Eating disorders are something hard to swallow

Since our society sends mixed messages about food and eating by promoting the importance of healthy nutrition while emphasizing that thinness is associated with beauty, success, and happiness, it is not surprising that eating disorders are a huge problem.
At Concordia, Owen Moran the Health Educator at Concordia’s Health Services, says that the problem of eating disorders is a significant one. He admits though that “problematic eating and disordered eating is more of a problem.” Whereas more women go to Health Services for help, some men do as well. Health Services also has a psychiatrist who works mostly with eating disorders.
The two most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia. An estimated 200,000-300,000 Canadian women aged 13-40 have anorexia nervosa and twice as many have bulimia. One Montreal non-profit organization concerned with helping people is ANAB (Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia) Quebec. Situated in Pointe-Claire, ANAB has existed since 1984. The services offered are available at little or no cost. When asked why many people do not seek help, Heidi Shapiro, an ANAB volunteer and member of the board of directors, says, “I think there’s a lot of shame attached to it. Sometimes people feel they’re the only ones and that no one will understand.”
Moran also points out that, “sometimes they don’t think they have a problem. It’s become so normalized to them. You’re admitting some type of weakness…. Some people might not know there are resources out there.”
Anorexia nervosa is the most common and deadliest eating disorder and is characterized by intense fear of fat or gaining weight and an extremely distorted body image. The illness affects at least one in every 1,000 women aged 13-25, and one in every 200 girls aged 15-18. An anorexic’s skin may become dry, and her hair brittle with the possibility of a soft and downy hair called lanugo appearing on her face, back and arms. The heart rate slows down and the blood pressure falls probably because the body is trying to adjust to the low energy intake by using less energy. Sadly, 15 per cent of anorexics literally starve themselves to death.
An important sign to watch out for when identifying an anorexic is noticeable weight loss that occurs in a short period of time, usually within three months. Other signs include hearing someone say she is not hungry around mealtime, noticing an increased selectivity of diet that leads to an obsession with food and recipes, and endless hours of punishing exercise, perfectionism and unrealistic expectations for personal achievement. While some anorexics may periodically binge after a prolonged starvation, others may purge to avoid gaining weight. Many anorexics are hyperactive and unable to relax. Insomnia may be the cause of the hyperactivity.
Bulimia involves a love of food accompanied by guilt over this enjoyment. After eating a huge amount of food, the person purges through self-induced vomiting, abuse of diuretics and laxatives, compulsive exercise, or fasting. Binge-eating usually starts between 15-24 years of age with the body weight of bulimics usually in the normal range for age and height or slightly overweight.
Many physical changes accompany bulimia, such as enlargement of the face and cheeks due to salivary gland swelling which may develop from habitually induced vomiting. About 6 in 10 bulimics habitually induce vomiting. Over half of women who often induce vomiting report vomit to sometimes contain blood. Tears in the esophagus can occur, and if it ruptures, it can cause instant death.
Two very important signs to watch for when discovering if someone is bulimic are frequent trips to the bathroom after eating, and a person becoming secretive about eating. Despite eating large quantities of food, weight fluctuations are only slight. The gums of one’s mouth are sore, and teeth are sensitive to cold and hot. Swollen glands in the neck, chronic sore throat, dizziness and fainting spells are other signs to look for.
Getting help with an eating disorder is important. “If [you’ve] identified [you’re] struggling, get some help. There are great resources out there. Get support. You’re not responsible for this but responsible for getting help,” says Moran. When it comes to helping a friend though, he is more cautionary. “You’ve got to be very careful to know your own limits as a friend. Don’t focus so much on eating and the behaviour as your concern. Don’t be accusatory. Talk to health professionals and inform yourself. If you see danger, get help. You can’t change someone but can express concern.”
If you are struggling with an eating disorder or know someone who is, call Concordia’s Health Services on the SGW campus at 848-3565 or visit them at 2155 Guy St., room ER407, and on the Loyola Campus at 848-3575 or 7141 Sherbrooke St. West, room AD-121-3. ANAB Quebec can be reached at 630-0907, and their office is on 114 Donegani Blvd. in Pointe Claire. ANAB’s website is and the email is [email protected]


Related Posts

Read more
This past academic year at The Concordian has been one for the books. Between onboarding a mostly-new staff…