This week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, designed to bring attention to the seriousness of eating disorders, to raise awareness about biological and environmental triggers, and to fight the attitudes and expectations that contribute to these disorders.
This year’s theme is “Everybody Knows Somebody.” From the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA):
This year the National Eating Disorders Association is stressing that we all need to be educated about the contributing factors, signs and symptoms of eating disorders in order to ensure early detection and intervention. We live in a culture saturated with unrealistic body-image messages and almost all of us know somebody struggling with an eating disorder. Because this is true, we urge you to do just one thing during NEDAwareness Week to 1) raise awareness that eating disorders are serious illnesses, not lifestyle choices; 2) provide accurate information to medical, educational and/or business communities, and 3) direct people to information and resources about eating disorders.
I think in part because eating disorders are often associated with girls, negative stereotypes lead people to think that eating disorders are just another bad thing girls are choosing to do, letting larger social forces off the hook for their contributions, and glossing over the need for real treatment. As NEDA explains:
Eating disorders are complex conditions that arise from a combination of long-standing behavioral, emotional, psychological, interpersonal, biological and social factors. As our natural body size and shape is largely determined by genetics, fighting our natural size and shape can lead to unhealthy dieting practices, poor body image and decreased self-esteem. While eating disorders may begin with preoccupations with food and weight, they are about much more than food. Recent research has shown that genetic factors create vulnerabilities that place individuals at risk for acting on cultural pressures and messages and triggering behaviors such as dieting or obsessive exercise.
Events are being held in various cities to educate the public and promote solutions. The NEDA website also has extensive information and resources on eating disorders. NEDA’s latest project is Proud2Bme, a website geared toward teens that features great content on developing a positive body image and healthy relationships. Check it out!