ORILLIA, ONT. -- Pediatricians across Ontario are working to treat children who have developed eating disorders during the pandemic.

In Orillia, the Soldiers' Memorial Hospital reports a surge in children needing help as they struggle with bulimia, anorexia, and other eating disorders.

"The numbers are staggering and our team typically providing care are struggling to keep up with the number of kids we're seeing," said Dr. Michelle Gordon, the chief of pediatricians at the Orillia hospital.

Dr. Gordon said she has never experienced a spike in eating disorders like this last year.

"It's been gut-wrenching to see these kids so unwell," said Dr. Gordon.

She attributes the increase, in part, to the lack of stability children face with schools, sports and other activities amid multiple lockdowns.

"We need to get them back to school as soon as it's safe," Dr. Gordon added.

According to the National Eating Disorder Infusion Centre, there are dozens of signs to watch for that indicate your children may have developed an eating disorder.

Indicators include:

  • Adopting a new restrictive diet
  • Avoiding foods based on colour or texture
  • Eating abnormally small spoonfuls at a time
  • Frequent stomach aches
  • Dizzy spells
  • Changes in sleep patterns

And it's not just affecting children, Julia Stanislavskaia, a dietician with the Taddle Creek Family Health Team, said adults are at risk as well.

"It's not just women and girls developing eating disorders. It's men too. Adult men and women over the age of 65," said Stanislavkaia.

The eating disorder program in Orillia currently has an eight-month waiting list, said Dr. Gordon, something familiar across the province for children and adult treatments.

The Eating Disorder of Canada Foundation said the problem was made worse last year when nurses were redeployed to fight COVID-19.

"It's not that COVID doesn't deserve it, but when we rob Peter to pay Paul, it makes a huge difference," explained Dr. Robbie Campbell, the founder and president of the foundation.

Along with Stanislavskaia and Dr. Gordon, Campbell is urging anyone in the province who believes they might have an eating disorder to seek professional help, whether that be at your family doctor or clinic.

They say they will guide you on what steps to take on the road to recovery.