Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada

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St. Joseph's Care Group

Eating Disorders Programs

Our Program

Eating disorders are serious conditions in which an individual becomes preoccupied with food and weight. Ultimately, this can become life threatening.

There are three types of eating disorders that the program addresses

Anorexia Nervosa

The main feature of this disorder is the maintenance of a low body weight; often leading to life threatening weight loss. This quest for thinness becomes associated with extreme fears about eating, gaining weight, and getting fat and losing control over food consumption. Some clients come to the program who have fully diagnosed Anorexia Nervosa. Others have some but not all of these symptoms

Bulimia Nervosa

This disorder is characterized by binge eating in which large amounts of food are consumed quickly and often in private. In an attempt to counteract the binge, individuals may vomit, restrict their dietary intake and/or exercise vigorously. With Bulimia Nervosa, body weight is not dangerously low but it is not necessarily healthy either. Again, some clients come to the program who have all of the symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa. Others may have some that they are struggling with.

Binge Eating

This disorder is characterized by binge eating in which large amounts of food are consumed quickly and often in private. It is usually accompanied by the feelings of being "out of control" during binges. After the binge the person usually has feelings of shame, disgust or guilt.

How does someone get into the Eating Disorder Program?

The best way is to get a referral from your doctor. The doctor will have the necessary forms. Also your doctor will have the medical knowledge and background to support your medical needs.

  • You can also give us a call with your questions or concerns.
  • You can have someone call us on your behalf. Sometimes a parent or a teacher will call about concerns they have for a child/student.
  • If you are concerned about having an eating disorder the MOST important thing is to talk to someone and get help A.S.A.P.

How many staff are with the Eating Disorder Program?

Our program has four Mental Health Clinicians, a Family Therapist and two Registered Dietitians. We also have a Psychologist, a Psychiatrist, a Physician and a Nurse Practitioner who provide consultation and treatment should the need arise.

If you live outside of the City of Thunder Bay, our Regional Resource Clinician is here to help you obtain services in your own community if that is what you wish.

What can I expect once you have my referral? (referral form)

We believe in the importance of teamwork. You should not be expected to manage this on your own. In fact, when you first come to the program you will meet with both a dietitian and one of our mental health clinicians so that we can get to know more about your difficulties with food and about who you are as a person. We will also ask you to fill in some questionnaires. You can expect to be here for about 3 hours. By the time you leave, you will have a clearer idea of how our team will be able to help you and you will know if this program is a good fit for you. Should you decide to work with us, you will be given another appointment before you leave.

If you are under 18, you can expect your parents to be invited. At this point in your life, you are not yet living independently. We want to help both you and those who love you to support you in the best manner possible.

What kind of treatment do you offer?

Our program is funded for Outpatient treatment. That means that you would be coming to the program on a regular basis but it would not be daily, nor would it involve staying overnight. Everyone has differing needs and these are taken into consideration in developing your treatment plan. If outpatient treatment is recommended for you, this is what the research tells us are the best combination of therapies:

Nutritional Counselling

Your Dietitian will be working with you to figure out what your body's energy requirements are, to create a meal plan that is workable for you and to support you as you make changes. 

Individual Therapy

Your therapist will be working with you to help you manage your worries and concerns, any fears of change and any issue that you believe to be relevant in your life.

Some people
  • Want to know why they got an eating disorder
  • Want to feel better about their body
  • Don't know if they want to make any changes
  • Have been encouraged to come to the program but don't really want to be here
  • Are tired of feeling the way they do and want to feel better
  • Are ashamed of what they are doing and want help to stop

So you see, there are many reasons for coming to the program. We are glad you have taken the first step.

Family Therapy

The Family Therapist will work with you and your family to find ways to support you in your fight against an eating disorder.


We all make our decisions based on the information we have. Our program provides a variety of sessions/groups designed for those struggling with an eating disorder. Receiving accurate information allows you to use it wisely.

There are also information sessions for families who wish to know more, would like to help or who or interested in receiving support.

What happens if I get really sick?

If you are a youth whose physician has determined that you are medically unstable, inpatient care is available at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre. Our program works very closely with the pediatric team to ensure the best care possible.

If you are an adult, our team will discuss the possibility of referring you to a more intensive treatment centre in Ontario. Depending on your current situation, we may recommend an inpatient stay or one in which you are supported daily without staying overnight.

Can someone overcome an Eating Disorder?

It is encouraging to know that Eating Disorders are being treated successfully. Multiple research has been underway for some years now and we now know what types of treatment are effective. We know that a multidisciplinary approach is best with a Physician; Clinician and Dietitian as the key members of the treatment team. Your family will have a strong role in treatment if your loved one is still a teen.

There are two important things for you to remember

  • Treatment takes time. It is counter-productive and frustrating to expect recovery overnight. There are intense fears that accompany an eating disorder that need to be managed. Perhaps you could remind yourself of your own greatest fears and how difficult they are to overcome.
  • Food is only part of the problem. Treatment will also address any emotional, social, family or psychological difficulties that may prevent recovery
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