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Addicted to being thin

Alison McGee | Interrobang | Lifestyles | October 17th, 2011

Body image is an issue that many people have struggled with at one time or another in their lives. In today's skinny-worshipping society where images of size-zero celebrities are constantly thrust into the foregrounds of our thoughts, it can seem more difficult than ever to achieve the "perfect body." In some cases, individuals attempt to take control of their bodies in drastic ways which can become addictive and lead to the development of eating disorders.

Many misconceptions exist about the two most prevalent types of eating disorders — anorexia and bulimia — and many people are not aware of the significant differences between the two. According to the National Eating Disorder Information Center, there are two types of anorexia: anorexia athletica, which involves compulsive over-exercising as well as a fanaticism about food consumption; and anorexia nervosa, in which the individual strictly controls and restricts his or her food intake, often to a point of starvation.

Bulimia nervosa is classified by NEDIC as cyclical bingeing and purging, including repeated use of laxatives, diet pills and frequent forced vomiting.

Individuals often exhibit warning signs that they are developing an eating disorder. Hope's Garden, a local eating disorder support center, warned to be aware of the following symptoms:

- Extreme weight loss
- Loss of menstrual cycle
- Dizziness or fainting
- Sleep disturbances
- Thin, brittle hair and nails
- Lowered body temperature, leading to complaints of always feeling cold
- Periods of hyperactivity
- Fatigue
- Dry skin
- Lanugo — increased growth of fine, downy body hair
- Pale, anemic appearance

The NEDIC website offered tips on how to go about offering help to someone who is suffering from an eating disorder:

Be patient — often the first time you approach an individual with an offer of help they will reject it. Don't get discouraged, give it some time and offer again. Make sure to avoid rushing someone to get help.

Be knowledgeable — find out as much information as you can in order to better understand what someone else is going through.

Be compassionate — individuals with eating disorders are usually experiencing a lot of both mental and physical pain; be mindful of this and show them care and sensitivity.

Be non-judgmental — avoid speaking negatively about or laying blame on the individual. Instead, offer them support and validation of the healthy choices that they make.

Eating disorders are a serious and sometimes fatal problem. "Eating Disorders have the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses," according to the Hope's Garden website.

There are numerous resources available for those affected by eating disorders, however waiting times can range anywhere from two months to around two years in Ontario.

If you or someone you know is affected by an eating disorder, the following resources are available:

On campus: Health Services Medical Clinic, Room SC1001, or Counseling Services, Room F2010.

In London: Hope's Garden, 478 Waterloo St., 519- 434-7721; Middlesex London Health Unit, 50 King St., London, 519-663-5317.

Across Canada: Eating Disorder Foundation of Canada, 519-858-5111.

For more information about NEDIC, visit
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