It is estimated that 1 in 5 women have an eating disorder Artwork by Sarah James/ The Phoenix News
It is estimated that 1 in 5 women have an eating disorder Artwork by Sarah James/ The Phoenix News

Eating disorders are not a choice

February 1–7 is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. The Provincial Eating Disorder Awareness Campaign (PEDAW), and the Nutrition Education Center at UBCO, will be running events throughout the week with the aim of educating students about resources and eliminating the stigma surrounding disorders. All students are encouraged to wear the color purple during the week in support and to show off their purple attire by tweeting #Purple4PEDAW on February 5. This year, the theme is “Love our Bodies, Love Ourselves.”

“I think it is important for everyone to realize that it is not a lifestyle choice, it is a serious mental health issue,” says graduate student Danika Quesnel.

Quesnel’s research focuses on the important role that exercise plays in the treatment and management of eating disorders. Quesnel opens up and explores two key aspects of eating disorders. The first area explores how exercise operates as a symptom of an eating disorder. The second area focuses on an exciting new spectrum that dives into how prescribing exercise to eating disorder patients can serve as beneficial towards the final prognosis. It was through her exploration, as well as her personal interest in eating disorders, that Quesnel started getting involved with PEDAW.

Eating disorders are life threatening, highly complex illnesses that affect millions of people around the world on a daily basis. Culturally, a common misconception surrounding the development of eating disorders is that patients are simply performing the behavior to achieve an ideal body weight. In a culture so obsessed with being thin, achieving an ideal body weight certainly plays a part. However, past trauma and stressors the sufferer has experienced within their environment is often an aspect that is overlooked and not adequately published in modern media. According to the National Eating Disorder Association, based out of the United States, patients are more likely to have comorbid depression and other mood disorders that can be consuming to their daily life.

“It is not an illness that is just centered around vanity. There is way more to it,” says Quesnel.

Eating disorders affect individuals from every race, age range and socioeconomic background. However, college students are some of the most vulnerable due to increased stress, lack of external guidance and cultural pressure within their environment.

“Another thing that is a huge trigger is that people need to just be aware of their language and their words with each other,” adds Quesnel.

Being cautious with words is a simple, easy step that everyone can take. If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, there are many resources available on campus through the Health and Wellness Center, and the Nutrition Education Center located in Art 179. There will be information booths set up by the Nutrition Education Center in the UNC during Eating Disorder Awareness Week if you are looking for resources or simply looking for knowledge.