Contributed photo                                Chelsey Reaney, of Red Deer, says she has struggled with her eating disorder many years, but is ready to seek treatment.

Contributed photo Chelsey Reaney, of Red Deer, says she has struggled with her eating disorder many years, but is ready to seek treatment.

Eating disorders stressful at Christmas

Eating Disorder Support Network of Alberta offering online support groups

The season of abundant yuletide food has arrived, and that means even higher anxiety for people with eating disorders.

Chelsey Reaney, who is battling an eating disorder, said family drama and costs associated with Christmas compound her issues with food.

“Stress is not good for someone in my place. You want to try and control something, and the only thing you can is whether you eat or not,” said Reaney, 26, who is five foot one and weighs 77 pounds.

“Christmas is one of the worst holidays for me. It’s just a whole bunch of pressure. There’s a whole bunch of food and everyone expects you to eat.”

She said Canadians are becoming more aware of mental illness, but most are still in the dark about eating disorders.

“A lot of my friends are just — eat. Don’t throw up your meals. Eat healthier,” said Reaney of Red Deer.

“You can’t just eat. It’s not that simple. You have to work hard at it and have to get the help.”

It’s only in the past few months that Reaney has realized that she needs help and has an appointment to see a counsellor specializing in eating disorders.

“I’m constantly exhausted. My hair is falling. I tend to sleep a lot. I have no muscle to me, so I can’t actually lift anything.”

Reaney has a GoFundMe account to raise money to attend a residential treatment centre, preferably an out-of-province Christian program.

If that’s not possible, she hopes to raise enough for transportation to an Edmonton treatment centre and for accommodations for her fiancee in that city.

Across Alberta, access to support groups is available online through the Eating Disorder Support Network of Alberta, which also is hosting the event Self Care for the Holidays: Intuitive Eating and Boundaries in Calgary at Serenity Now Wellness Centre on Dec. 16 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Network co-director Maureen Plante said people can learn how to develop a self-care plan to navigate stressful holiday events.

“There tends to be a lot of anxiety around food. This might come from just food in general. It might come from interactions with people you are around. A family member might comment you’re not eating enough and put more food on your plate. That can be very anxiety provoking for a person who suffers from disorder eating,” Plante said.

She said there are strategies to ground yourself and communicate with others. People also need to be kind to themselves, take time for themselves, and have a strong support system in place.

Co-director Lauren Berlinguette said stress can be triggered when people attend more events than usual, encounter people they don’t often see, and have to deal with opinionated people.

And right after Christmas comes “new year, new me” pressure, she said.

“Some of the diet culture talk that comes up in January can also be really stressful. We kind of go up one hill and down the other side,” Berlinguette said.

Online support groups have been an effective way to reach Albertans regardless of where they live, she said.

“We find in the winter especially, people really gravitate to having an online group to go to. They can access our groups from the comfort of their own home.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta had 1,571 active COVID-19 cases on Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta’s central zone now has 1,101 active COVID-19 cases

Provincial death toll has risen by nine

Dustin Mitchell (Coats) is wanted by police in relation to a homicide this past Wednesday. (Photo contributed by Red Deer RCMP)
Red Deer RCMP looking for man in relation to homicide

An arrest warrant has been issued for a Red Deer man in… Continue reading

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Alberta reports 1,731 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday

The province’s central zone has 992 active cases

Collin Orthner, manager at McBain Camera in downtown Red Deer, stands behind the store’s counter on Saturday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
A few Red Deer businesses happy with Black Friday results

While this year’s Black Friday wasn’t as successful as it was in… Continue reading

Le Chateau Inc. is the latest Canadian firm to start producing personal protective equipment for health care workers, in a July 3, 2020 story. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Hundreds of millions of dollars for frontline workers yet to be released, says Alberta Federation of Labour

Information recently released by the Alberta Federation of Labour suggests more than… Continue reading

Idyllic winter scenes are part of the atmosphere of the holiday season, and are depicted in many seasonal movies. How much do you know about holiday movies? Put your knowledge to the test. (
QUIZ: Test your knowledge of holiday movies and television specials

The festive season is a time for relaxing and enjoying some seasonal favourites

Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre speaks during a news conference Monday, Nov. 16, 2020 in Ottawa. Poilievre says building up the Canadian economy post-pandemic can't be achieved without a massive overhaul of the tax system and regulatory regime. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Conservatives attack Trudeau’s ‘reset’ but they have ideas for their own

‘We don’t need subsidized corporate welfare schemes that rely on endless bailouts from the taxpayer’

In this undated photo issued by the University of Oxford, a volunteer is administered the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, in Oxford, England. Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca said Monday Nov. 23, 2020, that late-stage trials showed its coronavirus vaccine was up to 90% effective, giving public health officials hope they may soon have access to a vaccine that is cheaper and easier to distribute than some of its rivals. (University of Oxford/John Cairns via AP)
Moderna chairman says Canada near head of line for 20 million vaccine doses

Trudeau created a firestorm when he said Canadians will have to wait a bit to get vaccinated

There were 47 new COVID-19 cases in Alberta Tuesday. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson)
Spread of COVID-19 in Brampton, Ont., linked to systemic factors, experts say

‘We’re tired. We’re numb. We’re overworked. We’re frustrated, because it’s not our rules’

The courthouse in Iqaluit is shown on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020. Three Nunavut judges, including the chief justice, are at odds over whether prison conditions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic should be considered when sentencing offenders in the territory. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Emma Tranter
Nunavut judges disagree on how to sentence offenders during pandemic

IQALUIT — Three Nunavut judges, including the territory’s chief justice, are at… Continue reading

A corrections officer opens the door to a cell in the segregation unit at the federal Fraser Valley Institution for Women during a media tour, in Abbotsford, B.C., Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017. Independent reviews of the hundreds of inmates placed in segregation over the past year found only a handful were inappropriate, new government data indicate. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Few federal inmates moved from solitary after external reviews, new data show

‘There can be rare cases where the removal may not be immediate’

A couple embrace during a ceremony to mark the end of a makeshift memorial for victims of the Toronto van attack, at Yonge St. and Finch Ave. in Toronto on Sunday, June 3, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston
‘I’ve been spared a lot,’ van attack survivor says as she watches trial alone

Court has set up a private room for victims and families of those killed in the Toronto van attack

Banff National Park. (The Canadian Press)
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

EDMONTON — A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths on railway tracks… Continue reading

Cows on pasture at the University of Vermont dairy farm eat hay Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Burlington, Vt. Canadian dairy farmers are demanding compensation from the government because of losses to their industry they say have been caused by a series of international trade deals. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Lisa Rathke
Feds unveil more funding for dairy, poultry and egg farmers hurt by free trade deals

OTTAWA — Canadian egg and poultry farmers who’ve lost domestic market share… Continue reading

Most Read