Eating disorders are most often issues for young women and the evidence out there supports that claim. The image of anorexia or bulimia is a teenager or young adult still in high school or just out of it. She’s obsessed with her looks and struggles against a constant bombardment of media and social pressures to be skinny, to be young, to be beautiful.
Grade 12 student Vanessa Peynenburg has a different story. She says that she didn’t think that she was susceptible to those external influences. She had a pretty good self-image. For some reason unknown to her, she still became anorexic.
“Personally, I didn’t have any friends or any relatives who had gone through it,” she said. “I guess I was kind of ignorant to the whole thing. I just thought that it wouldn’t happen to me, and it did. It really just changed my perception of the whole illness.”
It all started when she was 15. She said that there wasn’t one thing that occurred that triggered her anorexia. She admits that she didn’t even pay attention to fashion or glamour magazines, so often indicated as compelling factors in the development of eating disorders for many young women.
“There’s always so many factors with something like this,” she continued. “Obviously there’s the media these days that adds to the whole perception of what the ideal body is. Even if you’re not into [magazines], it’s something that you’re exposed to on a daily basis. It’s really hard to just ignore those messages.”
She wondered if the depression that she previously experienced in her life brought her mind’s guard down, so to speak, but neither she nor her therapist could be certain.
“For me, I think I was just vulnerable to the whole thing. There was just a combination of factors that led me to develop it.”
Peynenburg’s anorexia continued for six months before she sought and obtained treatment through the University of Alberta Hospital’s Eating Disorder program. She credits them for helping her to return to healthy thoughts once again and stay there.
You can get in touch with caregivers in the program at 780-407-6114. Inpatients are cared for around the clock and outpatients can access treatment 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The real you
Last year, Peynenburg was chosen as Miss Teen St. Albert. While her term ends within the next month, she hopes to continue to encourage people to have a healthy body image. She has made presentations to a few school groups, emphasizing her central message “to be your own kind of beautiful.”
This is Eating Disorder Awareness Week, a chance for the people to take a good look at themselves and the people around them and make sure that everybody’s healthy inside and out. It’s promoted by the National Eating Disorder Information Centre. Its website at www.nedic.ca, provides information about eating disorders and how they affect men and women, young and old, small and large.
The NEDIC Real Me Experience is a new interactive website on self-esteem and body image. Visitors can create an account and access resources, including an online journal and reading materials including what things influence body images. This is located at www.realme.ca.