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  • Writer's pictureDanny Martin, MA

Eating Disorders: Fact or Fiction?


Small meeting

Tomorrow marks the first day of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. As we look to the week ahead, we want to reiterate that eating disorders are intricate mental health conditions that are often shrouded in misconceptions.  

  

It is important to confront these misconceptions. This blog post aims to debunk prevalent myths and present the facts, promoting a deeper understanding of the complexity surrounding these disorders.  


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FICTION: Eating disorders are a choice.  

  

FACT:  

Our cultural media often shows us depictions of eating disorders where the person struggling simply must ‘realize their worth’ and then make an active choice not to engage in disordered eating behaviours. However, one cannot decide to develop an eating disorder.  

  

Eating disorders are complex mental health issues influenced by a combination of biological, genetic, psychological, and environmental factors. Individuals struggling with eating disorders are also more susceptible to developing other mental illnesses which go beyond dissatisfaction with the way they look.   

  

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FICTION: Only women and teenage girls develop eating disorders 

  

FACT:  

Just like any other illness, eating disorders do not discriminate based on gender, age, or any other demographic factor. While these disorders are frequently diagnosed in women and girls, men and boys of all ages can also be affected. Some eating disorders, such as muscle dysmorphia are more prevalent in men than in women. Challenging stereotypes is crucial for recognizing and addressing eating disorders in a broader context.  

  

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FICTION: You can diagnose an eating disorder based on appearance.  

  

FACT:  

Eating disorders manifest in different ways, and physical appearance alone is not enough to assume the presence of an eating disorder or to provide a comprehensive diagnosis. Individuals with eating disorders may maintain a normal weight or exhibit other signs that are not immediately visible. Understanding the behavioural and emotional aspects of eating disorders is essential for accurate identification.  

  

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FICTION: Strict diets and ‘fad diets’ are not a problem.  

  

FACT:  

Engaging in strict or fad diets can contribute to the development or exacerbation of eating disorders. Many fad diets on the market encourage disordered eating behaviours. While some diets may promote healthy habits, extreme restrictions can lead to an unhealthy preoccupation with food, triggering disordered eating patterns. It is essential to approach nutrition in a balanced and sustainable manner. Rather than following a ‘diet,’ learn about eating and exercise behaviours that are healthy for your body. Consider consulting a nutritionist if you are not sure where to start.    

  

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FICTION: Families cause eating disorders.  

  

FACT:  

Family dynamics may influence various aspects of an individual's life, but it is inaccurate to blame families for causing eating disorders. These conditions are multifaceted and arise from a combination of genetic, environmental, and personal factors. Understanding and support from families are a vital component of the recovery process for many people with eating disorders.   

  

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FACT:  

While severe cases may require hospitalization, many eating disorders can be effectively treated on an outpatient basis. Treatment plans are highly individualized and may involve a combination of psychotherapy, nutritional counselling, and medical monitoring. The goal is to provide the most appropriate level of care for each person's unique needs.  

  

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FICTION: Someone in my life has an eating disorder, but I cannot help them until they are ready to recover.  

  

FACT:  

Early intervention is critical in the treatment of eating disorders and support from family and friends plays a crucial role in the recovery process. While individuals must be willing to engage in treatment, offering non-judgmental support, encouragement, and understanding can positively impact their journey. Educating yourself about eating disorders and encouraging your loved one to seek professional help can make a significant difference in their recovery process.  

  

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Dispelling myths about eating disorders is essential for fostering empathy, understanding, and effective support. By separating fact from fiction, we can contribute to a more informed and compassionate approach to these complex mental health conditions.  

 

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, seeking professional help is crucial for their path to recovery. See the following resources for eating disorder treatment in the Waterloo region. 

  

The CMHA offers a range of mental health services, and they may be able to provide information and referrals for eating disorder support in the Kitchener area.  

  

The Grand River Hospital in Kitchener may have specialized programs or services for individuals dealing with eating disorders. Contact their mental health department for information.  

  

As always, if you are looking to book an appointment with any one of the therapists at Relationship Matters you may contact us via email at admin@relationshipmatterstherapy.com, or by phone at (226) 894-4112.   

 

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