Dr. Kassam One Size Doesn’t Fit All #EDAW2018

One Size Doesn’t Fit All #EDAW2018

Written by: Dr. Saira Kassam, ND

     The theme for this year’s Eating Disorder Awareness Week (EDAW) is one size doesn’t fit all. It aims to shed light on the reality of eating disorders and how they can affect people of all ages, genders, races and sexual orientations. Nearly one million Canadians are living with a diagnosed eating disorder, while so many others have not been diagnosed with one but still struggle with food and weight preoccupation. For some, eating disorders start relatively slowly. Eating disorders are psychological in nature. They involve abnormal eating, dysfunctional relationships with food and a preoccupation with one’s weight and shape. Eating disorders are multifactorial - A genetic predisposition to an eating disorder can be compounded by psychological components and social components like media influence. Media’s pressure to conform to “ideals” promotes internalization of this ideal leading to body dissatisfaction.  There is undoubtedly a link between media use and engaging in dieting behaviours. Weight-related teasing could also play a role in eating disorders. It is a form of bullying and leads people feeling left out and ashamed of their bodies.

     In general, the two main eating disorders are: Anorexia Nervosa (AN) and Bulimia Nervosa (BN)

  • Anorexia is characterized by a strong fear of gaining weight and self-imposed starvation. People with anorexia have a distorted view of their body size and may display unusual eating habits like cutting food into tiny pieces. They also may exercise excessively.
  • Bulimia is also associated with a strong fear of gaining weight and a distorted body image. However, it is distinguished by secretive binge eating followed by extreme guilt, shame and even vomiting or laxative usage. They fear lack of self-control to stop eating. More often than not, depression and self-esteem are part of the picture as well.

     There are serious health consequences associated with eating disorders. They can lead to severe malnutrition and serious physical consequences like, weakness, fatigue, dizziness, constipation, decreased muscle tone, thinning hair, slowed physical development and altered hormones that could cause menstruation to stop.  As I mentioned earlier, the causes are multifactorial with genetics, psychology and social factors all playing an important role. Thus, It is really important to address the mental, emotional and physical aspects of an eating disorder. If the cause of the illness is not being addressed, there is a higher chance of treatment failure and even recurrence.

     Treatment needs to come from a place of respect, not judgment. It needs to emphasize whole body optimal health. When it comes to treating eating disorders it is important to assess:

  • Neurotransmitters and Hormonal imbalances - Imbalances in brain chemistry can cause depression, anxiety and trigger emotional eating. The primary neurotransmitters implicated in eating disorders include serotonin, GABA, dopamine, norepinephrine and glutamate. 
  • Nutritional deficiencies - Amino Acids, Vitamin D, Ferritin, Zinc, Essential fatty acids
  • Physical activity - Exercise is also really important to help reduce symptoms of depression.

    Eating disorders are not a lifestyle choice but can stem from a serious mental illness. It is important not to judge and to understand that it affects people of all shapes and genders. It is crucial to assess the physiological, psychological, emotional and social factors when it comes to eating disorders. It really does take a multifaceted approach to treatment for lasting results. Recognize the patterns and behaviours of someone who may have an eating disorder around you.  Ask your Naturopathic Doctor for more information!




The advice in this article is for informational purposes only. It does not replace the care of a Naturopathic physician