Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2016

Today is the start of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, a campaign that seeks to raise awareness of eating disorder prevalence and their deadly consequences.

In Canada, roughly 600,000-990,000 people have eating disorders1 at any given time. 80% of those with eating disorders are women and girls. Factors contributing to these mental illnesses include genetics, social, biological, and cultural factors1. Eating disorders can affect anyone, female, male, any and all ethnicities, all ages, and all sizes.

While it is very important to not reduce eating disorders to being about weight (which they honestly are generally not about, instead often the focus on weight, food and eating is actually a coping mechanism for other larger issues in the person’s world) living in the weight and food obsessed culture that exists definitely doesn’t help. Many people go for years without diagnosis because their BMI does not match criteria for anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, or their eating habits simply seem “strong” and “controlled” rather than the unhealthy obsessions that they are. In fact someone who is obese and engages in dangerous eating disorder behaviours that result in weight loss is more likely to be rewarded and praised for their efforts rather than cautioned or questioned.

Eating disorders also have a reputation of being a rich white girl’s issue, but they are most certainly not. Men, women, girls and boys of any nationality, ethnic background, and social  can be suffering from this mental illness. I have seen eating disorders strike all ages; from children to adults. Some people will live their whole lives with an eating disorder, some will recover, and some will die from their illness.

Treatment of eating disorders is an area the province of BC is attempting to reform, because of the lack of services available and a growing need. In-service treatment facilities (where clients stay for treatment) are minimal and have constant wait lists, and services provided outside of these facilities are also vastly underfunded and difficult to access (mostly because there are too many people seeking treatment, and too few people working in this area). Many health professionals also do not feel comfortable working with this unique population (of course this is not unique to eating disorders, any “specialty” area can mean most general health practitioners do not feel confident in knowing the ins and outs of that issue).

Fortunately there are some resources available to folks who might be looking to find out more. If you or someone you know has, or might have, an eating disorder here are some of the helpful websites you can access to find out more or what to do to help:

Kelty Mental Health

Looking Glass Foundation


And never forget to talk to your health care practitioner, doctor or nurse practitioner, because they will help you find services in your area as well.

Meanwhile you can also participate in the Provincial Eating Disorder Awareness Week campaign #Purple4PEDAW and don’t forget to wear purple (and check out the purple landmarks across BC) on February 5th to help raise awareness of this difficult disease.

1. Eating disorders among girls and women (2014). Report of the standing on the status of women in Canada. Accessed January 31, 2016 from:


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