This week is Eating Disorder Awareness Week (February 23rd-March 1st, 2014). The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) seeks to raise awareness around the significant impact eating disorders have on individuals, families, and communities across the nation. This year’s NEDAwareness Week theme is “I Had No Idea”, to help expose the truths surrounding eating disorders. Often, we assume that an eating disorder will present itself with obvious signs and symptoms such as low body weight, or fitting into a certain demographic. But, those struggling with an eating disorder can be of any weight, any gender, and any race. There is also a huge misconception that eating disorders are a choice. Eating disorders are not a choice and they are a serious mental illness that require support and treatment for recovery.
It may surprise you to know that anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, yet not receiving treatment due to lack of insurance or insurance companies not covering treatment are huge barriers. 81% of ten year olds are afraid of being fat, and although up to 30 million people have eating disorders, only 1 in 10 receives treatment. The media and society have a huge influence on our entire population. Our biology loads the gun for an eating disorder, but it is often our environment that pulls the trigger.
Ok, so those are the facts, they’re frustrating/appalling/unfair etc. But eating disorders are so much more than just facts. The way an eating disorder can overpower so many smart, intelligent, and amazing individuals is truly scary. Those in recovery from an eating disorder can share with you how amazing life can be when they let their healthy-self become stronger and more powerful than the eating disorder-self. If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, please know that recovery is possible. Taking that first step to acknowledging that you or someone you know may have an eating disorder is a difficult thing, and the journey is full of twists, turns and bumps in the road. But it is SO worth it.
How do we make a difference and where do we start? Each individual’s situation is different, and what works for one person may not work for someone else. Regardless of the circumstances, here are some suggestions of how to help:
Do just ONE thing:
-Learn more about eating disorders by visiting the NEDA page www.nationaleatingdisorder.org
-Get involved with the community; check out Austin Foundation for Eating Disorders (AFED) austinfed.org. AFED is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing awareness and education, advocacy, prevention and support to anyone affected by eating disorders in the central Texas community. Their mission is to prevent eating disorders, remove barriers to recovery and to provide recovery support by connecting individuals, families, communities and resources. They offer free support groups for individuals struggling as well as a parent and loved one’s support group, along with reduced cost Dialectical Behavior Therapy Groups.
-Share something you have learned about eating disorders with one other person. Spread the word that recovery is possible!!!
-Help end Fat Talk. Fat talk really has nothing to do with weight or size, and it has made its way in to many of our daily conversations. Fat talk is any kind of negative and hurtful comment towards yourself or others about your body. Pay attention to the things you say to yourself- if you would not say the same comment to your friend, then why would you say it to yourself? Help end Fat Talk by replacing those thoughts with something positive, by not comparing your body to others, and by appreciating all the amazing things that your body can do.