Eating disorders spiked during the pandemic, and that forced a rethink in how they are treated

Sarah White sets a timer to remind herself to eat. She sets it six times a day so that she eats three meals and three snacks.

 

White says she’s always been a “picky eater.” But when she started working from home, her routine was interrupted and her already difficult relationship with food became dangerous. It ultimately led to an eating disorder diagnosis during the pandemic.

 

“I had all of the time in the world to eat, but I was finding I wasn’t eating nearly as much as I should have been,” White, 33, saidĀ during a physically distanced interview at her Halifax apartment. “It started to feel a lot more serious than it had in the past.”

 

There’s been an alarming spike in the number of people seeking help for eating disorders. The National Eating Disorder Information Centre says the volume of inquiries to its helpline and online chat service has been up 100 per cent during the pandemic.

 

“There’s been literature coming out across the world really suggesting that the numbers are skyrocketing and we’re trying to understand why that is,” said Dr. Jennifer Couturier, principal investigator for the Canadian Consensus Panel for Eating Disorders.

 

Pandemic research effort

 

In May, the panel, which consists of clinicians, policymakers, parents and youth, received a $50,000 federal grant to determineĀ how best to treat eating disorders during a pandemic, particularly in children and young adults under 25. Couturier says she feels this age group hasn’t received a lot of attention when it comes to research generally.

 

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