Trigger Warning: Weight loss, eating disorders, and anorexia.
Weight loss, eating disorders, and anorexia.affect everyone’s physical and mental health differently. This post shares the story of one family’s experience and the role Foundry played, it is not representative of all experiences. If these topics are triggering in any way or you have questions, please reach out to someone, visit Foundry Sea to Sky’s walk-in hours (Wednesdays 2:30-5pm) or find resources on our website. If you are in crisis, please call 911 or the BC Crisis Center at 1-800-784-2433.
Often when a young person suffers from an eating disorder, it’s a family affair. That was the case for the Relling family when the mother, Lisa, realized her daughter Delilah was struggling.
“She had been exhibiting signs of control with food that was becoming an obsession. She was also exercising a lot and telling us she was getting healthy, but her behaviour was suspicious. One day she asked me to help her put tanning cream on her back and as I rubbed the cream in, I started to cry. I knew right then that we needed help.”
According to the National Initiative for Eating Disorders, approximately one million Canadians are diagnosed with an eating disorder. In Canada, these disorders often begin in the youth and teen years with 12% to 30% of girls and 9% to 25% of boys aged 10-14 reporting efforts to lose weight.
Delilah was 17 years old when her mom realized they needed help to support her daughter with her eating and exercise habits and, moreover, to address the thoughts and influences that had started her illness.
I was aware my weight loss had become a problem, but I didn’t want to admit it.
“I remember that day” Delilah remarks, “I was aware that my weight loss had become a problem, but I didn’t want to admit it. I was very defensive, and I don’t think I reacted very well. It took a while before I was okay to talk about it, because I had hidden it for so long and had kept telling myself, this is just the way I look. I knew I was getting very weak; I was feeling faint just walking up and down stairs.” Lisa explains “Initially it was hard to find specific help geared towards an eating disorder. We started at Lion’s Gate Hospital in the pediatric ward, where Delilah was admitted. We had an incredible doctor there who connected us to a dietician and the counsellor at Foundry North Shore. We were so lucky to find Foundry and the support they offer.”
When a youth develops an eating disorder, there’s often more going on than a desire to manage their weight and change their body image.
Eating disorders can affect anyone and are signs of a serious but treatable mental illness and personal struggle. Integrated health and social service supports at Foundry are available through online resources, and virtual, in- person or drop-in appointments.
I didn’t want to know about Foundry. I was angry, not at anyone, I was mad at myself. But then when I started talking to the nutritionist at Foundry, things started to change.
“The nutritionist at Foundry really listened. She really listened to me and how I felt, and that alone helped me, she didn’t just tell me what to do, we had real conversations. I am actually quite sad that next week will be my last appointment, as I feel like I’ve made a connection with her. It wasn’t always like that. For the first weeks I resisted going, because I knew it meant gaining weight and having to follow-through with that, and that was hard.”
“The staff at Foundry are incredible,” shares Lisa. “Sophia and Melissa, our dietician and counsellor welcomed meetings with any members of our family, which really helped because an eating disorder impacts the whole family.”
Ironically, Foundry played a role in the Relling family long before they anticipated needing its services. Lisa’s father, David Hildreth (Delilah’s grandfather), is passionate about supporting youth in the community and is a longtime Foundry supporter on both the North Shore and for the new Foundry Sea to Sky which opened its doors at the end of March 2023.
Years ago, David identified a lack of community resources for youth and founded the Squamish Breakfast Club Society to bring together and support vulnerable youth. His work with D.A.R.E and on the Board of the Squamish Hospital Foundation led him to support bringing Foundry to the Sea to Sky. David was demonstrating his passion for community, wellness and youth, unknowingly facilitating services that his own family would one day rely upon.
“I even had a woman with her newborn in the bed next to me.” Lisa interjects “But it was good to be there, even if it was just to get the information, and because our generation didn’t learn how to talk about these things and being in that environment helped us to.” Delilah has observed that the atmosphere at Foundry is totally different than at the hospital. “After being admitted and spending time in a hospital, I don’t ever want to go through that again, so I’m grateful Foundry offers a different experience. I can access my counsellors virtually, or in person. I think an eating disorder isn’t something you ever fully get over—I will always need to manage that struggle. I’m glad I’ve found people who will provide assistance, when I need it, to maintain good health.”
“In a way, Foundry is a family service,” Lisa continues. “The counsellors have been great about keeping me informed and asking for my thoughts, as I’m living with Delilah much of the time. They involve any family members or close friends who want to be included. Delilah’s sister has participated on zoom meetings, wanting to know how she can help. The support that’s been offered to our family is amazing, and it’s all been free. This invaluable help is accessible to anyone who needs it, whether it’s for mental health, physical health or both.”
I hadn’t really accepted my recovery until recently, when my Grandma passed away. I have decided I’m not going to look back when I am 70 and say to myself, wow, I wish that when I was eighteen, I hadn’t eaten that pizza or feel mad at myself that I forgot to work out on a particular day. Life is more than this. I want other young people to start thinking this way too. This is why I am ok telling my story. The more youth that read this, the better. It happened to me and if I can help someone see themselves in me and it helps them take that first step, then that will make me happy.
When you are all alone, the shame you feel and the stories you tell yourself can be overwhelming but having someone to talk to really helps you let go of all that. Looking back, I am just so glad my Grandma got to see me healthy again. I can still hear her say ‘Delilah, just eat’, but now it makes me smile.”
Foundry offers safe, non-judgmental care, information and resources without the barriers that traditional counselling sometimes requires.
The centre offers resources to reach young people before health challenges become problematic, as well as treatment options. “Both my dad and my late mom have always been passionate about providing resources to youth,” says Lisa proudly. “Ever since the Breakfast Club my dad has been passionate about giving back and volunteering. He’s so generous with his time and so immensely caring, and now his own granddaughter has benefited from his efforts.”
Learn more about Foundry Sea to Sky online at FoundrySeatoSky.com
Photo credit: Anita Bonnarens