Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Eating Disorders

I'm sure you've had a meal that you just stuffed your face with every bite in sight, and then waddled your way over to the couch complaining about why you ate so much.  Who hasn't done that around the holiday season when the food is plentiful and oh-so-delicious. 

Or maybe you wanted to fit into that little black dress, so you cut back on your calorie intake or do one of those "fast action cleanses" with water & lemon for a few days.

Or maybe you came home from work and literally ate everything out of your fridge and cupboard.  Like, everything.

Eating disorders are serious but treatable illness with medical and psychiatric aspects.  Anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating disorders are most commonly known.

Bulimia Nervosa is a disorder that is defined by the individual binge eating and purging - making themselves vomit everything they ate.  It often becomes a sense of power, of control of one's body that they are the ones making the decisions for their weight, for their lives.  Often, Bulimia is seen in young women, teenagers, and into 20's - but this is not an exhaustive age range.  Eating disorders can be with someone their entire life, or begin later on in life.

Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder defined by the individual drastically cutting their food intake to a dangerous low-calorie level, for the irrational fear of putting on weight.  Even one pound of weight gain can cause someone who is dealing with anorexia into a downward spiral.  Anorexia is most popular in women, at about 85%, while 15% of people dealing with the disorder are men. 

Eating disorders aren't just about binging, purging and starving yourself.  Some individuals have problems with being able to stop eating.  There are people who deal with the fact that they will eat all day long - and not necessarily healthy food.  They may be eating 25 hamburgers a day, buckets of fried chicken, sweets and baked goods.  And while they know what they are doing is not good for them, they simply cannot stop.  They often become immobilized, and dependant on others to fulfill their food intake needs.

Some individuals may take laxative pills or teas to help them with the purging of the food they've eaten.  This can create a real dependency on the OTC drug, cause internal issues that go unseen for a long time.  Ulcers, colon and intestinal wall breakdowns, and more.

Purging (vomiting) causes the stomach to become weak, acid burning away the enamel on one's teeth, causing the esophagus to become inflamed and raw. 

Starving one's self causes weakened organs, the heart to work and beat faster, exhaustion, the muscles to breakdown strength and bones to become brittle.

Over-eating causes heart concerns, obesity, organs to become sluggish and tired.  There is also the financial factor - the food intake can cost hundreds of dollars every couple of days, thousands a month.  Often this individual cannot work, and is supported by others or social assistance.

Many factors play into an eating disorder.  There may be an underlying mental illness, there may be pressure from peers.  Possibly, the person is obsessed with what the perfect body is - when Hollywood calls 150lbs "obese and fat" it's easy for a woman to question herself.  There may have been a traumatic experience in the individual's life, and having this one thing that they are in control of, self-gratifying.  Again, this is not an exhaustive list of possibilities for developing an eating disorder.

Do you have someone in your life who you may fear has an eating disorder?  Here are some signs for you to watch for regarding Anorexia, Bulimia and Purge Eating:

  • Constant or repetitive dieting (eg. counting calories/kilojoules, skipping meals, fasting, avoidance of certain food groups or types such as meat or dairy, replacing meals with fluids)
  • Evidence of binge eating (eg. disappearance of large amounts of food from the cupboard or fridge, lolly wrappers appearing in bin, hoarding of food in preparation for bingeing)
  • Evidence of vomiting or laxative abuse (eg. frequent trips to the bathroom during or shortly after meals)
  • Excessive or compulsive exercise patterns (eg. exercising even when injured, or in bad weather, refusal to interrupt exercise for any reason; insistence on performing a certain number of repetitions of exercises, exhibiting distress if unable to exercise)
  • Making lists of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods
  • Changes in food preferences (eg. refusing to eat certain foods, claiming to dislike foods previously enjoyed, sudden interest in ‘healthy eating’)
  • Development of  patterns or obsessive rituals around food preparation and eating (eg. insisting meals must always be at a certain time; only using a certain knife; only drinking out of a certain cup)
  • Avoidance of all social situations involving food
  • Frequent avoidance of eating meals by giving excuses (eg. claiming they have already eaten or have an intolerance/allergy to particular foods)
  • Behaviours focused around food preparation and planning (eg. shopping for food, planning, preparing and cooking meals for others but not consuming meals themselves; taking control of the family meals; reading cookbooks, recipes, nutritional guides) 
  • Strong focus on body shape and weight (eg. interest in weight-loss websites, dieting tips in books and magazines, images of thin people)
  • Development of repetitive or obsessive body checking behaviours (eg. pinching waist or wrists, repeated weighing of self, excessive time spent looking in mirrors)
  • Social withdrawal or isolation from friends, including avoidance of previously enjoyed activities
  • Change in clothing style, such as wearing baggy clothes
  • Deceptive behaviour around food, such as secretly throwing food out, eating in secret (often only noticed due to many wrappers or food containers found in the bin) or lying about amount or type of food consumed
  • Eating very slowly (eg. eating with teaspoons, cutting food into small pieces and eating one at a time, rearranging food on plate)
  • Continual denial of hunge
Physical Warning Signs
  • Sudden or rapid weight loss
  • Frequent changes in weight
  • Sensitivity to the cold (feeling cold most of the time, even in warm environments)
  • Loss or disturbance of menstrual periods (females) 
  • Signs of frequent vomiting - swollen cheeks / jawline, calluses on knuckles, or damage to teeth 
  • Fainting, dizziness
  • Fatigue - always feeling tired, unable to perform normal activities
Psychological warning signs
  • Increased preoccupation with body shape, weight and appearance
  • Intense fear of gaining weight
  • Constant preoccupation with food or with activities relating to food
  • Extreme body dissatisfaction/ negative body image
  • Distorted body image (eg. complaining of being/feeling/looking fat when actually a healthy weight or underweight)
  • Heightened sensitivity to comments or criticism about body shape or weight, eating or exercise habits
  • Heightened anxiety around meal times
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Moodiness or irritability
  • Low self-esteem (eg. feeling worthless, feelings of shame, guilt or self-loathing)
  • Rigid ‘black and white’ thinking (viewing everything as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’)
  • Feelings of life being ‘out of control’
  • Feelings of being unable to control behaviours around food
  • Fear of growing up/taking on adult responsibility
If you need someone to talk to about yourself and a potential eating disorder, or someone you care about, our Crisis Line Specialists are here 24/7 at 613-238-3311.  We have resources to help you get healthy again.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Holiday Depression

The holidays are here, and for many it's mistletoe, snowflakes, hot chocolate, family, friends, stockings, lights and joy.

For others, this is a dreaded time of year if you're dealing with depression.

There are many scenarios that can contribute to depression during the holidays, and know that you're not alone.  It is more common than most think.  Often you'll hear people say they don't like Christmas, or they're a modern day Scrooge, and are just "Bah-humbugging" through to the new year.

Between the physical demands of the holidays, financial stressors, and relationship woes, it's easy to get pushed down into the dark hole of depression.

We borrowed these tips you can try to keep holiday depression at bay from Mayo Clinic:

  1. Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can't be with loved ones, realize that it's normal to feel sadness and grief. It's OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can't force yourself to be happy just because it's the holiday season.
  2. Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.
  3. Be realistic. The holidays don't have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children can't come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos.
  4. Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don't live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they're feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.
  5. Stick to a budget. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don't try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts. Try these alternatives: Donate to a charity in someone's name, give homemade gifts or start a family gift exchange.
  6. Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That'll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for party prep and cleanup.
  7. Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can't participate in every project or activity. If it's not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.
  8. Don't abandon healthy habits. Don't let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don't go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks. Continue to get plenty of sleep and physical activity.
  9. Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Take a walk at night and stargaze. Listen to soothing music. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.
  10. Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.

We are here over the holidays - Christmas doesn't mean that our phone lines are closed.  So if on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or any day before of after you need someone to talk to, our amazing volunteers are here for you.  Simply call 613-238-3311 or 1-866-676-1080.

Have a safe & happy holiday season from all of us at the Distress Centre of Ottawa & Region!

Monday, December 10, 2012

New Year, New You

2012 has flown by hasn't it?

Does it not seem to you that we were just relishing in the warmest spring, the hot, dry summer, walking in the leaves this unseasonably warm autumn?

And yet, here we are, about 15 days until Christmas, and 22 days until 2013!

Time to start thinking of those 2013 New Year's Resolutions!

Let's see...there's the usual, lose weight, quit smoking, go to the gym, eat better.  These are all great, and kudos to those of you who really stick with it.

But have you ever considered making a difference with your time?

2013 can be the year that you help out thousands of callers at the Distress Centre of Ottawa & Region.

Through 59 hours of training, you'll learn vital tactics to learning how to support callers, without the use of providing advice.  Our job is to lend a supportive, non-judgmental, and unbiased ear.  Sometimes people just need someone they don't know to listen to them, sometimes it's just easier to talk to someone who doesn't know you personally.

You'll also be trained in the Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training workshop.  This is a 2 day course, that we provide free of charge to our volunteers.  You will learn how to listen for warning signs of someone with suicide ideations.  You get the chance to interact with many others and our very qualified educational managers to learn how to diffuse suicidal intentions, and help the person in need get to a safer place for themselves.

We sometimes hear people "Oh I couldn't do that, I couldn't talk to people who are in distress or suicidal."  And that's the truth - you need to be comfortable, and with all the training that we have each volunteer partake in, by the end of it you will feel comfortable.

Take it from me - I just finished my own training, and 2 days later, I got asked to help out on the phone lines.  And let me tell you, it was a very rewarding couple of hours!

So if you think that your New Year's Resolution will be to volunteer at the Distress Centre of Ottawa & Region - fill out your application today!


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Music Moves Us

Quite often, we'll hear callers tell us that listening to, playing or composing music helps them through difficult times, stress, grief, loss, anxiety, depression.  Music moves them to a happier, safer place, that it has its own healing powers.

Emotions can run rapid with a song, making us feel things by the melody, the lyrics, the harmony of the voices.  Songs can remind us of past events, present situations, and inspire us.  It's so remarkable how even the first 5 seconds of a song can take us somewhere.  It's a natural coping strategy - there is music all around us on the radio, the tv, iTunes, YouTube, and more.

We find ourselves saying "This song was written for me", or "These lyrics are exactly how I feel".  It's a great way to show we're not alone in what our lives have brought us - that someone else has been dealing with something similiar and has put it into song.  It becomes relatable and we are able to understand.

Last night, I (Leslie, Community Relations Coordinator) was at the Xavier Rudd concert here in Ottawa.  Xavier Rudd is an Australian artist, who sings, and plays the didgeridoo, while playing the drums at the same time.  He truly is a one man band.

Now, I've been a fan of Xavier Rudd's music for a couple of years, and while I've listened to his songs many times, I wasn't prepared for the emotions I felt last night, when I heard him sing "Follow The Sun" live.  The atmosphere of the people at the show changed, and you could feel a certain energy with the lyrics that made me want to share this post with you.

The song is about being inspired, that tomorrow is a new day.  That following your heart, mind & soul is okay to do, that your energy can be refreshed in your own way.  While we don't give advice to our callers, we provide support, and through this song, I hope you'll find support to get through your day today, and know that every day is a new chance for change. 

Lyrics: Follow The Sun - Xavier Rudd

Follow, follow the sun
and which way the wind blows
when this day is done.

Breath, breath in the air.
Set your intentions.
Dream with care.

Tomorrow is a new day for everyone,
rand new moon, brand new sun.

So follow, follow the sun,
the direction of the bird,
the direction of love.

Breath, breath in the air,
cheerish this moment,
cheerish this breath.

Tomorrow is a new day for everyone,
brand new moon, brand new sun.

When you feel love coming down on you,
like a heavy wave.
When you feel this crazy society,
headin' to the strand.
Take a straw to the nearest waters
and remember your place.
Many moons have risen and fallen long, long before youve came.
So which way is the wind blowin',
and what does your heart say?

So follow, follow the sun,
and which way the wind blows
when this day is done.

We're always here for you to talk to.  If you or someone you know is struggling to cope, call us at 613-238-3311 in Ottawa, or 1-866-676-1080 in the Outaouais.