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Social media, the education system and the world around it are all things a new Nova Scotian author points to as contributing to his past experiences with eating disorders.

Scott Ellis, who ran for the Progressive Conservative Party in 2021, opened up about his struggle with an eating disorder in his book Chasing Numbers: sleep, starve, repeat.

While running for the PCs, Ellis got a glimpse of the struggles of people throughout his community. He says it opened his eyes to the number of people with eating disorders.

“A lot of times people have mental illnesses and they don’t want to share what happened because it’s deeply personal and can be traumatic for a lot of people,” Ellis told CityNews.

Ellis says her eating disorder started around age 10 or 11.

“You always heard about people going on a diet. You saw it on TV, on the covers of magazines and when I went grocery shopping with my parents; it was like everyone was on a diet.”

Ellis says it was a messy way of thinking, especially at such a young age.

“That’s not what a 10 or 11 year old should be thinking,” he continued.

“They should be playing outside with their friends, thinking about school, not about their bodies and what diet they should be on.”

Ellis recalls a time in school when her gym class had a project centered around calorie counting.

“In school we should learn how to eat, how to cook, how to grow food, what the nutritional value of food is and what it can do for the body, whereas when I was in school, it was more about the numbers we put into our bodies,” Ellis said.

Ellis said that although it had been some time since he had been in school and he had heard of changes in the education system since his time there, he felt there should be more emphasis on the nutritional value of foods.

Another hurdle for those struggling with eating disorders, Ellis says, is social media.

Ellis explained that people are bombarded with headlines about how to lose five or 10 pounds, and it’s not just adults who are subjected to these stories.

“These are seven-year-olds, very young, and when their brains are still developing and they see all these images on social media,” Ellis said.

“They see all these diets that are completely unrealistic and shape the way they think about food, and they grow up thinking that’s how they’re supposed to eat.”

Ellis says parents have an important role to play when it comes to eating habits and the influence of social media.

“Keep an eye on the people your kids are following [is important] because some of these people don’t have the best of intentions – there’s a lot of money in the dieting industry, and they can put some pretty harmful things in plain sight.”

Ellis’ book is out now and is available online at Amazon or at local bookstores in Halifax and other areas of Nova Scotia.

Ellis ended by saying that there are many resources for those looking for help in his book.

“You can find all of the eating disorder programs in Nova Scotia that serve anyone in the province without a referral or diagnosis, so you can go there and also get the support you need.”

More information on how to get support for eating disorders can be found here.