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Stouffville residents can get help with eating disorders

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Riverwalk screening of its film Self Destructing to Survive

Published in the Stouffville Sun-Tribune January 29, 2015 

Eating disorders are “insidious” and a negative coping strategy that not only affects the person with the illness, but those around them, according to Janice Morgante, executive director of Eating Disorders of York Region’s Riverwalk Eating Disorders and Wellness Centres.

Riverwalk is hosting a screening of its film Self Destructing to Survive at the Whitchurch-Stouffville Leisure Centre Feb. 3 as part of Eating Disorder Awareness Week, which runs Feb. 1 to 7.

There will also be a discussion regarding eating disorder support and recovery.

EDOYR is an Aurora-based not for profit founded by families with eating disorder experiences.

Eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, have long thought to be a women’s-only issue.

However, studies show as many as one in four of those who have an eating disorder are male, according to Morgante.

“Unfortunately, it’s become more and more equal. It’s not a woman’s issue,” she said.

Among the triggers for men, like women, is the portrayal of the perfect body on TV and in movies and advertisements.

For women, it’s being thin. For men, it’s about having six-pack abs.

What is an eating disorder? They’re extremes in eating behaviour, such as restricting food intake to the point of starvation (anorexia) or eating too much and then purging (bulimia).

“Having an eating disorder is not a choice, but a severe and debilitating mental illness,” reads the Eating Disorder Foundation of Canada’s website.

A 2002 Government of Canada study revealed 1.5 per cent of Canadian women between the ages of 15 and 24 had an eating disorder. Twenty-eight per cent of girls in Grade 9 and 29 per cent of Grade 10 girls engaged in weight-loss behaviour, according to the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC) website.

“It does make perfect sense. A child or youth will turn to a coping strategy that is around them” such as food, Morgante said.

Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness, according to the NEDIC website.

The organization estimated that 10 per cent of people with anorexia die within 10 years of the disorder’s onset.

What is anorexia? It’s an obsession with controlling one’s eating. Anorexics believe that by controlling their bodies they can control their lives.

Symptoms include unexplained significant weight loss; severe reduction in eating while claiming they are not hungry; thinning or loss of hair; fine, white hair on the body; yellow palms/soles of the feet and/or dry and pasty skin.

Bulimia is a cycle of binging and purging.  After a person eats a large amount of food, he/she may then vomit or take laxatives to rid their body of the food.

“The person (with an eating disorder) does not identify themselves as having an eating disorder,” according to Morgante.

Friends and family members can provide help, she said, by simply telling them they are there for them and not be judgmental. Riverwalk, through community resources, helps families create a “circle of care”.

If the root cause of the disorder is not uncovered, it can lead to other destructive behaviours such as cutting or drug use, according to Morgante.

Along with psychotherapy support groups, Riverwalk provides art and yoga programs, because some people, according to Morgante, do not want a verbal approach to treatment.

“You’re not your illness. You’re yourself, including all your strengths and creativity,” she said.

To register for the film screening and discussion, go to or call 905-886-6632.

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