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"I never dreamed that I would have developed an eating disorder in my 30's," said Morden resident Shauna Sheldon, who has overcome her battle with Anorexia.

An eating disorder is a psychological disorder characterized by abnormal or disturbed eating habits. The first week of February is Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

Sheldon noted it all started out with her trying to model a healthy lifestyle for her children, but took a turn for the worse.

She was exercising and eating healthy, which eventually turned into an exercise compulsion. This lead to her exercising seven days a week and often running upward of five miles a day.

"I delved further and further into that exercise compulsion," said Sheldon. "I found that my level of anxiety increased and my ability to eat decreased."

With this happening it caused her weight to drop.

She was doing all of the things you hear you should do, but went too far, which crossed the line into Anorexia.

"I'm not going to say people shouldn't exercise and not watch what they eat to some extent," said Sheldon. "Really anything, even healthy things, when taken to excess can become detrimental and dangerous."

It was her family who reached out to her and asked her to get help.

"I went for an assessment to more or less appease my family than anything," said Sheldon.

She was shocked after being diagnosed with Anorexia.

Sheldon said, like many people, she thought eating disorders are only related to how someone looks.

"The further I went into treatment for my eating disorder I found out the base of my disorder was a very low self-confidence and very low sense of self-worth," said Sheldon.

Treatment had taught her that she does matter just like everyone else.

"Little by little my self-worth and self-confidence did start to grow," said Sheldon.

Even though she has overcome the disorder Sheldon said it will most likely be something she will have to deal with for the rest of her life. Sheldon said she wakes up every day saying 'I get to eat today', which helps her through the ups and downs of her journey.

Sheldon said a common question asked is, 'why don't you just eat'. She said it's not that simple.

"Even I was getting so frustrated with myself," said Sheldon. "I would often sit back and say 'Seriously Shauna, why can't you just eat', but there is so much anxiety and fear that is built up toward the innate need to eat."

"It doesn't make sense," added Sheldon. "I don't expect people to understand, because how can you understand when something so clearly doesn't make sense."

She again said it came back to your self worth.

"If you don't feel worthy, often you don't even feel you are worthy of the basic necessities of life, such as food," said Sheldon.

According to Sheldon when she was dealing with this eating disorder she unconsciously pushing people away.

"People would see that I wasn't doing well and they would avoid me because they wouldn't know what to say or would be scared that they would say the wrong thing," said Sheldon. "That isolation is actually more destructive because it makes their world really small and the only thing left in that world is the individual and the eating disorder."

Sheldon said having an open dialogue with someone who may be going through something like this and allowing the individual to open up about their experiences with the eating disorder is key.

"It's like planting seeds," said Sheldon. "It might not take root today or tomorrow, but it might in six months."

One of the great programs in Manitoba and the one Sheldon is the most familiar with because it helped her on her recovery journey is the Eating Disorder program at the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg. She said the other program available is through the Women's Health Clinic.


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