Sunday, October 25, 2009

Canberra Hosts Conference to Tackle Eating Disorders

The first meeting to establish a national framework for combating eating disorders was held on Saturday in Canberra. This is a positive step forward in raising the awareness that eating issues and disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder are not lifestyle choices; they are serious mental illnesses that require professional treatment.

In an article on the ABC website, National Eating Disorders Collaboration director Christine Morgan said it is important to consider what is needed on a national basis to halt the growing problem.

"One in four people in Australia will know someone with an eating disorder, but I should stress it is not just an illness that effects women, it does effect men," she said. "Whilst it presents in most instances in adolescence, we're also seeing some quite young children coming through with eating disorders and it can also present in later life."

As someone who is passionate about reducing the incidence of eating disorders in our community, I was present at the meeting in Canberra and overwhelmed by the amount of people who attended. We all share the same desire - to spread the word to the broader community about early warning signs, early intervention for a positive outcome and how to help families foster positive body image so that confidence and self esteem are instilled in children from as young as preschool age.

I was involved in the "Promotion & Prevention" group during the conference and although I believe that prevention is possible through greater awareness of the dangers of dieting, I am also painfully aware of the many people out there currently suffering an eating issue, and as much as they want recovery, do not know how to break free.

In my book Why Can't I Look the Way I Want; Overcoming Eating Issues, there is a section about what to do if you are struggling with the concept of recovery. Key insights from people I interviewed who have recovered include: "I couldn't have recovered without the support and understanding of my parents"; "Finding someone you trust and who you feel comfortable talking to is so important"; "I used to worry what other people thought of me but now I know it doesn't matter what others think of you, it is enough to respect yourself and value yourself as a person"; "Counselling helped me address issues from my past and forgive people who had hurt me - including myself"; "I learnt that in order to get better, I had to make a decision and wrestle back the control"; "Identify what you are passionate about and let this be the driving force for your recovery".

It is important to not lose hope. Recovery is possible and with the development and implementation of the national framework, there will be a greater focus on helping individuals, families, schools and communities prevent and combat these devastating illnesses.

Information about Saturday's conference will be posted on the Eating Disorders Australian National Network website in the coming weeks.

1 comment:

  1. Unfortunately, a lot of people fail to realise that a body shape is inborn. To be normal or lower than normal in weight is not necessarily to be "shapely", and slim/thin people can be unfit too. I equate it with those shampoo advertisements that imply I could look like the models shown if I used this or that product. I could not. I have naturally limp, thin, fly-away hair and no shampoo will ever make it thick and glossy. No diet or exercise regime will ever give me an hourglass figure, either. I will forever be gawky and angular. The best I can do is try to avoid the thick waist/flabby-skinny limbs look by eating (lots of) healthy food and getting plenty of exercise. Unfortunately, lying to us in advertisements is allowed...