Take a break from hating your body, it’s International No Diet Day

Written for and published by Kitchener Today

Toss the scale, abandon the calorie count and break out the elastic waistbands, it’s International No Diet Day (INDD).

INDD was introduced as an effort to educate the dangers of dieting, emphasize the importance of eating for health, not weight-loss – and encourage body positivity. Stacey Reinsma, Social Worker with the Canadian Mental Health Association says, “people typically diet in an attempt to change and control their bodies, and by promoting a day where they don’t do this, we are encouraging them to let their bodies be as they are.” 

Knowing that most diets fail, and result in disordered eating and eating disorders, Waterloo-Wellington Eating Disorders Coalition (WWEDC) has been promoting INDD for the last 10 years. They do so by reaching out to local store owners, asking them to display messages in storefront windows that encourage alternatives to dieting. This year, WWEDC has distributed to approximately 100 stores in Guelph, Kitchener, Cambridge, Waterloo, and St. Jacobs.

Debra Joseph is the owner of Twice is Nice, Twice the Man, in Uptown Waterloo. She has been participating for five years by placing the signs in her front window and on mirrors in dressing rooms. “We leave them up year-round. It’s just nice to send a positive message to women of all shapes and sizes. We hear so many beautiful women come out of change room with negative messaging and body shaming. We want to reinforce a positive way of looking at themselves.”

WWEDC says when storefronts participate than anyone who walks down the street sees a positive message wherever they look.  They believe that participation will help onlookers feel better about themselves after seeing these messages.

“This doesn’t mean we have to like or love our bodies, but rather we choose a stance of being ok with our bodies that can deeply impact how we engage in our lives and with others,” says Reinsma.

April Gates, registered Social Worker with The Wellness Collaborative and member of WWEDC adds, “store keepers, locally, welcome this one-week campaign and have received many positive comments from the public, applauding the body positive/affirmative messages that are so rarely broadcast in our present-day oppressive diet culture.”

This year, in addition to window signs, WWEDC are also providing stickers for shop owners to place on changeroom mirrors. The positive messaging decals include: “Take a vacation from hating your body.” “Change your mind, not your body.” “Be a good role model – say positive things about your body.” “26, 000 diets have been invented. None work.” “Don’t fight your genes, just change your jeans.”  “Confidence is beautiful. There is no ideal body” and “It takes a lot of willpower to give up dieting!”

Waterloo Region residents are encouraged to participate in the INDD body positivity awareness campaign. Residents can raise their voices on social media, by posting messages throughout the day and joining the fight against dieting, body-shaming and eating disorders using the hashtags: #edrecovery #eatingdisorderrecovery #nodieting #antidiet #losehatenotweight #bodypositive #healthateverysize #HAES #internationalnodietday

Joseph, of Twice is Nice, reiterates her desire to “gently reinforce a positive approach to looking at ourselves. One little store won’t fight the social media tsunami, little grains of sand won’t build a mountain. It’s shocking how many beautiful women need to be more compassionate to themselves. Love yourself, just as you are – not 20 pounds from now.”

For more information on eating disorders, size acceptance and the Health at Every Size movement, check out the following websites: National Eating Disorder Information Centre; Waterloo-Wellington Eating Disorders Coalition; or Healthy At Every Size.

Eating Disorder Awareness Week

Written for and published by Kitchener Today

Eating Disorder Awareness week resides in early February, but Ontario remains one of the only provinces that doesn’t actually recognize it. In December, Bill 61 2018: An Act to proclaim Eating Disorders Awareness Week was introduced by NDP MPP Jill Andrew to rectify this.

Eating disorders are defined as insufficient or extreme food consumption which can lead to the destruction of personal well-being. Common forms include Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorder.

“Many people who start with a diet go on to develop an eating disorder. They affect people of all size, race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnic background and age. Eating disorders are considered a mental illness – there is a biological component and even a genetic component – they can be influenced by one’s environment and socio-cultural influences,” says Suzanne Dietrich, who refers to herself as a non-diet Dietitian.

Anorexia is a condition driven by an intense fear of gaining weight, and an unhealthy perception of personal body image. A person with Anorexia will limit their food intake, lose drastic amounts of weight, but still see themselves as overweight. The risks, including death, are highest with this form of the disease.

Bulimia involves ingesting large amounts of food, followed by remorseful behaviour: vomiting, obsessive exercise, and use of laxatives – at times, a combination of these. Repercussions of the secretive behaviour include digestive problems, dehydration, and heart issues.

Binge Eating Disorder, in contrast to bulimia, includes over-eating without the purging. As a result, people who suffer from BED may become obese increasing health risks including heart disease, breathing issues and diabetes, among others.

There aren’t any definitive numbers on how many people in Waterloo Region suffer from the disease. Dietrich, who is also a member of the Waterloo Wellington Eating Disorder Coalition, says “that is one thing they are advocating for; research to look into and collect this data.”

It is important to remember eating disorders can be treated. Local supports include CMHA, an outpatient support group. In-patient treatment can be found at Homewood, in Guelph. There are also local private practitioners who specialize in eating disorders. Dietrich adds, “Ideally, an individual needs a full team to support them which includes a physician, potentially a psychiatrist, psychologist and/or social worker, and a dietitian. They also need support from family and friends. NEDIC offers a 1-800 call line which is also helpful.”

According to Dietrich, if you suspect a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, there are two important steps to consider:

1. Be aware of the signs & symptoms

  • Change in eating patterns – be it quantity, type of food, anxiety around eating, clean eating, following social media for biggest fat diets or eating alone.
  • Change in behaviour – pre-occupation with weight or body image, binging, purging symptoms, use of laxatives, withdrawn socially.
  • Change in activity levels: obsession with exercise
  • Change in weight, but not always. Eating disorders can occur in all shapes and sizes

2. Approach the person with concern and kindness

  • Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness
  • Express concern
  • If they reject your expression of concern, they might not have defined their behaviour as a problem and may not feel ready – this may appear as denial, and anger. It is important to be persistent

According to National Initiative for Eating Disorders (NIED), a Southern Ontario study of 1739 teens concluded only 4% of the girls who reported current binge eating and 6% of girls who were purging had ever received any assessment or treatment for these problems.

You can find a list of local services at Waterloo Wellington Eating Disorder Coalition