“An eating disorder invades every aspect of your life, and it never, ever shuts up,” says Chaster, who has struggled with an eating disorder most of her life. “Living with an eating disorder is like living with another voice or identity, inside your head, constantly making judgments, and shaming and blaming.”
This week marks the beginning of Provincial Eating Disorders Awareness Week, and starting February 12, Island Health is kicking off a three-month, bi-weekly Peer-Supported Meal Process pilot program.
With six adult participants to start, here’s how it will work.
Meal trays will be brought in by noon, with food that has been pre-ordered by each participant. Participants will choose what to eat, from a minimum meal plan to a normalized meal. Eating disorder behaviours will be discouraged during the meal, such as unusual or excessive condiment use, unusual food combinations, diet foods, picking at food, and using utensils to eat finger foods, like a sandwich.
While eating, conversation will be about everything BUT food, calories, portions, BMI. Only after everyone has finished what’s on their plate will talk turn to feelings and experiences.
“Meal process – this open talk about the actual experience of eating – will continue for an hour after food trays are returned,” says Chaster, who will oversee the program with other peer facilitators. “Participants will have the opportunity to say out loud to others who understand from their own lived experience, exactly what they are struggling with, and how eating made them feel.”
Island Health is providing the food, and the space to eat and meet at the Patient Care Centre at Royal Jubilee Hospital.
The fact this pilot is being offered on an out-patient basis makes it unique, Chaster says.
“Meal process is a relatively new concept which has apparently only been implemented in research studies in in-patient environments,” Chaster said. “I’m proud to be part of this innovative approach to helping those, like myself, who have never been able to take eating healthy for granted.”
Interested individuals can call 778-533-3843 to find out more about the pilot project. Spaces are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
To learn more about eating disorders, and how to access treatment and support services, please go to: http://www.viha.ca/health_info/eating_disorders.htm
Director, Communications and Engagement
Media Relations Manager