Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/12/2014 (1933 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
For many Manitobans, Christmas dinner has become a fixture of the holiday season.
That's understandable. Holiday meals allow all of us the opportunity to gather with friends, family and loved ones and share in the happiness of the season.
But while many look forward to these occasions, there are some among us who are unable to do so. I'm referring to people who suffer from an eating disorder, a term used to describe a number of debilitating mental-health conditions that affect 600,000 to 900,000 Canadians at any given time. For them, the emphasis on food at this time of year can trigger a range of symptoms, including fasting, purging, over-exercising and feeling less in control.
The three main eating disorders are:
-- Anorexia nervosa: A condition characterized by a refusal to maintain a minimally normal body weight, an intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted body image.
-- Bulimia: People with bulimia tend to eat large amounts of food in a short period of time and then purge by vomiting, taking laxatives, enemas and diuretics because they fear weight gain.
-- Binge eating: While similar to bulimia, this condition does not include compensatory behaviours such as vomiting, laxatives, diuretics, fasting or over-exercising. Binge eating is often associated with obesity symptoms.
These illnesses pose serious health risks, a fact underscored by a recent report produced by the parliamentary standing committee on the status of women.
It noted eating disorders have the highest rate of mortality of any mental illness. For example, the report says an estimated 10 per cent of individuals who suffer from anorexia nervosa will die within 10 years of the onset of the disorder, while the mortality rate for those with bulimia is about five per cent.
"Combined, these two disorders kill an estimated 1,000 to 1,500 Canadians per year, with this number likely higher as death certificates often fail to record eating disorders as the cause of death," the report says.
Women and young girls are at highest risk of developing eating disorders, making up about 80 per cent of the affected population. But there has also been a recent increase in boys and men with eating disorders, which was documented in the report.
Eating disorders are difficult to treat, largely because those who suffer from them are often reluctant to acknowledge they need help. This is where family and friends can play an important role, especially with younger teenagers.
They can help support strategies designed to head off eating disorders before they start, such as promoting a nutritional focus on healthy eating rather than calorie-counting and weight control; fostering coping and stress-management skills; enhancing self-esteem, confidence and resilience; and combatting social pressures and idealistic views of body image.
Family and friends can also be on the lookout for warning signs of eating disorders, which include skipping meals, going to the washroom after meals, exercising frequently and for longer periods, fasting for the day and eating excessively at night, obsessing over calories and dramatic or unexpected weight loss.
If you suspect a friend or family member is suffering from an eating disorder, you can help by stating your concerns in a friendly, non-confrontational way.
Ultimately, a person who has an eating disorder must come to terms with the fact they have a problem and need help. And when they do, help is available.
There are two main programs in Winnipeg: the Adult/Child Adolescent Eating Disorder Programs at Health Sciences Centre offer in-patient, day-hospital and outpatient care for people who have eating disorders. People accessing these services must be referred by a general practitioner or a psychiatrist. The day-hospital programs have a number of spots for people needing meal support but who do not need in-patient services.
The outpatient program offers counselling.
The other main program in Winnipeg is run by the Women's Health Clinic, which offers counselling, workshops and community education. For more information, visit gov.mb.ca and search: eating disorders.
As with most mental-health issues, eating disorders are deceptively complicated. But with the right professional help, and support from family and friends, they can be overcome.
Donna Alden-Bugden is a family nurse practitioner at the McGregor QuickCare clinic in Winnipeg.