Eating disorder group set to get underway 

Sunday marks the beginning of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week across Canada, yet despite all the education about the dangers of eating disorders people everywhere still struggle with the disease.

"It’s a very complex disorder," said Whistler counsellor Sheila Sherkat.

"There’s multi, multi layers of things that are happening in people’s lives that affect them and eventually result in an eating disorder."

Last year Sherkat and Community Youth Outreach Worker Tessa McLoughlin launched a three-month support group to help women in the area cope with their different eating disorders. The group was very successful said Sherkat and that’s why they will be offering another support group by the end of February.

"The thing that the group often brings out is it normalizes the fact that there’s other people doing the same thing or similar things," she said.

Those things could range from binge eating late at night when no one else is around, or hiding food or taking laxatives. There’s a whole range of ways to control eating.

Sherkat said of the eight participants in last year’s group there were a number of different eating disorders, from anorexia to bulimia to over exercising.

Despite the differences there is always some common ground she said.

"It’s about outside pressure from society to look good... and also living in Whistler where... so many people are very fit and active and look great and healthy, (you want) to fit in," she said.

"But I think the biggest thing I noticed was underlying stress within the family or issues with work or with boyfriends or loneliness or being away from home – a lot of family type issues."

The discussions were steered away from dieting and healthy eating and counting calories and instead focused on the underlying feelings and emotions that are the root of the behaviour.

"We got talking about a lot of different issues that affect women so they were very lively conversations, lots of tears flowing, lots of laughs," said Sherkat.

"The whole range of emotions came out, it was just lovely to see everybody open up and support each other too. It was just a really positive, positive environment and I think everybody, including myself and Tessa, benefited from the three months we spent together."

The support group is free, funded by the Whistler Community Services Society. Once there are enough women enrolled the group will begin meeting once a week with Sherkat and McLoughlin facilitating the discussions. All the discussions will be totally confidential.

For more information about the support group call Sheila Sherkat at 604-938-4519 or Tessa McLoughlin at 604-902-0670.

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