Give & Get Help FAQ
The following are frequently asked questions from those in need of help or support. You may find answers to some of your own or similar questions below:
- I live in "Smalltown" and there are no resources here to help me. What should I do?
- How do I know if the eating disorder information I read on a website is accurate?
- Are there any clinics specifically for compulsive eating?
- I have eating problems but they seem far less important than other problems in my life. What should I do?
- How can males help girls and women with disordered eating?
- My eating problems always get worse during holidays or special occasions. What can I do?
Q. I live in "Smalltown" and there are no resources here to help me. What should I do?
A. People with eating problems can be found everywhere, even in small towns. Unfortunately, some small towns don't have the range of treatment resources that are to be found in larger cities. So what can you do?
First, work on helping yourself. Read as much as you can about eating disorders and try to understand what is happening to you. NEDIC's Resource Materials, Resource Library and Gurze Books are good places to begin finding information. When you have found books you'd like to read, order them. Try your local library first. They may be able to get them on special loan from another library. If you want to keep the book, order it through the Internet or ask your local bookstore - no matter how small -
to order the book for you.
Second, get support from others. Your trusted family and friends can provide support. Your doctor, or religious leader, or local community healthcare services may be able to provide information about where to find more expert support. There are likely to be counselling services in a larger town near you, so check NEDIC's Service Provider Directory for a listing of such services. When accessing medical help, be prepared to begin a journey of education and consultation with your doctor.
Third, consider forming a support group. There are probably others in your town who suffer from similar difficulties who would appreciate sharing their experiences. If you are uncomfortable with having others know about your eating problem just yet, consider starting a public awareness or education campaign about eating disorders. Contact NEDIC for suggestions on starting your own support group or public awareness event.
Finally, there are a number of Internet support and chat sites that provide support for individuals struggling with food and weight issues. These can be useful as adjuncts to other help. Like any service, you need to ensure that the site encourages recovery and provides appropriate support. Their focus should be on overall well-being.
Q. How do I know if the eating disorder information I read on a website is accurate?
A. Many websites talk about eating disorders. Some are excellent, but others give information that is unsuitable or wrong. Read websites critically! You could ask questions like, "Is the author a respected expert in this area?" and, "What is the website trying to do? Is it an information site, or is its main purpose to sell a product?"
Q. Are there any clinics specifically for compulsive eating?
A. There are clinics for compulsive eating, although few in Canada. A good program or service provider will help you look at the reasons you eat the way you do. They will also teach you how to make healthy changes. They will emphasize healthy living, healthy eating and physical activities you can enjoy. A good clinic should help you see that physically and emotionally healthy people come in all shapes and sizes. They should know that the culture that you live in and your personal history affect how you think and deal with food and weight.
The program should not try to treat eating disorders like addictions. It should not promote dieting or restrictive eating. It should not ignore your history. Healthy living does not include high-risk weight loss surgery, liquid diets or extreme diets.
If you're looking for a program for compulsive eating, learn as much as you can about different programs. Here are some questions you can ask:
- What is the program's philosophy?
- What do they believe about eating disorders?
- What do they say about why we have them?
- How do they treat eating disorders?
- What kinds of services do they offer after you've been through the program?
- What do they mean by "overweight" or "compulsive"?
- Does the program support dieting?
Be aware! Some treatment programs make huge profits by making false promises. They take advantage of desperate people who don't feel good about themselves.
Q. I have eating problems but they seem far less important than other problems in my life. What should I do?
A. Getting help and getting better means looking at the connections between the eating and other problems in your life.
A lot of people struggle with more than one problem. You might have personal problems, like feeling worthless or powerless. Other problems could come from social prejudices and oppression, such as racism, homophobia or mental health issues.
Here are a few examples of common problems that people with eating problems may have:
- People with eating problems sometimes turn to alcohol or drugs to temporarily forget or numb painful feelings. Alcohol or drug use may lower inhibitions and increase the likelihood of bingeing. Individuals may also use alcohol or drugs in place of a binge.
- Eating problems are often linked with depression, which can cause you to either eat much more, or to stop eating enough. Disordered eating may cause depression through malnutrition.
- A lot of people also get unusually depressed during the winter. This is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This is a time when your bingeing and purging can get worse.
- As many as 60% of women with eating disorders have been sexually abused. If you have a history of abuse, your eating behaviour may be the way you deal with emotions like self-hate, fear, loss of control, shame or flashbacks.
- Chronic anxiety or obsessive-compulsive behaviour - the "compulsions" that a person engages in, in an attempt to soothe an obsession or anxiety - are often food, weight or shape related. You turn to manipulating food and weight because you're trying to soothe an obsession or anxiety.
- Behaviours or mental health issues related to a previous traumatic experience - behaviours that interfere with your ability to get on with your life - may also be linked to eating disorders.
You might need to look at these, or other, problems before you can start dealing with the eating problem. Sometimes you can work on the different problems at the same time. You might not have to go to different treatment programs for each issue. A lot of therapists and community agencies will know how to work with all of your painful issues.
- Public Health Agency of Canada
- Post traumatic stress
- Consumer site on depression
- Depression website
- Guidelines for obsessive-compulsive disorders
- National centre for post-traumatic stress syndrome
- Orientation/age/gender/body image biases explored by Southern Poverty Law Centre
Q. How can males help girls and women with disordered eating?
A. Fathers, brothers, husbands, boyfriends and friends can support the girls and women in their lives who are preoccupied with food and weight. You can also help lessen the likelihood of an eating disorder developing.
Look at your own attitudes toward food and weight. Do you do and say things to girls and women that are supportive or hurtful?
- Do you make "fat" jokes? Do you laugh at them? Or do you treat such behaviour as you would a racist comment, and tell other people that such jokes are not acceptable?
- Do you give women the impression that you like them because of the way they look?
- Do you show your love or friendship in ways that aren't based on the way a woman looks?
- When someone says, "Do I look fat in this?" do you respond with a comment that increases her concern with her appearance?
Negative comments and behaviours feed into feelings that could, ultimately, turn into an eating disorder.
Instead, find ways to communicate love or friendship that is not based on how the person looks. Tell her that her appearance has nothing to do with her value as a person. A woman might be displacing emotions she can't deal with onto her body. Ask her if something's wrong. What is she worried about that's been turned into fear of looking or being fat?
It's important that you be patient, sensitive and understanding. Focus on her experiences and her feelings, not eating problems or her body shape. Learn more about eating disorders. Take time to care for yourself if you're going to be supportive.
Men can also support people with eating disorders by being active in their communities:
- Get involved in Eating Disorder Awareness Week or similar events.
- Write a letter of complaint to the media when they show stereotypes of men and women.
- See if you can volunteer at an organization in your area.
- To find local organizations where you can get involved, look in our Service Provider Directory.
- Donate money to an organization that works to prevent eating disorders.
Explore our Know the Facts section for more information on the causes of disordered eating.
Q. My eating problems always get worse during holidays or special occasions. What can I do?
A. Holidays and special occasions are often stressful times for people with food and weight issues because the emphasis is so often on food and on family relationships.
Use your experience and your understanding of yourself and those close to you to construct healthy ways to cope with these stressful times. For example:
- Think about events ahead of time. Which ones are going to upset you? You can choose to stay away from certain events. People might want you to go but you have to take care of yourself. Say "no" graciously.
- Plan time for yourself. You need to rest and take care of yourself.
- You know which people make you uncomfortable. Think ahead of time about how you will avoid spending much time with them.
- What do people say that make you uncomfortable? Think about things you can say and practice them. Ask people not to say anything about your body, the way you look or how you eat.
- Do you know what negative thoughts you have during the holidays? Practice stopping those thoughts before they go too far. Think positively.
- Try to eat regular meals and snacks to avoid bingeing at the special occasion.
- If you can, let yourself enjoy a few "special occasion foods".
- Carry a list of phone numbers of friends and crisis lines.
- Carry a list of things you can do to soothe and comfort yourself.
Remember that the "ideal" holiday is not real for many people. Some people can't afford it. Many single people aren't close to their families or don't have a family. Many families don't look like and act like the "picture book" family. You still might feel the pressure to have an "ideal" family. Don't blame yourself for problems in your family. People are the same at holidays and every other time of the year.
Remember that you are responsible only for your own actions and for taking care of yourself.