Author Topic: Nourishment and Me: Food and Body Image Group  (Read 480 times)

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Nourishment and Me: Food and Body Image Group
« on: February 05, 2021, 11:06:08 am »
Each year in Canada, February 1st to February 7th marks Eating Disorders Awareness Week (EDAW). It is a week to honour all those affected by struggles with eating and body image, a week of public education about such struggles, and a week of action and advocacy to increase supports and services.

At Hope + Me, we?re taking up this call to action by launching a new peer support group called Nourishment & Me: Food & Body Image Group. This group is a peer-run drop-in support group for all those facing eating and body image concerns. The group is supportive, open to people of all genders, and welcoming to anybody who self-identifies as experiencing struggles with food and body image or who are curious about exploring their relationship to food and the body. 

Importantly, this is not a weight-loss group. We will not be engaging in diet culture nor will we be promoting singular definitions of health and wellness. Instead, we will collectively create a weight-inclusive, body-compassionate space that allows for participants to self-determine what body peace means to them and to support one another along the way.

Nourishment & Me will meet at 7:00 PM bi-weekly on the 2nd and 4th Monday of every month. Meetings will be held virtually via WebEx. A link to access each meeting will be shared with registration to the group. (https://app.acuityscheduling.com/schedule.php?owner=19361959&appointmentType=19864853)

COVID-19 has drastically affected the multiple dimensions of the quality of our lives.  Amongst trying to navigate these challenging times, there are those whose food, eating, and body image struggles have been negatively impacted and amplified.  In a way, these COVID-19 circumstances have created a perfect storm for body shaming and adverse eating behaviours to flourish.  The uncertainty has heightened anxieties, furthering a feeling of loss of control, which results in the increased need for control through food, eating, numbers, and body image. 

With stay at home and social distancing restrictions, individuals can find themselves in isolated situations or in close quarters with family dysfunction and/or abusive relationships without access to social support. These activating environments can flood us with emotion, increasing the risk of self-harm. Another risk to those with body, food, and eating challenges is the change in access to food for meal plans.  With lockdowns, stockpiling large amounts of food can urge one to spiral into dangerous eating and food behaviours.  Moreover, the lack of structure to our days, increased time on social media and technology greatly disrupts our efforts to counter the negative thought patterns; for example, COVID-19 diets, fat or lazy shaming, comparisons with others, and our learned capitalistic mentalities of productivity and efficiency. 
 
Food, eating, and body image challenges are more than about food, weight, or the numbers.  Many who struggle also have co-occurring conditions such as anxiety, depression, OCD, PTSD, etc.  These aspects also intersect with our socio-economic, racial, gender, and sexual orientations, which all influence access and quality of the care we receive. A multidisciplinary collaborative team approach to healing and nourishing both the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual are essential.  COVID-19 has diminished treatment access, and impacted face-to-face therapies, forcing support and accountability to an online virtual delivery. 

The current situation is unusual where the change was so rapid that therapists, professionals, organizations, and hospitals are scrambling to adapt and transition to a new way of supporting their participants and clients. The professionals are also not immune to their own stresses and circumstances whilst upholding their client?s confidentiality and other ethical parameters. There is already a shortage of treatment programs and services for those struggling with food, eating, and body image issues, the waiting lists are lengthy, and those who are struggling cannot afford to wait.  The ongoing gaps in services have been highlighted during COVID-19 and we are adapting and increasing opportunities for those who are in need to access the support necessary to get through these uncertain times. 

-Marie T., social work placement student