The Far West Local Health District is encouraging everyone to celebrate their body for what it can do, not what it looks like during Love Your Body Week (5-11 September).
Love Your Body Week coincides with Body Image and Eating Disorder Awareness Week and encourages people to embrace their bodies – regardless of shape or size – and to realise one’s shape doesn’t define them as a person.
Community Dietitian Heidi Drenkhahn, said in an Australian National Survey of 29,000 young people aged 11-24, body image was identified as the number one concern. Approximately 28% of males and 35% of females are dissatisfied with their appearance. A 2005 study surveyed 3,300 girls and women between the ages of 15 and 64 in 10 countries. They found that 67% of all women withdraw from life-engaging activities due to feeling badly about their looks.
“Poor body image and self-esteem can be pre-cursers to more sinister and long-term mental health issues including depression, anxiety and eating disorders,” said Ms Drenkhahn.
“Between 1995 and 2005 the prevalence of disordered eating behaviours doubled among both males and females in Australia and are now estimated to affect approximately 9% of the Australian population.
“Eating disorders are serious and potentially life threatening mental illnesses; they are not a lifestyle choice or a diet gone ‘too far’. A person with an eating disorder experiences severe disturbances in their behaviour around eating, exercising and related self-harm because of distortions in their thoughts and emotions,” she said.
Some warning signs for disordered eating are:
- Eating in private and avoiding meals with other people.
- Evidence of binge eating (e.g. disappearance and/or hoarding of food).
- Compulsive or excessive exercising (e.g. exercising in bad weather, continuing to exercise when sick or injured, and experiencing distress if exercise is not possible).
- Changes in food preferences (e.g. claiming to dislike foods previously enjoyed).
- Obsessive rituals around food preparation and eating (e.g. eating very slowly, cutting food into very small pieces).
- Secretive behaviour around food (e.g. saying they have eaten when they haven’t, hiding uneaten food in their rooms).
- ‘Black and white’ thinking (e.g. rigid thoughts about food being ‘good’ or ‘bad’).
- Rapid weight loss or frequent weight changes.
If you are concerned about a loved one or yourself having disordered eating habits that may lead to an eating disorder there are many places to get help. The ED HOPE hotline 1800 33 4673, the National Eating Disorder Collaboration website (NEDC) or your local GP can all provide assistance.