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The truth about eating disorders

by Archives February 28, 2007

Although eating disorders are a well-known phenomenon in today’s society, that doesn’t mean body image is becoming any less important to Montrealers.

According to a pamphlet published by the Douglas Hospital, although only 3 per cent of women aged between 12 and 30 suffer from a full-blown eating disorder, at least 10 per cent “suffer significant distress around eating, weight, and body image.”

Unfortunately, eating disorders are not treated the same way in the public eye as other diseases are, despite the fact that according to the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC), the annual death rate associated with anorexia is more than 12 times higher than the annual death rate due to all other causes combined for females between 15 and 24 years of age.

Feb. 4 to 10 was National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. The purpose of this week was to publicize valid information about eating disorders and promote a healthy body image.

Part of being aware about eating disorders is being aware about how body image is treated by the media.

“Often Anorexia Nervosa is glamorized through the media, while Bulimia Nervosa is often associated with secrets and shame,” said Dorita Shemie, a social worker at the Eating Disorder Unit of the Douglas Hospital.

“These are not ‘glamorous’ or ‘shameful’ disorders – these are real psychiatric problems which need attention and treatment.”

It has been theorized by many that society’s changing standards of beauty have affected the prevalence of eating disorders.

In a pamphlet entitled “The University Student’s Guide to Body Image” available on the Concordia Health Services website, it is noted that 25 years ago, the average female model weighed 8 per cent less than the average American women.

Today, that percentage has ballooned to 23 per cent. Furthermore, only about 5 per cent of women are capable of reaching the typical proportions seen in advertisements.

There are, of course, campaigns to change these figures. Dove’s Campaign For Real Beauty is one of them. Dove’s Self Esteem Fund, part of their Campaign For Real Beauty, raised over $50,000 in 2004. Furthermore, they have released advertisements, the most recent of which is titled “Evolution”, in which they attempt to expose injustices in the advertising industry involving unrealistic portrayals of beauty.

In September of 2004, the Dove company, with the help of the Harvard and London School of Economics professors and Strategy One analysts, released a 48-page study entitled “The Real Truth About Beauty: A Global Report”.

In their global study, the researchers involved found that in Canada, 54 per cent of women think their weight is too high, and only 1 per cent think it is too low.

Eating disorders are a wide-spread and ever-growing problem. It may be affecting someone you know. For more information on eating disorders and where to find help, visit www.nedic.ca.

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