National Eating Disorder Awareness Week: Let’s Get Real
Monday, February 26 was the beginning of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, ending on Sunday, March 4. So why is this movement so important?
This year the theme from the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) for the National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is “Let’s Get Real”. The nonprofit’s website states that the goal is to expand the conversation and highlight stories that aren’t as commonly heard in discussions about eating disorders. NEDA also aims to show how today’s culture has complicated relationships with food, exercise, and appearance. The idea is to break through the stigma by getting past the eating disorder myths, shedding light on issues that are not as well-known, and help those struggling to get help.
According to NEDA, 30 million Americans will struggle with a full-blown eating disorder and millions more will battle food and body image issues that can cause innumerable negative impacts on their lives. Sadly, stereotypes and stigma keep far too many people don’t get the support they deserve. The same can be said for other issues, such as addiction, and people with dual diagnosis deserve a comprehensive level of care.
What are Eating Disorders?
The classification of an eating disorder can include many complex issues. In general, an eating disorder is any of a range of psychological disorders characterized by abnormal or disturbed eating habits. Typically these habits negatively affect a person’s physical or mental health. Types of eating disorders include:
- Binge eating disorder
- Anorexia nervosa
- Bulimia nervosa
- Rumination disorder
- Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder
Eating disorders affect people regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic group or ethnicity.
While it unknown what exactly causes eating disorders, a growing consensus believes there are a range of elements that are:
Other experts indicate that people with a history of sexual abuse are more likely to develop an eating disorder, and frequent co-occurring issues include:
With national survey data estimating that 20 million women and 10 million men in America will experience an eating disorder in the lives, it is vitally important to talk about the risks. Not to mention how to get effective help.
Common Eating Disorder Symptoms
So what are some of the most common symptoms or indications someone might have an eating disorder?
- Fear of weight gain
- Obsessive calorie counting
- Excessive focus on bodyweight
- Distorted body image
- Hiding body shape with baggy clothes
- Eating meals slowly
- Skipping of meals
- Avoiding eating around other people
- Irritability around food
- Hiding food
- Hoarding food
- Strict dieting/avoidance of certain foods
- Excessive exercising
- Social withdrawal
- Misusing of laxatives
While some symptoms may vary, it is important to pay attention to these signs and be able to recognize the symptoms. Once you notice the problem, it is important to take steps to get help.
The NEDA website offers several ways to get involved in National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. They encourage everyone to join the conversation on social media and to share their unique stories to break the stereotypes and support others. You can use #NEDAwareness and find more information on events and ways to get involved through NEDA on various social media networks.
There are opportunities to volunteer, to attend regional conferences, and to help with eating disorder advocacy.
But even if you don’t want to be actively engaged in this movement’s efforts, you can still take a look at what you truly know about eating disorders. Ask yourself how well you really understand what an eating disorder is, and how it impacts those who struggle. Some people immediately assume it is one thing, without ever considering that stereotype might be preventing them from acknowledging other people’s suffering.
For those struggling with eating disorders, we need to do more to show there are options for effective treatment, such as residential inpatient programs that offer more intensive support, like family therapy, eating disorder support groups and dieticians.