Anorexia: not caused by food alone

Re: “If mealtimes are a struggle, don’t face them alone” | Mind&Body| January 28

The profiling of eating disorders is obviously very commendable, and the tone of the article was perfect in dealing sensibly with a taboo topic. But it is very short-sighted to pin down the cause of eating disorders to food alone. This may seem counter-intuitive, but the underlying psychological factors of eating disorders are paramount in understanding the motives, and therefore, in determining a solution. Nowhere did the article make any mention of these elements – a need for control, a plea for attention, an act of rebellion, to name just a few (of course, I could not make an exhaustive list here; the causes are as diverse and unique as the people who suffer from them). Moreover, to isolate peer pressure, body image, and stress as causes may end up isolating the victims themselves: if someone thinks that help is only directed to those obsessed with becoming thin, they might be less likely to seek help if they see it as not being relevant to their situation. The position of a psychiatrist on the program’s team and the analysis of each case individually – as the article suggests is the case – are vital and praiseworthy elements of McGill’s Eating Disorder Program, and students are lucky to have these resources available. But wider awareness of the truth behind eating disorders – if this can ever be determined in an area with such a wide breadth of symptoms and causes – is needed if we want to successfully fight these illnesses. Seeing victims as extreme dieters obsessed with looking good won’t help.

Naomi Endicott
U1 Anthropology
Daily staffer