Take Care of Yourself

This month’s column in Snap (www.snapmilton.com) deals with early signs of anorexia and the difficulty people experience when dealing with chronic fatigue or other chronic illness.  If there is a theme that connects both posts, it’s the element of care taking. 

Food is necessary for our survival but it can mean so much more.  It is binds us socially.  It expresses affection.  It takes care.  On the other hand, it can be a place of struggle, where the power dynamics in the family poison the most delectable meals.  It can be a way that a young person takes control of an otherwise uncontrollable circumstance.  It can be a comfort that puts us at risk of disease. 

When food is a source of conflict, either familial or personal, it’s time to take a look at what elseis going on in your world or your children’s world.  I’d say this applies to anyone at any age.  A good resource in the Halton Region if you are concerned about your children is ROCK (Reach Out Centre for Kids) www.rockonline.ca.  If you are concerned about you, contact your family doctor or a competent counsellor you can relate to.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and other chronic pain or low energy conditions can be devastating.  They often strike those that have previously functioned at a very high level and are used to being the caretakers, not the taken care of.  It is vitally important to take the steps you need to get well.  Leave no stone unturned and don’t let anyone in the system minimize your situation.  Ally with an advocate to help you negotiate.  Let someone take care of you, so you can get back to taking care of others.  Also, don’t miss the message your body might be sending.  When you only take care others and don’t refuel yourself, you may be vulnerable to disease and dis-ease in your life.

Here’s the Advice Column:

Dear Susan,

I have a 12 year old daughter and I am concerned about her attitude toward food.  She seems to have become hyper aware of calories and fat in everything on her plate.  At first I thought she was trying to get healthy and I was supportive.  But now, I think there is something wrong.  Dinner is an argument every night.  Last night, we had hamburgers and she said she wasn’t hungry.  This is the third time she’s refused to eat dinner in a few weeks.  What can I do?


Dear JL,

Your daughter seems to be exhibiting the first signs of an eating disorder.  You are fortunate that you have noticed early on, before weight loss has become a damaging process for her.  There are many interrelated causes of eating disorders in young people and it is important to seek help now.  Go to your family doctor and get a referral to a counsellor that is experienced with this difficulty.  Homewood in Guelph has an extensive program and could provide you with adequate referrals if your doctor can’t.  You can also read an excellent book , “Demystifying Anorexia Nervosa: An Optimistic Guide to Understanding and Healing”, by Dr. Alexander Lucas. 

Be Well, Susan

 Dear Susan,

I have been very sick for the past year and the doctors say I have “chronic fatigue syndrome”.  They want to put me on anti-depressants.  Does this mean they think it is all in my head?  I just want to feel better and get my life back.


There are many studies that document a relationship between depression and chronic fatigue.  Your doctor has probably told you that the condition is complex and there is no one solution for every person.  Anti-depressants may be part of the solution for you but this doesn’t mean it is all in your head.  Make sure you have been thoroughly assessed by a specialist (Rheumatologist, Immunologist, Neurologist or Chronic Fatigue Specialist) for all other possible causes of your fatigue.  Often, the depression follows the disability and counselling can be a good addition to your treatment plan.