News » Whistler

Support coming for women with eating disorders

Women encouraged to participate, learn in nine-week session



Are you having obsessive thoughts about food?

Are you constantly worried about your body image, so much so that it’s affecting your daily life?

Are you binging and purging or severely limiting your food intake?

Help is just around the corner.

Two professional counsellors, Sheila Sherkat and Carol Hoskins, are co-facilitating an eating disorder support group, just for women.

It is designed to help a broad spectrum of women who may be suffering from eating disorders or disordered eating or who may be on the brink of developing issues around their food.

"Eating disorders are on a continuum and the sooner we help somebody out, the lesser the impact on them and their families, physically, psychologically, socially," said Sherkat. "If someone is starting to go down that path and we can stop it, the outcome is much better."

The nine-week support group is set to begin on Wednesday, Feb. 1. Participants will meet each week for an hour and a half in a supportive, safe and confidential environment.

The women are encouraged to discuss and learn more about the underlying problems surrounding their eating habits.

"We discuss issues such as family and relationships, coping strategies, nutrition, stress management," explained Sherkat.

Women who have struggled with disordered eating also share their experiences with the group as guest speakers.

This is the fifth time Sherkat has facilitated a disordered eating support group in Whistler.

This time around she is lowering the age for participants to 16, as long as they have parental consent.

"We’re hearing that there’s more issues in that age range," she said.

There are several risk factors associated with disordered eating, Sherkat explained. They range from a disconnection from meaningful relationships, unhealthy body image, preoccupation with food, weight and shape, and unhealthy weight-control behaviours such as rigid dieting, fasting, binging, purging and excessive exercising.

There are also several factors that can protect women against getting sick.

Some of those factors include healthy stress management, coping and problem-solving skills, supportive relationships, family stability and an understanding of normal nutrition. It can even be as simple as sitting down together for family dinners, something many families don’t make the time to do.

"That’s one trend I’ve noticed in my groups is most of the women with issues didn’t have family dinners together and if they did have family dinners together, they were very unpleasant, very stressful," said Sherkat.

"In our group we touch on most of these issues with the aim of preventing an eating disorder from progressing to a more harmful level, or ultimately, from stopping the disorder completely."

The support group is funded through Whistler Community Services Society.

For more information about the support group or to register for the nine-week session, call Counsellor Sheila Sherkat at 604-938-4519.