Eating disorders

A lot of people worry about their weight and have body-image issues. But if thinking about food is taking over your life, you might either have disordered eating or an eating disorder. If you're concerned about your own eating habits or a friend's, there are a lot of ways to get help.

What's the difference between disordered eating and eating disorders?

Disordered eating means a person has unhealthy eating or exercise behaviours because they're worried about their body image. It's often caused by pressures from the outside world, not a mental illness.

Unhealthy behaviours include:

  • Extreme exercising
  • Extreme dieting
  • Self-induced vomiting 
  • Binge eating 
  • Laxative abuse

Eating disorders involve both frequent disordered eating behaviours and bad thoughts about food, weight, or body shape. It's a brain problem that creates obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours around food and the body. A person with an eating disorder may understand that what they're doing is unhealthy, illogical, and self-harming.

What are the most common types of eating disorders?

The most common eating disorders are anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder.

Anorexia

  • Not eating or eating very little.
  • A fear of gaining weight.
  • An obsession with losing weight and being thin.
  • Feeling overweight even when underweight.

Bulimia

  • Eating very large amounts of food in a short period of time.
  • Purging (vomiting or taking laxatives or diuretics) or over-exercising to get rid of calories.

Binge Eating Disorder

  • Regularly eating a large amount of food in a short period of time without purging.
  • Feeling out of control when eating.
  • Feeling guilty or depressed after eating.

Do I have an eating disorder?

You might have an eating disorder if you think constantly about food, weight, and body size and it:

  • Affects your mood.
  • Interferes with your usual activities.

I think I have an eating disorder. What should I do?

There are many ways to get help for an eating disorder. 

  • Counselling helps you understand the thoughts and feelings behind the disorder. 
  • Nutritional support can help you learn about food and create healthy meal plans.
  • Support groups can help you see you aren’t alone. You can find support from others in person or online.
  • Medication like antidepressants can help people living with bulimia and binge eating disorder.
  • Self-care includes getting enough sleep, managing stress, keeping in touch with family and friends, practicing relaxation techniques, learning about the body positivity movement, and taking time to do things you enjoy.
  • Outpatient treatment involves getting help from a clinic, doctor’s office, or hospital. Treatment can be for the individual, group, or family.
  • Day treatment allows you to spend your days in the hospital and nights at home. Most day treatment programs run five days a week and include planned meals and snacks.
  • Inpatient treatment is for severe eating disorder cases. You live at the hospital while you're being treated. You have access to care 24 hours a day, planned meals, and meal-time support.
  • Residential care is for patients that need to be supervised, but need less medical attention. You might go here if your behaviour is dangerous to your health.

Watch and learn about eating disorders:

Watch and learn how Chelsea overcame an eating disorder:

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