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Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2023 – Transforming the Narrative: From Asks to Action

By Shaely Ritchey RN, BScN


Eating Disorders Awareness Week (EDAW) is a nationally-recognized week in Canada, from February 1st-7th. This week serves to bring awareness and understanding to the devastating impact of eating disorders on individuals and families across this country. Beyond awareness, we need action, that is why this year’s theme for EDAW 2023 is Transforming the Narrative: From Asks to Action.

This year's campaign aims to help people understand the connection between eating disorders and other co-occurring mental and physical health conditions or intersections of disadvantage, and to help various stakeholders understand the different types of action we must take to support people affected by eating disorders and co-morbid mental illness.

  • Eating disorders are complex, serious illnesses.
  • Multiple types of eating disorders exist. Despite the common stereotype, Binge Eating Disorder is the most common eating disorder and the majority of individuals with eating disorders do not present as underweight (less 6%).
  • Eating disorders often occur when those who have multiple interacting vulnerabilities experience a period of malnutrition or stress. This stress triggers physiological and psychological changes that together culminate as an eating disorder. Vulnerabilities can include biological, psychological, cultural, and structural factors.
  • Eating disorders affect people of all genders, sexual orientations, skin colours, sizes, (dis)abilities, ages, cultures, and socioeconomic classes. Those who face higher levels of marginalization and oppression are at disproportionate risk.
  • Weight stigma presents an additional risk factor and potential harm for individuals seeking services.
  • Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness outside of deaths due to the toxic drug supply. This loss of life is not only due to physical health consequences (which can occur at any weight), but also suicide.

Beyond mortality, there is significant morbidity associated with eating disorders.

Across the country, eating disorder services and research are chronically under-funded.

There is a lack of accessible, timely, and effective services on Vancouver Island and across BC (as well as Canada) particularly for adults with eating disorders.

Addressing eating disorders is an issue of social justice and human rights as marginalization and oppression increase vulnerability to eating disorders, create additional barriers to support, and increase the risk of experiencing harm in care settings.

Learning more about eating disorders, working alongside those with lived and living experience, dismantling stigma and bias associated with these conditions, and working to improve care for these individuals are all important steps in taking action.

To learn more about eating disorders and Eating Disorders Awareness Week as well as various actions you can take to help support those struggling, please visit the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC) page: https://nedic.ca/edaw/.

Author Biographies

Shaely Ritchey (she/they) is a registered nurse who works in acute and complex surgery. Originally raised upon unceded Lheidli T’enneh traditional territory; currently living upon unceded Lək̓ʷəŋən traditional territory Shaely is passionate mental health advocacy, is a co-founder of Vancouver Island Voices for Eating Disorders (VIVED), and volunteers with CMHA BC. In their free time, Shaely enjoys photography, hiking, and art.

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