One of my favorite elements of being one of the Miss Teenage Canada 2016 Delegates is the opportunity to elaborate on an issue I feel very strongly about. I am excited to formally introduce my platform to you on this site! I have already put up a brief video on my Facebook page touching on the topic, however would like to go deeper into what the issue is, why I feel strongly about this, and who is affected by Eating Disorders.
“What is an Eating Disorder?”….
Believe it or not, but a great population in North America are still unsure of how to answer this question due to the common misconception that an Eating Disorder is merely a weight insecurity. However, the reality is that this is a Mental Health issue which originates from deeper psychological damages, which surface through unusual eating patterns.
There are many forms in which eating behaviours shift and develop into a disorder, however there are three main conditions which are labeled to be the most damaging are bulimia, anorexia and binge eating.
Bulimia is a condition where one purges after eating, and thus results in dramatic weight loss and lack of nutrition. Current statistics show that in North America 25% of young women use binging and purging as a use of ‘weight control’. This is a dangerous and unhealthy habit that highly resembles bulimia and are early signs of this disorder.
Anorexia is another complex disorder that can be simply defined as “resisting to eat food”. This disorder is known as the most fatal mental illness as 4% of people with anorexia die from this disease. Both anorexia and bulimia are clinically diagnosed and can require severe medical attention due to lack of nutrition, and drastic muscle loss – which can result in organ failure in extreme cases!
The other side of the same spectrum is Binge Eating. This disorder results when one has excessive eating patterns and puts one’s health at risk. In most cases, binge eating needs medical treatment due to high levels of artery blockage and lack of essential nutritions.
(Statistics from the Eating Disorder Hope Foundation)
…on the bright side…
There are medical facilities which help those in need of treatment!! Help used to be almost impossible to find, however in the past 20 years more and more programmes have been established in order to give the right patent care to those in need, without moving too far from home. For instance, The Looking Glass (http://www.lookingglassbc.ca) is a support system for individuals and families who have been affected by an Eating Disorder, and I am so happy to be working with them this year! 🙂 Additionally, the BC Children’s Hospital has an AMAZING Eating Disorder program, with both in and out-patient treatment! (http:/http://www.bcchildrens.ca/our-services/mental-health-services/eating-disorders)
Additionally, there are many non-profit organizations which pledge their time and ethics into helping this cause. One of the many, is the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD). This organization works towards relieving people of their Eating Disorders through copious amounts of support, knowledge and hope! (www.anad.org)
Why I chose this as my platform…
The biggest reason as to why this is the issue I chose to support, is because of my personal connection to the issue. Without a doubt, my sisters have always been the closest people to me, and my world was turned upside-down when one of them was diagnosed with anorexia at the age of 12. At this time I was 11 and completely oblivious to the dangers to her dramatic weight loss – and so was my family. Leading up to this, I remember being alarmed every time she refused to eat popcorn during a movie, or snack on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with me, as theses used to be her favourite things to eat. Much alike, my parents started observing her refusal to eat and started becoming concerned. Our whole family became increasingly confused by Bianca’s condition as we never understood what an Eating Disorder really was.
After months of struggling with the issue and coming to terms with what was happening, my sister reluctantly joined the in-patient Eating Disorder program at the BC Children’s Hospital. There, she was surrounded by children as young as 10 who were suffering from anorexia and bulimia. Additionally, she spend ample time in therapy where the roots of her disease were constantly trying to be discovered. It is programs like these which give me hope and the drive to help those in similar situation, because within two months, my sister started to get better!
Next, my sister moved to the out-patient program which allowed her more time with my family and gave her more freedom in regards to eating choices. Bianca has often been referred to as one of the programs “Biggest Success Stories” because of how far she has come in so little time! – forever proud of you sis! <3
Looking back on this, not only was my sister hugely affected, but so was my family. This took us all by surprise and it had been a challenging journey to overcome. This experience left us all with a deeper understanding and appreciation of Mental Health, and thus I feel compelled to help correct the falsehoods standing over Eating Disorders, and do everything in my power to make as big of a difference as possible.
What I am doing about it….
I am pleased to announce that I am volunteering with The Looking Glass organization and help promote awareness towards Eating Disorders. There, I am educating people of all ages about eating disorders and how to identify them. Additionally, there is a general lack of knowledge on how to treat this issue, and therefore I am working on finding and promoting mental health facilities with eating disorder programs so families do not have to travel far from their hometowns to get the help they need.
There is always so much that needs to be done in helping issues surrounding Mental Health, and if you would like to get involved, please visit www.lookingglassbc.ca 🙂
Until next time! – xoxo Tiara ♕