There are many days and weeks throughout the year that are marked to raise awareness, celebrate success, and encourage conversation. From February 1 to 7, local organizations and community members will be turning up the volume on  Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Being that this will only be the third year that this week is marked in Edmonton, those involved are especially motivated to spread the word on this important mental health issue.

An Eating Disorder is a serious brain-based illness that is characterized by a severe distress, anxiety or preoccupation with food, body image and weight.

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As with any mental illness, there is a stigma that goes along with eating disorders, often times preventing people from getting the help they need.

This post exposes some of the many myths surrounding eating disorders, so we are able to have more informed discussions with those around us. This is an important first step in reducing stigma and opening the doors for understanding and healing.  

Myth #1: An eating disorder is a choice someone makes, like going on a diet

  • An eating disorder is a chronic mental illness that has serious physical impacts. Although eating disorders may begin as a diet, once the illness has taken root, there is no choice involved.
  • This myth can be extremely damaging as it reinforces blame on the individuals who are suffering.

Myth #2: You can tell if someone has an eating disorder by looking at them

  • Anorexia is only one type of eating disorder that results in dramatic weight loss and a noticeably thin body. Someone who is normal weight or overweight may also have an eating disorder.
  • Other types of eating disorders include bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and other specified feeding or eating disorders.

Myth #3: Only teenage girls suffer from eating disorders

  • Eating disorders affect a diverse range of individuals from different ages, ethnicities and genders, just as any other mental illness does.

Myth #4: Pictures in the media cause eating disorders

  • Eating disorders manifest due to a complex interaction between biological, social and environmental factors. To state that a certain factor “caused” an eating disorder would be inaccurate.
  • Images in the media of “perfect bodies” are environmental and social factors that may contribute to the development of an eating disorder for someone who is susceptible.

If there is someone who you think may be suffering from an eating disorder, please visit the Eating Disorder Support Network of Alberta to learn the warning signs and how you can help.

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