED), this is a condition where certain foods are omitted from a diet based on appearance, smell, taste, texture, brand, presentation, or a past negative experience with the food, resulting in extreme weight loss.
Possible Warning Signs and Symptoms
Dramatic or extreme weight loss
Wearing layers to hide weight loss or stay warm
Preoccupation with weight and food
Often “feeling fat”
Excessive exercise regime (sometimes despite weather, illness, injury, etc.)
Frequent visits to the bathroom after meals
Excessive use of mouthwash, mints, gum
Calluses on back of hands and knuckles from self-induced vomiting
Dental problems (ex: cavities, teeth discoloration from vomiting)
Binge Eating Disorder
Lack of control over ability to stop eating
Feelings of disgust, guilt, and/or low self-esteem after overeating
Hoarding food in strange places
Scheduling and making time for binge sessions
Avoidant or Restrictive Food Intake Disorder
Dramatic or extreme weight loss
Picky eating that progressively worsens
Fear of choking or vomiting
No body image disturbance
Kids Help Phone | 1-800-668-6868 | http://www.kidshelpphone.ca
National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC) | http://www.nedic.ca
Ontario Community Outreach Program for Eating Disorders | http://www.ocoped.ca
Bulimia Anorexia Nervosa Association (BANA) | https://bana.ca
Sheena’s Place |416-927-8900 | https://sheenasplace.org
Personally, I know people who continue to struggle with eating disorders, and I wish to start a more active conversation on the illness’ quiet presence in our daily lives and how we, as a student body, can continue to raise awareness for this problem that deserves a much larger audience.
If you have any questions about this issue, or if you just wish to have a conversation, please do not hesitate to contact me, your Guidance counsellors, or the current Wellness Prefects, Sabine G. and Emilie A.