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Disordered eating support group to help local women

If thoughts of dieting or your weight or your self-image consume your mind every day, it may be time to seek some help, according to local counsellor Sheila Sherkat.

One form of help will be available for 10 weeks this fall in the form of a disordered eating support group, which will explore the complex issues around anorexia nervosa, bulimia and binge eating.

"There is help available," said Sherkat.

"It’s going to be hard work but the first step is just knowing you deserve to have a better lifestyle and be happy."

This is the fourth disordered eating support group facilitated by Sherkat.

In a confidential and safe atmosphere, the group will tackle a wide range of factors, which may have manifested in disordered eating habits.

Those include genetics, family pressures and life events, developmental milestones and societal and cultural pressures.

While the symptoms of anorexia and bulimia may be quite similar, the contributing factors that lead to the diseases can be very different and personal.

"That’s what makes them so complex," explained Sherkat.

"Because there is no one cause, the recovery is also different for each person."

The bottom line, she added, is to learn how to replace the bad coping choices, such as purging and bingeing, with healthy choices.

This year, for the first time, the support group will also include an educational component in the weekly sessions. Some of the topics include stress management, the impact of the media, communication skills, the myths around dieting and eating disorders and nutritional information.

The support group is just one component of the recovery and it doesn’t work for everyone if they’re not ready.

"It’s not easy to come out and to open yourself and be vulnerable and to share," admits Sherkat.

And yet, it’s so important to recognize when disordered eating has become a coping mechanism and to deal with the behavior early.

One factor in a more successful recovery said Sherkat is the shorter the period between diagnosis and treatment. Often times people experiencing disordered eating have been doing so for years, sometimes starting at ages as young as six or seven.

"Something that starts out very simple… can just spiral out of control over the years," said Sherkat.

The Canadian Pediatric Society is calling on doctors to screen children for dangerous dieting. Early dieting has been linked to a five to 18-fold increased risk of developing an eating disorder later in life.

The health risks from disordered eating are wide-ranging and sometimes severe. They range from faintness and fatigue to muscle loss and in some cases heart failure.

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.

The disordered eating support group will start up in mid-October. It is open for any women 19 years old or older.

The women who have attended in the past are dealing with disordered eating on a wide-ranging scale. Some were very sick and had been hospitalized at points in their life, while others had mild cases.

Sherkat said if a woman is unhappy with the way she looks and spending more time than they think is healthy fixating on it, then it’s a good time to come in.

For more information call Sheila Sherkat at 604-938-4519.