Eating Disorders can be very difficult to diagnose and often go unnoticed for years by friends, family and healthcare professionals.
Many family doctors, who are the first point of contact for people with Eating Disorders, have no idea what to look for because they get very little training in Eating Disorders throughout their medical education. Program Director at Body Brave (www.bodybrave.com), a support centre for those with Eating Disorders, Dr. Karen Trollope-Kumar says this is an issue because most family physicians don’t feel comfortable diagnosing or treating Eating Disorders, allowing them to fly under the radar.
Trollope-Kumar encourages all physicians to take the typical signs and symptoms of an Eating Disorder seriously. This includes:
Sudden change in weight (either up or down)
Changes in mood (like heightened anxiety or depression)
Changes in eating patterns like going on a restrictive diet (paleo, keto, vegan)
Even if these symptoms seem benign at first, ask more questions. Someone who says they are going vegan to protect the environment may still have an underlying motivation to manipulate their body size or shape in an unhealthy way.
Trollope-Kumar says another issue is that family physicians often don’t know where to turn, even if they expect that their patient has an Eating Disorder. Many areas across the country do not have specialized care for people with Eating Disorders, and even those that do (usually in larger city centres) have waiting lists that are months long.
Many family physicians will find themselves supporting a patient who is waiting months for a higher level of care. In this situation Trollope-Kumar says communication is key. Be supportive, non-judgemental and understand that Eating Disorders are complex illnesses, not a fad or lifestyle choice.
It is also important to understand how to properly monitor patients while they are waiting for treatment. The National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC) (www.nedic.ca) has some great resources on their website outlining what to check and monitor in an Eating Disorder patient. NEDIC is also a great place for any physician who wants to learn more about diagnosing, treating and caring for a person with an Eating Disorder.
Trollope-Kumar says in an ideal world doctors would get more information on Eating Disorders during their medical training. However last year Body Brave and NIED co-hosted the first-ever virtual annual e-conference on Eating Disorders called BodyPeace and together with other organizations across Canada will be launching be launching Eating Disorders University (edU) – another first for Canada. As part of its new education strategy NIED (ww.nied.ca) is focusing on providing skills-based educational programs and resources through this new learning and engagement platform. Check this space for more information as it becomes available.
As a primary physician what would you like to learn about Eating Disorders? If you are a patient, what do you wish your doctor knew?
What you need to know about Eating Disorders as a family physicianHilary Thomson2020-07-20T13:44:40-04:00
Firstly, let me introduce myself. My name is Hilary Thomson and I am a journalist and writer based in Kemptville, Ontario. I was diagnosed with anorexia when I was 16 and the past 15 years has been a whirlwind of hospital admissions and treatment attempts. I have been in steady recovery now for three years and while I don’t consider myself fully recovered; I am definitely on my way.
So, what am I doing here? Having struggled with my mental and physical health for so long I am passionate about raising awareness for Eating Disorders and helping others on their recovery journey. I have known about NIED ever since they launched in 2012 and always felt that one day I wanted to get involved. I started out on NIED’s education committee, helping to organize symposiums, but I soon got the opportunity to get involved with their communications team. My training is in journalism, so it felt like a perfect fit.
I am so excited to have this platform to further NIED’s mission to provide access to educational, informational, and recovery-oriented resources related to the treatment and prevention of eating disorders in Canada. The goal of this blog is to provide engaging and well-researched content geared towards people with Eating Disorders, their caregivers and healthcare professionals. It will include everything from useful recovery tips to interviews with people with Eating Disorders from diverse backgrounds, knowledgeable Eating Disorder treatment professionals and advocates. The goal is to represent the reality of Eating Disorders and treatment in Canada and provide a platform for insightful perspectives and conversations.
NIED is thrilled to be launching this blog on World Eating Disorders Action Day, an initiative that unites activists across the globe to expand global awareness of Eating Disorders. There are roughly 1 million people struggling with Eating Disorders in Canada alone right now, many of whom are suffering silently and without proper support or treatment. Eating Disorders thrive in isolation and the more people speak out about their experience the more likely we are to see change. On this day of action we are asking you to consider telling your story. If you are not sure how we have prepared a document which outlines how to tell your story responsibly, without putting you or anyone else at risk. You can download the pdf here.
We would love to see this blog morph and grow into something that is driven by our community. We want this to be a welcoming and informative space for anyone looking for support in their own recovery or help in supporting a loved one or patient/client. We are extremely interested in hearing what you would like to see. Is there a topic you want us to cover? A person you would like to see interviewed? Do you want a platform to help tell your own story? We would love to help.
Contact us here and let us know what you think. What do you think is missing from the Eating Disorder recovery space?