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Women with eating disorders in Canada

VincenzoRizzo via Etsy.com
VincenzoRizzo via Etsy.com

Of those who have eating disorders in Canada, 90 to 95 per cent are female. Many people with eating disorders are known to have suffered a trauma such as psychological, physical, or sexual abuse, or be part of a family in which the caregivers are addicted to alcohol or drugs. However, many people with eating disorders have not experienced such traumas. An eating disorder may have no single cause. In someone who is vulnerable, a disorder can be triggered by an event one doesn't know how to handle, which can be as common as being teased or as devastating as rape or incest. An eating disorder often begins when the person is dealing with a difficult transition: puberty, a new school, the breakup of a relationship. Every person's experience is unique, but often the person who develops an eating disorder feels shame, disgust, and anger about their body. Some feel a need to purify or even punish their bodies. They feel powerless to change anything else in their lives.

There are two main types of eating disorders: anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Both are characterized by excessive concern about one's weight and shape and a negative, distorted body image. Although a person may be under weight, when he/she looks in a mirror, he/she sees herself as obese. He/she thinks that others also consider her mammoth in size, even if you think he/she looks skeletal when you see their thin arms and legs.

Of the women in Canada between the ages of fourteen and twenty-five, an estimated 2 per cent suffer from anorexia, a condition defined as drastic weight loss caused by self-induced starvation. It can, however, begin earlier. As a child, the individual may begin by eliminating desserts from her meals. Then she may also exclude bread. She could go on to deny herself more and more food until she's eating only vegetables and water. Eventually she may try to exist on water alone. The anorexic may go to the extreme of counting the calories she consumes from the glue after licking a postage stamp.

Behind this potentially fatal illness is a girl's strong desire to control everything and to become thin. Some may already be painfully thin in their parents' eyes; others become anorexic because they were overweight children, were either ostracized or encouraged to diet, and were praised when they lost pounds. Anorexics believe their only problem is being too fat. They have a distorted body image and don’t  recognize how underweight they are, which makes it difficult for them to recognize that they need treatment.

Typically the anorexic makes up excuses to miss meals. Most teenagers have voracious appetites, but if your daughter often says that she had a huge lunch and doesn't want dinner, you might well be alert to other indicators of anorexia.

The British Columbia Ministry of Health includes the following as signs of anorexia:

• She develops obsessions about food and recipes. An anorexic may eat vicariously by grocery shopping, by watching cooking shows, or by cooking food for others.

• She develops unusual eating habits. She may cut her food into tiny pieces or eat only the crumbs that others leave behind.

• She always feels cold.

• She shows a noticeable weight loss.

• She involves herself in excessive exercise. As a way of burning calories, an anorexic may spend hours in the gym or go on day-long walks

If you think you or your loved one may be struggling from an eating disorder get a quote on treatment by calling: (888) 268-9182