More than a million Canadians struggle with eating disorders yet there’s little help or support, report experts.
Today is World Eating Disorders Action Day, and advocates, health professionals, those affected and their families are highlighting why eating disorders can’t afford to wait.
Waiting is deadly: “Eating disorders kill more than any other psychological illness,” says action day co-founder Amy Cunningham, and the incidence of children with eating disorders is rising at an alarming rate.
They’re a devastating reality. According to Wendy Preskow, president of National Initiative for Eating Disorders at nied.ca, “There are over one million Canadians who meet the diagnostic criteria of eating disorders, plus the loved ones who care for them. That’s almost the entire population of Saskatchewan, like wiping an entire province off Canada’s map! The numbers are increasing daily and we can’t keep up.”
Worldwide more than 70 million people are impacted by eating disorders. “Awareness, treatment and support is severely lacking, particularly in Canada,” says eating disorder survivor and Body Brave founder Sonia Seguin. “We desperately need to take action.”
Seguin, 32, struggled with various eating disorders for eight years. “I came up against barrier after barrier when trying to access treatment and support including long waitlists and stigma. I came close to death many times during these years and my family suffered greatly.”
She was one of the lucky ones to finally access treatment and community support to “finally step out of the shame I had been living in for so long.”
Harmful stigmas abound. Seguin wants people to know that eating disorders are not a choice.
They’re not just about diet culture and caring too much about how you look. “Eating disorders have a strong genetic basis and are influenced by factors such as trauma, identity, life transitions, and systemic oppression.”
Two years ago, Seguin founded livingbodybrave.com with her mother, Dr. Karen Trollope-Kumar, a non-profit that fills a gap in eating disorder services. Body Brave is collaborating with NIED, researchers, and community-based organizations across Canada to drive the development of an innovative national e-learning platform aimed at caregivers, primary care providers and individuals recovering from eating disorders.