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World Eating Disorders Action Day 2019

June 2nd marks the 4th Annual World Eating Disorders Action Day, which is a grassroots movement created for and by people afflicted with eating disorders, their friends and loved ones, and the healthcare professionals who support them. The overall aim is to increase access to accurate information, bust myths, and advocate for resources and changes in policy. This year’s specific theme focuses on the message that eating disorders can’t afford to wait, with the hope that action can be taken to help ensure caregivers receive better support, healthcare workers are better trained, and the individuals affected by eating disorders get quicker access to evidence-based treatment.

You might be wondering why eating disorders can’t afford to wait. One important reason is that they have the highest mortality rate of all psychiatric illnesses, and yet they remain one of the most underfunded and misunderstood disorders. On top of this, due to the myths and inaccurate information that has been spread about eating disorders over the years, a large majority of those who struggle with eating disorders get overlooked because they appear “healthy.” Despite the fact that only a small percentage of individuals with eating disorders end up emaciated or even underweight, those who struggle at a weight that is considered healthy or above (who can still be very much at risk - both medically and mentally) are often brushed off.

I know all too well the impact of this idea, that only those who appear visibly sick could be struggling with an eating disorder. Some of my worst periods with this illness have been while I maintained a “healthy” weight or, because I was stuck in a cycle of restricting, and then bingeing, or bingeing and purging, my weight would fluctuate within a range that wasn’t drastic enough to be easily noticed by those around me. I also know far too many people who have been turned away from treatment, bumped down on the waitlist (waitlists that are already frustratingly long - sometimes over an 18 month wait for a bed in a specialized eating disorder treatment centre), or not even given a referral to adequate treatment. It’s a tragedy because these same people then either end up spiralling even further, which makes recovery that much more difficult to attain by the time they receive adequate treatment down the road (if they’ve even opened themselves back up to the idea of seeking help after being turned away), or they continue to struggle on their own and go through a lot of unnecessary turmoil just to get by. Maybe some will manage to achieve even partial respite from their disorder or, if they’re lucky enough, they might actually find recovery on their own terms. Many of these former outcomes and the associated turmoil could be avoided if only eating disorders were properly funded, treated, and given the attention required before reaching points of absolute desperation.

Eating disorders can’t afford to wait! The sooner someone gets access to adequate resources, the sooner they can reach a life of greater health, happiness, and peace. If you’re reading this and feeling undeserving or not “sick enough” for help, I want you to know that those feelings are not facts. There is hope, there is help, and you deserve both. Please don’t give up. Check out the resources below:

Local Resource and Support Centre (London, Ontario): https://www.hopeseds.org/

National Eating Disorder Information Centre (Canada): http://nedic.ca/ and toll free helpline (9am-9pm est): 1-866-633-4220

National Eating Disorders Association (United States): http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org

Beating Eating Disorders (UK): https://www.b-eat.co.uk 

The World Eating Disorders Action Day website: http://worldeatingdisordersday.org

 

For a more detailed look at Canadian statistics and why eating disorders can't afford to wait:

An article by Ivey International Centre for Health Innovation