This Sunday marks the beginning of Eating Disorder Awareness Week. It is an internationally recognized week devoted to increasing awareness of disordered eating and weight preoccupation. When people hear the term ‘eating disorder’, many picture an emaciated individual, often a female in her adolescent years. While this certainly may be true for some individuals, disordered eating affects both males and females of all ages. You can’t tell someone has an eating disorder just by looking at them. It might be your middle-aged neighbour whose children just left home; it may be your running coach who is always preaching about health; it may be your teenage son who would give anything to make the hockey team. An eating disorder is only one type of food or weight preoccupation.  According to the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (, disordered eating includes a wide range of abnormal eating, from the behaviours seen in eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, to chronic restrictive eating, compulsive eating and habitual dieting. It is characterized by rigid or chaotic eating patterns where physical hunger and satiety (fullness) are ignored.  Sadly, disordered eating and weight obsession flourish in Canada.  Here are some Canadian stats from NEDIC:

•Eating disorders are the third most prevalent chronic disease in adolescent girls

•1/3 of girls between the ages of 14-15 have tried to lose weight. Those that diet at this age are 18 times more likely to develop an eating disorder

•Even among those at a healthy weight, 50% of adolescent girls are dieting because they believe they are overweight

•4% of boys aged 14-15 have used anabolic steroids to change their bodies

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When we focus too much on our bodies or on our eating, other areas of our life begin to take a backseat, whether it be work, school, family or friends, Our emotional and physical health decline. As a dietitian, my goal with clients is a balanced approach to health. I want them to choose foods that fuel their bodies while finding ways of moving that they enjoy, but I also want them to be able to eat a slice of pizza or cheesecake without guilt. When working with an individual with disordered eating, my approach isn’t simply prescribing a meal plan that meets their nutritional needs. The focus is also on tuning into hunger and fullness cues and letting go of some of the rigidity around eating and exercise.  Equally important is education and myth-busting around the body’s physiological response to food deprivation and dieting.  If you suspect that you or someone you know is suffering from disordered eating, seek help from a professional, such as a teacher, doctor, dietitian or counselor. You may also be interested in attending an Expert Panel Discussion hosted by UBC Okanagan on Wed February 5 at 2pm in the ASC building, Rm 130 in Kelowna. Several health professionals and academics from Kelowna specializing in disordered eating, myself included, will share our experiences and answer your questions.  This session is open to anyone interested in learning more about weight and exercise obsession.

If that’s not incentive enough, snacks and door prizes will be provided.  For more information about this panel, please email me at