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Eating Disorders

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Girls and women living with an eating disorder experience eating, body shape, and weight as primary focus points in their life.

They may feel compelled to eat, to restrict their food intake, or to compensate for eating in order to control their body size.

These behaviours are physically and emotionally harmful and damaging to overall well-being.

Although many women have concerns about their weight or shape, these typically occur along a continuum, with women who have diagnosable eating disorders (Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified) experiencing the most severe concerns. If untreated,

eating disorders can lead to hospitalization or even death. It is possible to recognize when you might be overly preoccupied with your weight or eating habits and to take steps to alter your attitudes before you damage your health.

Know the Facts

• Eating disorders usually develop during adolescence or early adulthood, but can emerge at any point across the lifespan, particularly at midlife.

• Eating disorders affect physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

• Eating disorder behaviours usually indicate an underlying struggle (e.g., emotional, interpersonal, or life challenge) that exceeds a girl’s or woman’s coping resources.

• Symptoms include intense fear of weight gain or becoming “fat,” feelings of “fatness,” and excessive focus on shape and weight.

• Eating disorders involve extreme restriction of food intake, attempts to lose weight or maintain very low weight, binge eating (i.e., overeating), and compensatory behaviors such as purging (e.g., self-induced vomiting and use of laxatives and/or diuretics) and excessive exercise.

• Girls and women struggling with an eating disorder often experience depression, anxiety, or difficulty with substance use

Prevention

• Think critically about unhealthy influences. For example, challenge media messages that promote an unrealistic beauty ideal for women.

• Engage in activities that foster self-esteem and develop a sense of identity independent of appearance.

• Connect with other women and social support networks. Foster relationships in which you feel comfortable expressing your thoughts and feelings.

• Prioritize self-care. For example, seek opportunities to balance your needs and responsibilities.

• Manage stress by getting sufficient rest and finding time for relaxation and leisure activities.

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