One in 10 girls in Canada has an eating disorder. It takes a lot of courage to confront it, accept the diagnosis and then do something about it.
A personal story of triumph
Recently, 19-year-old Jessica Mahusky spoke with CTVNews in Canada about her journey. At 12, she began a long battle with anorexia. Two years ago, she successfully completed the program at the Eating Disorder Day Unit at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO).
“I think the main thing that led to my eating disorder is different things were going on in my life that I felt I had no control over,” explained Mahusky. “The eating disorder is all about control, it likes to control you and your life. It comes across as your best friend, but meanwhile it’s your worst enemy and killing you inside.”
Mahursky is thrilled with the direction her life has taken. “I couldn’t be happier. It was the battle for my life, but it was worth it.”
Understanding eating disorders
“I think there is lots of pressure on females to look a certain way and a ‘thin ideal’ that is held up in the celebrity culture,” said Dr. Wendy Spettique, the psychiatric director of the Eating Disorder Program at CHEO. “And I can’t help think that’s why we’re seeing more and more referrals to our program over the years.”
Spettique says that an eating disorder is best thought of as an anxiety disorder, a severe phobia or an obsessive-compulsive disorder in which a girl may obsessively worry about eating patterns and try to control them. Eating disorders can be genetic, but they tend to show up most often among girls who are anxious and eager to please.
How parents can help reduce the risk
Parents can help by focusing on the fun part of exercise and the nutritional part of eating.
“As a working mom, I know that’s a whole lot easier said than done but it turns out that families that have at least four or more meals per week with their children are actually protecting their children from eating disorders,” Spettique said.
While 90 percent of those who suffer from an eating disorder are female, men suffer from them too.