Challenging Eating Disorders
In looking at areas of mental health that are highly stigmatized, and not readily discussed, eating disorders would be near the top of this list. All genders can experience disordered eating, though many discussions importantly centre on the experience of those who are women-identified.
A common misconception of eating disorders is that they are all about food, when in fact, they are not at all; they may involve food, but are often centered on challenging emotions, lowered feelings of self-worth and self-control and/or a dissatisfaction with body size and image.
For the lack of information and space for discussion that is available about eating disorders, the impact on the mind and body can be serious. The longer term physical and emotional health impacts of eating disorders are well-researched – they can impact and cause issues with vital organs and can lead to further mental health variances.
SEEKING TRUSTED SUPPORT CAN BE CHALLENGING. IT IS OFTEN THE FIRST STEP IN A LONGER JOURNEY OF RECOVERY BUT AN IMPORTANT ONE.
Here are some suggestions on taking that first step:
Learn about options available to you on campus and in the community
At McMaster, many students who are managing eating disorders access support from health professionals at the Student Wellness Centre, while others seek support from resources within their own home communities. If you are interested in making an appointment at the Student Wellness Centre, you can call 905.525.9140 ext. 27700 or visit us in MUSC B101.
This past year, we also hosted a support group on campus through Danielle’s Place. Danielle’s Place is an eating disorder support and recovery centre, located in Burlington. To learn more about their services, please visit http://www.daniellesplace.org/
Some students prefer to speak with peers to have a place to share their struggles and concerns. McMaster offers a number of peer support options through the MSU:
STUDENT HEALTH EDUCATION CENTRE (SHEC): MUSC 202, ext. 22041
PEER SUPPORT LINE (PSL): 905-525-9140 ext. 28888
Family and friends – it can be hard to let someone know you are struggling, especially those closest to you. Supportive others may have noticed you were struggling but were not sure why. Let them know what you need from them and how they can help.
Supporting a Friend
In supporting yourself or a friend who is managing an eating disorder, you may notice that you or a friend are skipping meals, making excuses for not eating, eating in secret/not wanting to eat in public, excessively exercising, having difficulty concentrating, having low energy or fatigue and withdrawing from social situations and/or relationships with friends and family.
HERE ARE SOME WAYS TO APPROACH:
- Let your friend know what you are noticing and offer support. It can be important to state from your own perspective any changes you have noticed about their actions and letting them know you are concerned. Ask if there is anything you can do for them to help support and be a good friend.
- Be patient – it’s important to not get ahead of where your friend is at. Recognize that it will take time for your friend to make changes.
- Be compassionate – it is important to acknowledge and empathize with the struggle your friend may be experiencing.
- Be encouraging – encourage your friend to see themselves as more than their eating disorder. Affirm the strengths they have and support their interests that are unrelated to food or physical appearance.
- Learn about available resources so that you have help as a supporter.
- Danielle’s Place offers monthly support for family and friends of people living with eating disorders through their Centre – you can find out more at http://www.daniellesplace.org