MONTREAL -- Specialists in the field are reporting a spike in severe cases of eating disorders that may be linked to COVID-19, and Miss Teenage Quebec is using her platform to raise awareness about the issue.

“I’m currently in recovery from anorexia, and I thought to myself: 'What’s something I could have used when I was at my worst? What would I have liked to see?' and it was a role model," said Miss Teenage Quebec, Clara Chemtov.

Chemtov is speaking about her own experience to help others struggling with the obsession to be as thin as possible.

"We’re in a society where we’re constantly in a pursuit of thinness, trying to achieve wellness, and health," said Chemtov.

At first, she says, she believed "‘I’m just taking care of myself, taking care of my body,' but really it became an obsession and a fixation, and it turned all of the things that I love into something negative.”

Chemtov is far from alone.

A specialist at the eating disorder program at Sainte-Justine Hospital said the centre is reporting twice as many hospitalizations this fall as last year and believes it could be linked to the novel coronavirus crisis.

“Teens might have lost their social support, their sports, their activities, their way to kind of be themselves, and may turn towards fixation on body image, eating, exercising," said Dr. Nicholas Chadi at Sainte-Justine Hospital.

"And that can lead to anorexia.” 

The National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC) is also reporting a substantial increase in Canadians seeking support for eating disorders.

They say 15- to 19-year-olds are the most at risk, but eating disorders can hit people of all ages and types.

One common thread, however, is reported through the information centre's helpline.

“The theme that came about is a feeling of [being] out of control, so we’d have clients saying: 'I guess I’m feeling out of control of life circumstances right now and eating, and weight, is what I can control,'" said Aryel Maharaj of the NEDIC.

For Chemtov, her advice is to talk about the issue even if you're scared.

“The first words are the most difficult," she said. "The first words are pretty terrifying. And then after that, it’s such a relief."

Those first words led her to get help at an eating disorder clinic. She says that sharing her story has given her strength to continue her recovery.