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Eating disorders: the reflection of an underestimated complex issue

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Eating disorders (EDs) have increased dramatically with the advent of COVID-19. The increase in screen time, the decrease of sports activities, the loss of routine, the isolation and the proximity of the fridge, all increased anxiety and made it even more difficult to manage food. The feeling of loss of control over almost every aspect of life was such that all that was left was control over weight and food choices… Pandora’s Box was wide open for the potential development of eating disorders!

What is an eating disorder?

According to the Quebec Association of Psychiatrists, eating disorders are mental illnesses in which attitudes towards the body, weight and food are disturbed.[1] The behaviours of the person affected will indicate more precisely which disorder he or she is suffering from.

“I must not eat this or I will have no control,” “I avoid buying them because I am not able to control myself,” “When I start eating chips, I just can’t stop”, “I’ve cheated, so while I’m at it I’ll indulge this weekend and start being careful on Monday.”… If these are familiar thoughts, you may have an eating disorder. Let’s start by distinguishing them.

Diseases that interfere with daily life[2]

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), recognizes three distinct eating disorders: anorexia, bulimia and binge eating. While all of these disorders reflect deep seated distress and intense preoccupation with weight, body image and food choices, each has its own unique characteristics.

Anorexia

Anorexia[3] is an eating disorder characterized by an abnormally low body weight, an intense fear of gaining weight, and a distorted perception of weight and body image. In fact, the person suffering from anorexia perceives herself to be overweight and while the weight will decrease, the health risks will increase. Did you know that, in the field of psychiatry, anorexia is the leading cause of death?

Bulimia

Bulimia[4] is characterized by binge eating episodes followed by purging phases. During the binge eating episodes, the person consumes an excessive amount of food, which makes them physically ill. And then, get anxious by the idea of gaining weight. Afterwards, the person purges either by vomiting, starving themselves, exercising excessively or taking a laxative or diuretic.

Binge Eating Disorder: the least known but most common eating disorder

This is the most recent eating disorder recognized by the DMS-5. Its prevalence is estimated to be close to 50% in candidates awaiting bariatric surgery and close to 30% in overweight or obese individuals.[5] 

The binge eating disorder is characterized by loss of control over food for short periods of time, i.e. less than two hours. These episodes occur at least once a week and have been ongoing for at least three months. The person with this condition eats until they feel uncomfortably full. However, unlike the bulimic person, no purging will be performed. On the other hand, they will experience shame, distress or guilt afterwards, and this, for several hours or even days.

Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorders (OSFED)[6]

Beyond the medical conditions, there are also individuals who have unhealthy, even dangerous eating habits and behaviors, but who do not meet the diagnostic criteria for eating disorders. As a result, these individuals can suffer in silence without access to appropriate services. 

Nautilus Plus cares about the physical and mental health of Quebecers. We are therefore pleased to announce that a new nutritional webinar for people with a binge eating disorder and related eating disorders will be launched in late September. If you suffer in silence or if you want to better understand and help a loved one, please click here.

You prefer to speak to one of our nutritionists privately? Make an appointment with one of our professionals. They have been trained to provide a non-judgmental and caring approach to helping people with eating disorders.


Author
Véronique Plante

Véronique, a Registered Dietitian / Nutritionist since 2006, is a proud member of the Nautilus Plus team. With a vast experience in private practice, Véronique is recognized for her ability to popularize the science of nutrition and engage her clients. In her non-judgemental approach, she supports her clients through active listening while simplifying their journey in achieving their health goals. Her fields of intervention are diabetes, cardiovascular disease and weight management.


Eating disorders: the reflection of an underestimated complex issue is a post from I'm taking charge. I'm taking charge is a blog that aims to help people in their journey to fitness through articles on training, nutrition, motivation, exercise and healthy recipes.
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