Attack of the diets! Turning on the TV, browsing a bookstore or shopping for groceries are all potential places to be bombarded with low fat, fat-free, high protein, low carb, or no sugar catch phrases for the diet industry.
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, 70 per cent of women and 35 per cent of men are on a diet at any given time.
Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorder are all diseases that are related to the dieting craze. They do not cause pop culture or the obsession with thinness, but the link cannot be denied.
Eating disorders are serious diseases with brutal physical side effects. Anorexia can lead to loss of hair, extra hair growth on legs and arms, fainting, osteoporosis, heart failure, and loss of menstrual periods that could be permanent. Bulimia often leads to tooth decay, ulcers, esophagus ruptures, and heart failure. Binge eating can result in high blood pressure and cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, and gall bladder disease.
All three disorders are associated with controlling food in an obsessive manner and can be linked to over exercising.
Mental health practitioners bel- ieve biological and personal factors are the main cause of eating disorders. Social factors such as “skinny” celebrities are secondary.
“A lot of the students diagnosed with eating disorders are using the disease as a coping mechanism,” said a psychologist at the University of Calgary Counseling Centre, Dr. Anne Laverty.
This means being thin is not the ultimate goal. Controlling one’s weight is a way of perpetuating a sense of control in other aspects of life.
Dr. Kristin von Ranson from the Department of Psychology at the U of C is currently involved in several studies related to the psychological causes of eating disorders.
Von Ranson’s research is aimed at developing a more effec- tive treatment process through a greater psychological understanding of the disease.
Sufferers may justify depriving themselves of food by believing they are undeserving of the nourishment it takes to survive. Anorexics often look in the mirror and see fat despite being severely underweight.
Treatment today looks to address these psychological issues along with addressing the physical side effects. Family and individual therapy, monitoring of healthy eating and physical wellness, and education programs surrounding the disease and proper nutrition are included in most programs.
Getting a person to pursue a course of treatment can be extremely hard in most cases. Dr. Laverty recommends being patient and persistent and using statements that do not point fingers. The person needs to see a medical doctor and usually a counselor. There is no cure for eating disorders and it takes a lot of time to heal.
Dr. Laverty also reminds family and friends of the affected to seek support for themselves in the form of counseling and educat- ing themselves about the disease. Resources on all types of mental illness can be found in the U of C’s Counseling Centre, located on the second floor of MacEwan Students’ Centre.
My survival Mode
A “trusted” cousin raped me at a very young age when he was baby-sitting. The abuse continued for years and my young self created a reality in which I was a happy, funny, witty child with absolutely nothing wrong. The creation of this life became me. I never dealt with the reality of the situation.
Anorexia became my release, an abuse of control where I was the perpetrator and the victim. In my early teens I was hospitalized with the disease and through circumstances was raped again while in restraints that were needed for the stronger mental patients. For months I struggled to survive in a hospital until food became the lesser of two evils. I gained enough weight and the doctors released me into the world of high school.
I moved through high school in a surreal manner. I was president of the Students’ Council, drama queen, band geek, jock and everything else that one can be in a small high school. Graduation came and went and I found myself working at my dad’s company as a receptionist.
I then headed to work at a ski resort where I could snowboard by day and waitress by night. I lived on the hill for two seasons where I was drawn into a world of coke addicts and alcoholics, and I met the man who would lead me to my next hiding place.
I followed him back to his home in the land down under, where he became horribly abusive. I turned again to my only aid, what I thought I could control–Anorexia. I sought death and days from my own funeral I was sent home to Calgary for treatment,
I conquered. I chose life in what were to be my last days.
I travelled to Malaysia, up through Thailand into Cambodia and eventually into Vietnam.
In Cambodia I suffered at the hands of a sick person again. I was kidnapped in Phnom Penh and abused in the worst ways–this time was different though I had chosen life and for the first time I went to the authorities.
I have been home six months now and struggle every day with my affirmation to choose life, but I know now that I want ad deserve it. I will struggle with the affects Anorexia had on me my entire life. I will always be conscious of what I eat. I will always question my weight. I have an extremely weak heart. I will never have children.
I have been treated by medical doctors, homeopaths, naturopaths, acupuncturists, hypnotists and other traditional and non traditional methods. I believe they all work to varying extents but could not have without my decision to live.
I am an artist and an actress and I am finally allowing myself to appreciate and pursue these talents so I will continue to fight.