A group of professors from UOIT is setting the wheels in motion for an eating disorder and body positivity group at Durham College and UOIT.
Andrea Miller is one of the professors at UOIT hoping to help get the group started. She has worked as a nutritionist for 23 years, and a large part of her profession includes helping those with disordered eating.
“If it gets recognized early, it’s easier to get a hold of those thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and modify them,” says Miller. “It’s harder to make those changes once someone is entrenched into the behaviours of an eating disorder.”
Although there are various campuses in the Durham region including Durham College, UOIT, and Trent, there is virtually no support for people living with an eating disorder.
Stephanie Brown overcame anorexia after three months of inpatient treatment at Homewood Centre in Guelph, then started Durham region’s first Eating Disorder Anonymous group.
Homewood, Canada’s largest eating disorder clinic, had only 50 patients complete their program in 2013, which, according to Brown, acknowledges the state of eating disorder care in Canada.
The group is the first of its kind in Durham region. The group, which meets in Pickering, is the only eating disorder support group in the Clarington or Durham region.
According to the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC), not only does an eating disorder affect the body and the mind, but also one’s social circle and perceived level of social support.
Like many sufferers, Brown believes it twists and darkens the perception of all the relationships in one’s life, which keeps people unable from living their lives to the fullest.
“It’s amazing how much of life you can miss out on. You’re there, but you’re not mentally present, you miss out,” said Brown. “You miss out on relationships, friendships you could’ve had, experiences that could’ve been enjoyable but weren’t.”
NEDIC reports that dieting has become the way of life for many, and it can often turn into tragic obsession. They shed light on the fact that our society values the body before the mind, and reported that at any given time, about 70 per cent of women are dieting.
A study by NEDIC revealed girls as young as three have been noted to perceive thin women as more desirable, and have been observed to favour skinny characters and images.
NEDIC also revealed one-quarter of Grade 6 boys and girls think that they are “too fat,” creating an idea of unattainable perfection that many girls and boys may carry with them throughout all of life’s stages.
Dan Keeley, a counselor at the Campus Health Centre, gave some insight as to how someone could help a friend battling this disease.
“Be encouraging and supportive, but know your boundaries,” Keeley advises. “This challenge is deep and troubling, and can take a lot of energy.”