Obesity-prevention programs can create eating disorders, survey says
Compiled by Kollin Lore
Healthy eating and obesity prevention programs in schools are creating a harmful mental health effect on some children, according to findings by Canadian researchers in a report by the National Post.
Researchers from the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa said that healthy eating and weight initiatives have been creating neuroses in children who were never worried about their weight in the first place.
Their findings follows the cases of four children who were referred to hospital-based eating disorder programs after being exposed to healthy eating curriculum.
“A lot of the talk out there is that obesity, there’s so much of it, and swinging kids in the opposite direction is a huge issue because kids are becoming more scared to eat,” Wendy Preskow, founder and president of the National Initiative for Eating Disorders (NIED), told Humber News on Monday.
Leora Pinhas, a child psychiatrist at Sick Kids and co-chair of the Growing Healthy Bodies, told the National Post that many of these kids are those who are driven to succeed and be the best at everything, which spills out into living a healthy lifestyle.
Also vulnerable are children going through the transition of the early teen years, when girls tend to accumulate more body fat.
“We live in a culture that stigmatizes fat people, and we’ve turned it into this kind of moralistic health thing,” said Pinhas to the National Post.
This report comes at a time when eating disorders are on a rise in Canada, according to a CTV News article in February.
The NIED reports that the rate of obesity is nine per cent in girls, while the rate of eating disorders is double that at 18 per cent. More startling is that children aged five to 12 with the disorder are more likely to have Type II diabetes in children from newborn to 18 years.
The treatment for eating disorders in Canada, however, is not meeting the demands of Canadians.
“[The treatment available in the province] is absolutely, totally and utterly pathetic,” said Preskow. “There are only 21 [eating disorder programs] based in Ontario.”
According to a CTV report, Lakeridge Health in Oshawa, expanded its services to meet the growing demand of people seeking help, but the waiting list continues to pile.
The centre, like other eating disorder centres, has seen an especial increase in teenagers, up 35 from 12 being treated last year. In February, the centre had 75 people on the waiting list.
“To get over the waiting list is a process itself, and people die on the waiting list,” said Preskow.
This is a major concern as mental disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder in Canada, according to the NIED.
“Eating disorders have been the number one killing disease but it never gets a mention under mental health, usually it’s schizophrenia and bipolar and other mental diseases which gets unbelievable funding,” said Preskow. “For every $200 spent on schizophrenia, $6.50 gets spent on eating disorders.”
Preskow will be going to Parliament Hill on April 8 with a group of clinicians to bring awareness of this growing issue.