Written by Shannon Henderson, Senior Consultant, Communications and Public Affairs

Dr. Christine Lammerse and Dr. Joan Fujiwara talk about why eating disorders are not all about food, the integral role of family in treatment, and how small shifts can add up to powerful achievements.

Eating disorders are very complex conditions, and have the highest mortality rate of any mental health issue.

Twenty-five years ago, with a few other physicians, Dr. Christine Lammerse and Dr. Joan Fujiwara led the way in establishing Fraser Health’s community-based treatment program for those suffering from eating disorders.

The following is an excerpt from an interview with them, "Eating disorders are not all about food,” published in the Fraser Health newsroom. Read full article here.

Q: What makes an eating disorder such a complex condition?

A: Dr. Lammerse: It is the interconnection of so many issues – physical, biological, psychological, cultural, family dynamics, and genetic – just to name a few. On top of this, eating disorders often help people to function in their lives. For example, someone may develop an eating disorder because they feel the need to be thin to "fit in" with a crowd at school. Individuals with eating disorders are not always motivated to make shifts in their thoughts and behaviours because of this, even though their family and friends (who are more attuned to the negative aspects of eating disorders) are desperate for them to make those shifts.

A: Dr. Fuijiwara: I think eating disorders are very complex because the mental health and the physical health components affect each other so much more, I think, than in any other mental health or physical health illness. It is not possible to treat one component without addressing the other.

Q: How has the landscape of eating disorder treatment changed during your past 25 years in the field?

A: Dr. Lammerse: I think that we are learning that each individual with an eating disorder has come to that place with a unique path – and that treatment really needs to be individualized because of this. There is not one simple treatment approach that will resolve an eating disorder.

A: Dr. Fuijiwara: Eating disorders treatment has changed constantly since I have been in the field. I remember a time when youth who had difficulties with their family relationships were sometimes isolated from their families or parents until their weight was restored. We now do everything we can to involve the family in their child’s recovery as we know that family support leads to better outcomes.

For more information about the Eating Disorders program or to get help for you or a loved one, visit fraserhealth.ca/mentalhealth.

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