Today’s post comes from Melissa Fernandez. Melissa is a dietitian and a Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta. She is also the current Outgoing Vice Chair of the OC-SNP National Executive.

This week is Eating Disorders Awareness Week #EDAW2019 so I thought I’d take the opportunity to write about the topic. According to the National Eating Disorder Information Center (NEDIC). Eating disorders represent are set of mental illnesses that require treatment to address complex medical/psychiatric symptoms as well as underlying issues. This illness develops over time and can affect people of all ages, genders, races and income groups. One million Canadians struggle with eating disorders, but limited resources are available for treatment or prevention.  Of all mental illnesses, eating disorders have the highest death rates, which is why support is urgently needed in all areas: more research, improving treatments, better training for health professionals, more prevention, more support for caregivers and family members, public education, and awareness to reduce stigma.  

Here are some ways you can show your support:

Post about “Eating Disorders Can’t Afford to Wait Campaign” on social media this week. Use #EDWA2019 to post facts, a blog, or events on twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Participate in the #showusyourpurple challenge by taking a picture of yourself wearing purple, add a caption about why you are participating, and share the picture on social media, then nominate a friend to join the challenge

Learn more about eating disorders. Take the opportunity this week to educate yourself about eating disorders and share what you learn with family and friends. Attend an event in your community, to find an event near you go to Discuss eating disorders with colleagues, family, or friends this week. Starting a conversation can help create awareness, reduce stigma and promote change.

Donate your money or time to a local or national organization. Many non-profit organizations need funds to conduct activities that help people recover from eating disorders, support their families and provide information to the public. Commit your time by getting involved with a local organization that works to prevent eating disorders in your community. Organize an event, help raise funds or become an advocate for people with eating disorders.

Advocate for change. Examine your workplace, educational and recreational setting. Do these environments may contribute to disordered eating or the development of negative body images by promoting programs that focus on weight, weight-loss, weigh-ins or calorie counting? If yes, talk to the administrators, share your concerns and let them know that the messages/programs may have potentially deleterious effects.

Share your story if you feel comfortable. Sharing your personal experience with eating disorders or with supporting a loved one can help others going through similar situations. Personal stories can help break the stigma around mental illnesses and let others know that they are not alone.

It is important to shift social and institutional paradigms that focus inappropriately on obesity prevention and fear of being fat by encouraging conversations that promote wellbeing, mental health and fitness rather than a desirable body weight, shape or size. While obesity prevention is an important public health goal, it needs to be done in a manner that does not increase stigmatization or anxiety about one’s body size, shape and weight. Encouraging conversations that focus on wellbeing and balanced lifestyles and avoiding conversations that focus on body image or weight as the primary determinant of health can help promote attitudes and activities that prioritize mental health and general wellbeing.

For more information about eating disorders visit the following websites to access reliable resources or find a helpline to tall to someone:

The National Eating Disorder Information Center

The National Eating Disorders Association  


Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash