Student Life

Dealing with an eating disorder during COVID-19

*Disclaimer:  I understand and respect the fact that each experience with eating disorders is unique and serious. I am not a specialist and I am not currently being consulted by one for this disorder. This is a personal essay.

I was in aisle 12—the chips one, obviously—of Métro, on Mont-Royal Avenue and Fullum Street last Friday. My mind went blank; there was nothing. I stood there, staring in silence at the remaining Doritos. If I allowed myself to think, for just one second, I would be consumed with guilt and shame.

On March 12, Premier François Legault announced the first strict measures resembling the start of a lockdown against COVID-19. A week later, public places such as gyms, libraries, bars and schools closed indefinitely.

Inevitably, people rushed to stock up on food. And frankly, so did I. The difference is that I calmly walked to get there; I didn’t rush. But also, I don’t normally stock up on food because I have a binge-eating disorder.

Pausing and staring at food for ages while I do my grocery shopping is not an unusual thing for me. The inner dialogue makes it harder for me than it is for normal people to choose what to eat. I have to battle my binge-eating disorder while I decide what amount of food I really need.

Talking about these behaviours can be really hard. The only time I brought it up in therapy was in my early 20s. I had been living in Montreal for two years and I was so nervous about feeding myself that I wouldn’t eat for hours and then would binge on everything, most often alone.

But, as I’ve grown older, I’ve learned to cope with my inner demons by keeping minimal amounts of food in my apartment, while also trying not to buy anything that triggers my disorder, such as sugary or fast foods. Going out to exercise when I feel overwhelmed has also played a huge part in dealing with my eating compulsion. And it has worked—until now.

In a time of self-isolation and social distancing, it can be petrifying for me to think that $130 worth of groceries that are supposed to last me two weeks, could very well only last me two or three days.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, binge eating, which is regularly eating a lot of food in a short amount of time (bingeing), could be a response to low mood or depression, anxiety, stress or feeling “numb.”

Truthfully, recently my days have been like this: I don’t eat from morning until dusk. But then I’ll go into bingeing episodes at night, finding myself alone with family-sized pizzas, fries, deep-fried pickles, and finishing it all off with a bucket of ice cream, topped with a cherry made of guilt. When that happens, I shut my phone off, too embarrassed to answer my friends simply asking me what I’m up to.

While binge-eating disorder might affect only about two per cent of all Canadians, stress-eating for comfort is something most people can relate to. And, in times of crisis like this one, the uncertainty of food availability or accessibility taps into our deepest primitive fears and makes us act irrationally.

I don’t need official data to know that most people are feeling increasingly stressed right now. People are afraid of being bored or not knowing what to do with their own children. We are so used to having tight schedules and constant stimuli around that when we pause, we find ourselves lost. Our exterior lives are filled, yet our inner selves are an unexplored void.

Surely, what the isolation from COVID-19 is forcing us to do is an introspection of our daily lives. How do you interact with and treat yourself? Are you uncomfortable spending time with your family? Do you know how to respect your partner’s space and boundaries?

In all honesty, the mechanisms I’ve designed for myself to deal with my eating disorder over the past years were only a bandage on a wound that hasn’t healed properly. But the bigger picture here is that this process is not abnormal, yet we are never confronted with our unhealthy coping mechanisms—until a pandemic comes along and changes the entire game. Unfortunately, the result of being unable to find our bearings in all this confusion can be quite distressing.

In truth, worldwide, psychologists are warning of the effects of isolation on mental health. “One of the biggest risks, particularly at a time like this, there’s a tendency to get lost in negative thinking,” says Art Markman, professor of psychology at the University of Texas, in an interview with Health. Markman adds that there’s no way to stop the cycle when you can’t verbalize your fears or be checked on by others.

The goal is to avoid feeling distressed by the loneliness that comes with social distancing. I might be protecting myself and others from a virus, but this shouldn’t leave me battling my own mind. It then becomes even more important to reach out to friends or support groups such as ANEB Quebec, who offer services by phone for people struggling with eating disorders.

Undeniably, we are social creatures. Self-isolation is not an easy experience. But the pandemic is offering a challenging opportunity to learn to be comfortable with ourselves and face our own darkness, whatever that might be, instead of repressing it.

COVID-19 will eventually be a thing of the past. Isolating ourselves with our demons should be too.


Graphic by @sundaeghost


Poli Savvy: Canadian government to finally ban conversion therapy

On Monday, the federal government introduced new legislation that would amend the Criminal Code and ban conversion therapy.

The practice is currently illegal in Nova Scotia, Manitoba and Ontario, but the Liberals are looking into a nationwide ban.

For anyone who isn’t familiar with it, conversion therapy is not your typical type of therapy; which brings important resources to people struggling with mental health issues (with an extra box of kleenex, in some cases). No, dear, this one is a bit more extreme.

Conversion therapy aims to **hold my drink while I scream into a pillow** change homosexual individuals and eventually turn them into perfect heterosexual members of society.

Yes, those exist and they have actually been associated with depression, suicidal thoughts, suicidal attempts rather than with… “success.” In Canada alone, instead of successfully turning gay people straight… one third of men who have undergone conversion therapy have attempted suicide.

Truthfully, it can be scary to not fully understand what our sexual preferences are, or what it means, or even if it’s supposed to mean anything. Figuring things out is already complicated and hard enough without having to fear being forced to undergo physical and emotional trauma that is dubbed legal because of backwards thinking.

Believe me when I say I’m emphasizing every single word: this cannot be treated as a mental health issue. There is simply no “turning back to normal” option and anyone claiming the opposite is setting a dangerous precedent.

In fact, in 1973, the American Psychiatric Association declared that homosexuality was not a mental illness or sickness. Now, almost 50 years later, the Criminal Code itself needs to be amended to make sure that this fact is respected. The federal government doesn’t have a good reputation these days, but this new legislation would be more than welcome and for once, all three opposition parties seem to be on board, according to CBC News.


Graphic by @sundaghost


Poli SAVVY: A click away from your unclaimed CRA money

I do believe one of the pleasures in life is unexpectedly finding money in an old jacket.

You know the feeling when you find––hidden inside a clump of lint accumulated in a pocket––a simple $5, which then turns into a wealth of opportunities: a coffee, a massage, a trip to Portugal! Oh! The sweet dreams one gets from money buzz.

Well, ka-ching, ka-ching, a little-known section on the Canada Revenue Agency website might just be holding onto your golden ticket this time.

A new feature on the CRA website, launched quite discreetly, is currently allowing Canadians to verify and collect any missed payments. It’s not only taking uncashed payments over the last or five years into account, but from literally any year you have filed taxes for.

On Thursday, euphoric individuals started to tweet the amounts of unclaimed money they discovered on their CRA profiles. Sound like a scam? These pleasant discoveries came after a Reddit post regarding uncashed cheques by user hdrons gained attention, as reported by CBC News. Tales range from $46, dating back to the year 1999, to $1,000.

Wait, what!?

The government issues millions of cheques each year––for refunds and benefits––and they simply never expire. According to a statement by CRA spokesperson Etienne Biram, if a person changes address or misplaced a payment, then the money just sits in the digital void. So how come this seemingly simple feature was only recently launched… And not even advertised?

The total sum of unclaimed money is yet to be revealed, and I know you just simply cannot wait to find out if you’ve hit the jackpot—so I will skip the critique for now.

Simply go to your CRA online profile, scroll down to the “related services section” where you’ll find “Uncashed cheques,” and there you go! Are you rich yet?

I’m not.


Graphic by Victoria Blair


Poli SAVVY: Could Quebec be the host of the next biggest pipeline protest?

While all the attention has been on British Columbia and the widely unwanted project that would create an energy corridor over unceded Wet’suwet’en territory, opposition from Innu communities are mounting in Quebec.

Indeed, it seems like the Quebec government is not taking the nation-wide protests as a warning sign, but instead is planning to go ahead with another controversial natural gas project. The TransCanada pipeline expansion, which would stretch over 780 kilometres from Ontario to Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, is set to undergo environmental review next month. The Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE) will be in charge of holding public hearings and studying the construction plans.

Spoiler alert: the pipeline project would cross over ancestral territories.

In 2015, Énergie Saguenay (GNL Quebec), the company responsible for the project, signed an agreement with three Innu First Nations councils from Mashteuiatsh, Essipit and Pessamit. Yet, the agreement was settled without considering Hereditary Chiefs and ancestral rights. Déjà Vu, anyone?

While the pipeline is being sold as a climate crisis solution—hear me laugh—by its supporters, an open letter signed by over 150 scientists and environmentalists shows that the project would lead towards the augmentation of greenhouse emissions and poses a serious threat to biodiversity.

Some of you might think, the review process could put a halt on the project, right? In fact, the BAPE will produce an environmental report with recommendations but ultimately, the Quebec government will have the final say. As Premier François Legault has been demonstrating with his way of pushing controversial bills, he has no scruples when it comes to what he wants. And, unsurprisingly, Legault has repeatedly displayed his support towards the project, against all logic.

Will his government show the same irrationality when it comes to listening to Indigenous communities defending their lands?

The upcoming scenario is alarmingly too predictable.


Graphic by @sundaeghost


Fighting isolation on Valentine’s Day, one rose at a time

**Full disclosure: I fell in love with this story. 

On Valentine’s Day, Concordia Alumnus Timothy Thomas and his team from Home Care Assistance Montreal, partnered with Wish of a Lifetime, in an attempt to decrease isolation, if only for one day.

“Seniors’ isolation is huge,” said Thomas. “A lot of people we have come across have lost a spouse, maybe their kids don’t visit as often and they are feeling down at these times of the year. But it doesn’t take much; a rose, a smile and a hug.”

The team delivered more than 700 roses at three different home care facilities in Montreal; Le Cambridge, Sélection Vista and Chateau Westmount.

While this was the first year the franchise expanded the event to Canada, Home Care Assistance partnered with Wish of a Lifetime for the fourth year in a row. The latter Colorado-based non-profit organization is similar to Children’s Wish, but provides experiences fulfilling the dreams of underprivileged seniors.

“What we are here to do today, with Cupid Crew and Wish of a Lifetime, is to really give back to our clients and seniors communities,” said Thomas.

For Thomas, Home Care Assistance Montreal is a family business. Back in 2007, after his family struggled with finding a caregiver for his grandmother, his father saw an opportunity to offer home care services. He came across Home Care Assistance, a business based out of the United States, with about 90 locations across North America, and decided to buy the rights in Quebec.

In 2014, Wish of a Lifetime created Cupid Crew, which quickly became a national movement in the United States. This year, the event spanned over 500 cities, with the goal of delivering 50,000 roses nationwide. The idea behind the movement was to empower volunteers to deliver roses to seniors, spread love and raise awareness on Feb. 14 of the array of complications that can affect the quality of life for seniors.

“The Cupid Crew initiative from Wish of a Lifetime was showcased to our company at our annual conference in Miami last year,” said Thomas. “We loved the idea, it’s a teambuilding activity for our staff as well. A lot of our employees don’t get the chance to be out there in the field, where our clients and services meet and where we make great impact in the life of seniors.”

The feeling of loneliness and isolation has been widely reported among elders. Numerous studies show a direct connection between loneliness, heart disease and dementia, which can result in shorter lifespans for seniors.  An estimated 1.4 million seniors in Canada—25 per cent of men and 40 per cent of women—reported feelings of loneliness. The Canadian government defines a person from the age of 65 onwards as a senior. If one remains healthy, this could mean a good 20 more years of feeling alone.

Yet, home care centres can also be a place for love and friendship, as the event was trying to highlight. “Even if it’s on a general holiday, it connects [seniors] to each other with the roses,” said Vanessa Cannizzaro, the human resource coordinator for Home Care Assistance Montreal. “It’s something that brings them closer to the people around, and us closer to them.”

Indeed, Sélection Vista resident Bertha Van Frank believes she was lucky to find 94-year-old Claire Eidanger. “I was really shy and she was the first one to say hi to me when I moved here, and we became friends. We are celebrating Valentine’s Day together,” said the 88-year-old senior, as they both smiled, holding onto their roses.

Valentine’s Day might be perceived as a marketing holiday, as Thomas also pointed out, but this was ultimately an opportunity to make an impact on seniors’ lives.

“It doesn’t matter why we are doing it, it needs to be done,” said Thomas. “Yes, it’s corny at this time of year, but it’s also a time of year that is difficult for a lot of people. I think it’s worth it and it’s as good of a time as any.”


Photo courtesy of Timothy Thomas



Poli SAVVY: Bill 40 passed under closure? So much for democracy, Legault!

Authoritarianism can have many faces.

We tend to depict it with extreme images such as slavery, dictatorship and oppression––but not all forms are as explicitly visible. And one of the worst kinds is silencing the opposition.

This rigid tactic is starting to be the trademark of Prime Minister François Legault and the Coalition Avenir––the current centre-right Quebec Government.

Last week, I wrote about Britain’s lack of urgency when it comes to dealing with Brexit—well, over here, we have a government that’s dangerously in a hurry. When it comes to passing bills, the CAQ is a bulldozer.

Late Friday night, it invoked closure for the fourth time in less than eight months, to pass Bill 40. The procedure allows the government in power to limit debates over legislation, even though some National Assembly members who wished to speak haven’t had the time to do so.

Despite severe critics coming from the educational system, 60 over 35 voted in favour of Bill 40, abolishing Quebec’s francophone and anglophone school boards. Additionally, in a last-minute decision, the original transition period of two weeks was eliminated, immediately kicking many commissioners out of their elected positions.

It was widely reported that school boards, teachers’ unions and English-language lobby groups, among the opposition parties condemned the government for rushing into an intense reform that needed more time and more consultation.

What was Legault’s response to evoking closure? “The opposition was ‘obstructing’ the passage of the law,” he said while speaking to reporters in Washington, D.C. on Saturday.

Yet, this is the entire purpose of the opposition: balancing powers and ensuring democratic debates over issues such as this one. Why was the CAQ quick to act so undemocratically?

Well, simply take a look at another controversial bill that was passed under closure; when Bill 21––the secularism law—was voted in last spring. The English Montreal School Board (EMSB) has since been one of the loudest opposition voices, in challenging Bill 21. If the board that’s challenging Legault’s precious laicity law doesn’t exist anymore, can the fight continue?

“Faire d’une pierre, deux coups,” they say—and the CAQ is striking hard.


Graphic by @sundaeghost

Briefs News

World in brief: Oscars 2020, Trump acquitted and extreme weather in Australia

Parasite became the first non-English film to win best picture at the 92nd Academy Awards. The social satire was the first South Korean production to win an Oscar, also taking home the awards for best director, best international film and best original screenplay. There were no big surprises among the other winners, as Joaquin Phoenix, Brad Pitt, Renée Zellweger and Laura Dern all won best performances, as expected. The most memorable moment of the evening hands down goes to Eminem, unexpectedly singing “Lose Yourself,” more than 17 years after he won the award for best original song in 2003.

President Donald Trump was officially acquitted in his Senate trial on both articles of impeachment. A formal impeachment inquiry against the 45th American President was made on Sept. 24, after he was allegedly caught on a phone call seeking help from the Ukraine government to undermine Democratic candidate Joe Biden. He was later charged by the Democrats with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. On Wednesday, the Senate concluded that the allegations did not necessitate the removal of power, as reported by Time Magazine. Trump became the first President seeking re-election after going through an impeachment procedure.

Record rainfall hits Australia after months of devastating bushfires across the country. More than 390mm of rain has fallen over the past four days in Sydney, bringing widespread flooding in the New South Wales region.  BBC reported that 100,000 homes were without power, due to the heavy rain, which was three times higher than the average rainfall for February. Yet, on Monday afternoon, the NSW Rural Fire Service declared on Twitter that it was “the most positive news we’ve had in some time” as the rain extinguished 30 fires. More extreme weather is to be expected in the following days.


Graphic by @sundaeghost



Poli SAVVY: Brexit is a done deal. Or is it?

Hello February, goodbye to the EU.

After more than three years and many extensions, Britain’s breakup with the European Union is finally official. And the story of their divorce is a long and laborious one. A chapter might be over, but the saga continues.

Back in June 2016, 52 per cent of the United Kingdom’s population voted in favour of the Brexit referendum. Yet, the withdrawal of the UK from the EU was sold to voters without a clear idea of what it would mean. Now that it’s here, the question remains.

What exactly does Brexit look like? Alas, my friend, we still don’t quite know and Britain has more time to figure it out once again.

Ironically, even as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson officially signed the Brexit Agreement, which came into effect on Friday, Jan. 31, the UK still has another 11-month transition period. They need to negotiate new regulations over various issues such as trade and immigration, while the old rules still apply. They couldn’t figure it out in three years, but who knows what will come out of this transition period?

We are not just talking about a few new adjustments here and there. We are actually looking at more than 750 treaties and international agreements that will need to be looked over, according to Financial Times. It will take time, and it should. Changes of this nature can’t be made in a rush.

However, despite the separation anxiety the exit is causing, it actually could mean greater opportunities for Canada. While our country and the UK were trading under the EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) since 2016, another deal will have to be drafted and agreed upon by both countries. Seeing how the UK struggled in dealing with Brexit in the first place and how unsteady the road ahead is, Canada could end up with the upper hand.

But ONLY eventually, after the transition period (which could also be postponed for another year or two).

How Britain managed to conquer the world is a wonder.


Graphic by Victoria Blair


Poli SAVVY: Is pushing for traditional values in a modern world the way to leadership?

BREAKING NEWS: There are still entitled men in politics.

On one side, we have potential Conservative candidate for the leadership, Richard Décarie who, during an interview with CTVs Power Play on Wednesday, said “LGBTQ” “is a Liberal term” and that being gay “is a choice.” He then said Canadians must encourage traditional values that have served us in the past, encouraging the defunding of abortion services and reinforcing the idea that marriage should be between a man and a woman.

Then, on Friday, not too far from us, Trump became the first U.S. President to walk in the largest annual anti-abortion rally, the 47th March for Life in Washington.

I’m sorry, I didn’t know this was the 18th century?

While Trump’s decision might actually help him win the 2020 election, as a big part of his electoral voters are evangelical Christians who stand firmly against abortion, a Pew Research Centre survey conducted in the summer revealed that 61 per cent of Americans believe abortion should be legal and are concerned that some states are making it hard to access.

And over here, Décarie just gave a quick crash course on “how to lose an election in Canada.”

Federal elections have displayed over and over again that the Conservatives’ weak spots are their social values being out of tune with Canadian ones. More recently, Scheer’s stance on such topics hasn’t quite helped him win voters––au contraire.

A few Tories, such as frontrunner for leadership Peter Mackay, were quick to denounce the comments on Twitter. Still, Décarie’s reductive and ignorant remarks highlight exactly how replacing Scheer won’t necessarily erase the mentality that runs deep within the Conservative Party. Last October, in a post-election analysis, the co-founder of the anti-abortion group RightNow, Alissa Golob, proudly said they were able to elect at least 68 “pro-lifers” out of the 121 current members of the Conservative caucus.

What’s that expression again? Beware of who’s pulling the strings. 


Graphic by @sundaeghost


Poli SAVVY: Standing in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en

Colonizers might learn how to pronounce the word reconciliation, but that won’t stop them from resurfacing time and again.

In Jan. 2019, the RCMP raided the setup camps and checkpoints on the traditional lands of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation in northern British Columbia. These tensions arose after the land defenders stood against the approved Coastal GasLink pipeline project, which would carry natural gas through unceded ancestral lands.

Now, a year later, the BC Supreme Court ruled in favour of the $6.6 billion project––recognizing Canadian law over Indigenous law on unceded lands––allowing the construction to begin while providing another mandate for the RCMP to enforce the injunction.

January 13

The RCMP set up an exclusion zone. What this means is an access-control checkpoint was set up at the 27-kilometre mark of the forest road, restricting entrance to members of the community that might be carrying food supply, but also to the journalists covering the crisis. This directly violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and the importance of keeping the public informed.

Sending militarized forces to unceded territories taps into the widely damaging colonial-capitalist narrative which Canada has been trying to step away from. It carries the message that Indigenous people are criminals for standing in the way.

Let me put things into perspective for you. If a pipeline was threatening to deteriorate your own backyard––the garden that you’ve spent summers building to greet your dear friends with your fresh strawberry and mint salad––while also threatening to sabotage your water so an industry that has been proven to destroy our planet can continue to fuel a foreign market… Wouldn’t you stand up? Wouldn’t you at least try to have a conversation? Yet, while BC Premier John Horgan was visiting Kitimat, he refused to meet with hereditary Chiefs of Wet’suwet’en.

Frankly, this is undeniably part of a bigger fight that concerns all Canadians––how we intend to protect our environment. This is a battle against capitalism and corporations that starts with us respecting Indigenous lands.


Graphic by Victoria Blair


POLI SAVVY: New Year, New Weed but the same old mentality

The new year brought new regulations surrounding cannabis consumption in Quebec.

In order to circulate the information, the government recently released an ad, in which you see two men, a younger and older one, about to smoke a joint. An off-camera voice interrupts them just as they are about to light it up, informing them that the law has changed and that you now have to be 21 to legally consume weed.

Then, Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo! The joint disappeared from the youngest’s hand, who then shrugs his shoulders, candidly smiles and casually leaves. The desire to smoke just simply goes away, because “it’s against the law.”

Tell me, do you know anyone under 21, especially in a country where specific drugs are legal, who would simply agree to give up their drugs because now “it’s the law”?

What Premier François Legault seems to have missed with these new regulations targeting the younger generation is that before the legalization, kids were smoking and they will continue to do so, even if the law has been changed.

What they will do now is turn to a product that they don’t know the contents of, how it got produced and what it will help finance. It goes against the very purpose of weed legalization.

Legalization was meant to control and provide a safe product, to reduce addiction, fight off the black market, and protect our kids. Additionally, it allowed families to bring up the subject and include everyone at the table.

The ad perfectly showcases another problem in our society, which shows how we expect parents to silence the subject to simply make it go away.

Once again, Legault shows a deeply toxic boomer mentality where patronization replaces education. Our society considers people as adults at 18 years old — you can drink at 18 — but Lord helps us, one cannot touch marijuana until they are 21.

But don’t worry, the joint will magically disappear and no one will need to talk about the reasoning behind such a decision.


Graphic by Victoria Blair


Concordia student delegation hits NASH82

NASH is a four-day conference held by the Canadian University Press (CUP), which offers various workshops and lectures to journalism students. Whether the subject was global reporting, Indigenous coverage, hate groups in Canada or the climate crisis, the idea behind the conference was to provide tools for students to report accurately on issues that affect their university communities, but also to make the most out of their own newspaper.

“I think the best part of this conference is getting your head filled with all these ideas – maybe it’s just a spark from what a speaker mentioned or a conversation with other journalists – and try to spread that back out into the student journalism landscape,” said Jacob Dubé, vice-president of CUP.

The old NASH tradition enforces the idea that journalism across universities should not be a competition – rather, a collaboration. Dubé mentioned there is something quite powerful about seeing a community of aspiring journalists together in the same room, helping one another.

Indeed, the theme of this year’s edition, hosted by The Ubyssey – the University of British Columbia’s independent student newspaper – was empower.

Keynote speakers included Garth Mullins, host and executive producer of the Crackdown Podcast, who opened the conference Thursday night with a talk on how to properly cover the drug and overdose crisis in Canada. The second guest speaker was Dr. Candis Callison, an Associate Professor at the University of British Columbia, who addressed the practices and role of reporting on the climate crisis. The final speaker was Anishinaabe comedian Ryan McMahon, who used the stage to confront the colonial narrative in the media and share his view on key qualities and skills future journalists should hold.

NASH is also an opportunity to host the John H. McDonald Awards for Excellence in Student Journalism during the last night of the conference. While The Concordian left without any awards, Ireland Compton, editor-in-chief at The Link, won best Indigenous reporting for her piece: Protest Denounces Federal Decision to Appeal Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

“To be recognized for the work that I’ve been doing is a really great feeling,” said Compton. “I think that we all deal with imposter syndrome from time to time, I know I do, and an award like this is a reminder to myself that I’m on the right track.”

The Link also won the best cover/layout of the year for their gender and sexuality issue, published last March.


Photo by Alex Hutchins

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