Jan. 4, 2012 • Issue 15 • Volume 145 • 5
It’s not about food
Alanah Duffy News Reporter
got an opinion? tell us what you think.
Off the top of her head, Dr. Kathryn Weaver estimates that about 75,000 New Brunswick women suffer from an eating issue. “Somehow, [women] often decide that the best way to improve themselves is through weight loss; they want to make themselves look better, look a little bit more acceptable,” says Weaver, an associate professor in the faculty of nursing at the University of New Brunswick. “And then, they really start to get caught up in it.” Eating issues are abnormal eating habits that are detrimental to health and wellness. Starving oneself, bingeeating, excessive exercise, and vomiting after meals are common indicators of an eating issue. An eating issue that has garnered attention recently is “drunkorexia,” in which a person eats nothing during the day so that alcohol can be consumed during the evening without going over a certain number of calories for the day. The underlying cause of an eating issue often has nothing to do with
food. “Sometimes, it’s not until you move away to university and enter adulthood that you are able to make some sense of previous hurts or previous stressors,” Weaver says. “Some women might have encountered harassment or abuse. That certainly is a factor in helping women set up a bit of a war with their bodies.” Weaver says that the prevalence of eating issues is especially high among high school and university women, where women are often socially comparing themselves to others. In 2008, the group “It’s Not About Food” was founded by UNB allied health professionals. Weaver and PhD student Kathleen Pye now run the group, which is open to any UNB or St. Thomas University woman seeking help with eating issues. “We recognize that eating issues are a huge problem on campus and we want women to begin to tell their story and begin to get the help that they might need,” says Weaver. Weaver says the group is extremely important in New Brunswick, where women don’t have much access to
help for eating issues. The group meets one night a week for six weeks during the fall and winter semesters. Women in the group have the opportunity to discuss their eating issues with peer-trained counselors and others like them. “They get to have this open conversation and be validated by what they’re saying because someone else is feeling the same way,” says Pye. Weaver and Pye are careful to use the term “eating issues” as opposed to “eating disorders” because they want the group to encompass girls with all sorts of eating issues instead of merely medically diagnosed disorders such as anorexia or bulimia. “We have people who might be on the binge-eating side and might look a little overweight, so people don’t necessarily assume that they have a problem. Then there’s the flipside, where there are people who are restrictors and might look a little bit thin or might look very thin,” says Pye. “It’s really hard to pinpoint these people, and there’s the misconception that they really should be fitting this one mold and that’s not really true.”
Anyone can suffer from an eating issue. Mike Erb / The Brunswickan Pye, an interdisciplinary PhD student studying eating issues and secrecy surrounding eating issues, says that this area is subject to many misconceptions, such as eating issues are self-inflicted or are a “girl problem.” However, research on the subject is showing that men are increasingly suffering from eating issues. Although the “It’s Not About Food” group is inclusive to women right now, Pye says that there is a possibility for a group for men in the future.
“Eating issues are such a challenge and no one would choose to have to deal with this. It’s not fun,” Pye says. “What we need to do instead of pushing the blame is to ask them what they need, what we can do for them, and what they can do for themselves. Let’s work as a team and figure out what the problem is and how to solve it.” For more information about the “It’s Not About Food” group, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.