A Kamloops woman is pushing for more resources to help people with eating disorders.
Marlene Hibbs has a complex history with the disease that began when she was a child, from binge eating to bulimia, forced dieting, anorexia and involuntary bulimia. Based on her experience, she said there is need to improve diagnostic criteria, education and treatment in Kamloops and across B.C.
“It’s akin to having stage one cancer, but you have to have stage four to get treatment,” Hibbs said.
Interior Health’s local eating disorder program dietician, Nadine Lefebvre, said the health authority and clients are aware of service gaps in the B.C. Interior.
Currently, residents can attend the Kamloops Mental Health and Substance Use Services on Lansdowne Street, where they are assessed by a specialized intake worker before being referred to the Kamloops Eating Disorder Program, which is in the Alumni Tower at Royal Inland Hospital. That program includes a registered dietician, psychiatrist, physician, youth and adult counselling and life skills workers who plan meals and eat with people.
Absent from local services, Lefebvre said, is day or residential treatment programs. Day treatment allows people to visit a couple of days per week to receive therapy and meal support while providing flexibility to be at their homes. It defers admission to hospital, she said. Residential treatment, meanwhile, allows someone to live somewhere for extended periods of time to access similar services. Residential programs are available in Vancouver.
Asked why Kamloops does not have such services, Lefebvre said population density is at issue.
“It is a lot of clinicians’ time or money going into this program and you want to have enough people attending to make it worthwhile,” she said.
Currently, the Kamloops eating disorders program follows between 50 and 60 people, with the average client followed for several years. In 2018, the program received 24 referrals.
Hibbs, however, expects many more people have eating disorders than the numbers reveal. She said people don’t report their conditions due to “so much shame.
“I want people to be brave,” Hibbs said. “I can’t do this on my own.”
Hibbs is also calling for regulation of the diet industry, which she said needs to be held accountable for claims it makes.
Anyone wishing to self-refer or family members wishing to refer a youth can contact the Kamloops Mental Health and Substance Use office at 250-377-6500. It is located at 200-235 Lansdowne St. and is open Mondays to Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., with the exception of Thursdays, when it is open until 8 p.m.