Eating disorders film sheds light on 'thin ideal'

NEDIC and Ryerson's Centre for Student Development and  Counselling host a special screening of No Numbers: Identity Beyond Measure in honour of International Women's Day.  Read the full article.

by Jelena Djurick, March 9, 2013

It's not our bodies that need changing, it's our attitudes.

That was the central message of a film screening on eating disorders held on March 8 at Ryerson in honour of International Women’s Day.

The Centre for Student Development and Counseling, along with Health Promotion and the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC), showed No Numbers: Identity Beyond Measure. The documentary examines the effects of societal values of thinness on women. In it, filmmakers Sonja Ruebsaat and Dena Ashbaugh document their journeys of battling anorexia and bulimia and the pressure to conform to a thin ideal.

Heather Lush, Ryerson’s health promoter, says the event was meant to draw attention to the issue, now the third most common chronic illness in adolescent girls.

“It’s a nice way to remind people yet again of being aware of the media and the values they place on women,” Lush said. “It’s an issue we know is prevalent on campus.”

A 2006 Statistics Canada report found that 1.5 per cent of Canadian women aged 15 to 24 years old had an eating disorder. Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are the most common.

Merryl Bear, the director of NEDIC, says the issue of control, for both men and women is at the heart of any eating disorder.

“Many people who feel (marginalized) or are marginalized can develop eating disorders for perceived control over their lives,” Bear said. “It’s not just a women’s issue.”

She says most eating disorders tend to begin when an individual goes on a diet.

With the sense of efficacy and achievement that the individual feels while managing and manipulating their weight—their goal starts to change because it feels rewarding, Bear said, adding that 30 per cent of those who diet are likely to develop a disorder.

Nikki Osborne, a third-year nutrition and food student, attended the event and says she was shocked to hear about an 88-year-old woman in the film who refused to go to a reunion because of her weight and grey hair.

“I was completely shocked,” she said. “You put pressure on yourself but you assume that at 40, a woman could face the world.”

Obsborne says she would like to see more education on eating disorders, including in her own program.

“We’re in downtown Toronto constantly bombarded by ads on the subway of what we’re supposed to look like.”

Students can find support by booking an appointment at the Centre for Student Development and Counselling at 416-979-5195 or by visiting