This week, Feb.21-Feb.27, is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. I feel that this is something extremely important that people become more aware of and more educated on because the number of people with an eating disorder is growing astronomically every year. It's not something that only female teenagers have. An eating disorder knows no sex, race, or age. We're seeing more and more children, males, and older adults being diagnosed.
You want to know the worst part about all of it? 2 things: (1) The person sitting right next to you could have one; your mom could have one; your boyfriend could have one. Eating disorders are often suffered in silence, and you won't know. (2) I personally feel like we, as a society, have done this to ourselves. I say ourselves as a collective term. No all of us have eating disorders, but we all watch the same media, and we all are exposed to the "ideal" body shapes. We've exposed ourselves and our children to the world of photoshop. We believe that what we see in magazines and on tv is real, but all it is is a bunch of manipulative lies.
One other thing that needs to be said: "IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT WEIGHT!" Some might start out that way, but an eating disorder has so many different levels to it. I think of it like Dante's 7 levels of Hell. Getting to the root cause is like peeling back layers of an onion, and sadly, medical professionals are still peeling away layers. No one knows the actual cause of the eating disorder or why some people get it and others don't.
Here are some statistics* on the severity of the problem:
-20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life.
-40-60% of elementary school girls (ages 6-12) are concerned about their weight or about becoming too fat.
-There are several type/sub-types of eating disorders: Anorexia Nervosa (retricting and restricting/binge-purge types), Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder, EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified), and additional eating and feeding disorders (Anorexia Athletica, Orthorexia, Diabulimia)
-10-15% of those with anorexia or bulimia are MEN.
-Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder. In fact, the mortality rate for Anorexia Nervosa is twelve times higher than the death rate of all other causes of death.
-A common death for those who die from their disorders is heart problems for reasons specific to each type.
There are many people who don't get help because sometimes help needs to be given in an inpatient setting--and it's not covered by insurance, therefore, a lot of people can't afford it. Project Heal is a non-profit organization that raises funds to help those who can't afford treatment. This is something that has been needed for a long time, but there's also the problem many who have recovered face when they're older--finding affordable insurance. Most insurance companies will give insanely high monthly premiums to those that have suffered. I'm talking around $600 a month.
Several companies, including Dove, have tried to fight the media's negative influence by exposing the truth and using models of all sizes and ages.
Celebrities are also speaking out against photoshopping and the body shaming they feel. Cassey Ho, certified pilates and fitness instructor isn't immune to all these pressures. She released a video called, "A Perfect Body" where she shows herself manipulating her body to "fix" it in response to others. People don't realize what their words can do, and once said the damage cannot be undone.
She later released a video detailing her own personal struggle with an eating disorder.
Lean Cuisine reached out (they were revamping their brand) and asked if she would test their Diet Filter (for tv and web). Something about dieting is mentioned every 3 minutes on tv. That's crazy, right?!? She also mentioned how she felt so ashamed to admit that she had had a problem. Why do we, as a society, make eating disorders/mental illnesses something to be ashamed of? They aren't something that someone chooses to have. They're just a sickness, just like a cold or the flu is a sickness, and if you treat someone horribly because of the fact that they have the disorder/illness then that's on your conscious because you'll never know the impact those words had. Kudos to Cassey for coming around and being open about her struggles. She's a role model for all those who watch her videos, and I'm sure her having made this video has saved lives simply by letting people know they aren't alone (remember I said most suffer in silence).and encouraging them to get help.
Why is this so important to me?
I'm sure you're asking yourself this, and I am going to answer it. I feel so strongly about this because I personally suffered from an eating disorder. I struggled for 10 years with Anoerxia Nervosa (restricting/binge-purge type). I'm not going to tell you what my lowest weight was, but I will tell you that the doctors gave me two weeks had I not come in. I know the pain, both emotional and physical, that this disorder causes not only to the patient but also to the family of the patient. It's not just the person with the disorder suffering; the family goes through it too. There are absolutely no words than can describe the torment of these disorders. It's almost like you lose everything--friends, control, life. People don't understand why these things happen. There's not an easy answer to that. Just know that if someone is going through this, don't abandon them...try to understand, but most importantly, make sure you treat others in a way that you want to be treated--don't call others fat or ugly because they will eventually believe it. And with believing it could come serious consequences, even death.
It took me a long time to get where I am, and I never want to go back. It's not a pleasant place to be, and I doubt I'd come through it alive. I am recovered, but there will always be that little nagging that urges me to go back to it (primarily the nagging though of "you're too fat")--never again. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. Does that get the point across as to why this is important? . I've had to learn to channel my stress and verbalize my feelings because I was just a ball of nervousness, depression, and emotions. I've had to take control of my perfectionism and be ok with not going above and beyond. I feel like the worst part about it all is that I had to drag my family with me through this. They shouldn't have had to experience that dark hell; they were innocent in it. No matter how many times I say I'm sorry, I feel like it won't ever be enough. All I can do is try to repair the damage that was done and reform those bonds. Yes, I still have those "I feel fat" days, but I have to realize that what I see and think I feel isn't how it really is. I'll also probably be on medication for the rest of my life. Depression and anxiety aren't the easiest things to beat, plus I have my own health issues that developed from having had the disorder. I live a pretty normal life now, and I'm eternally grateful for that. I'm grateful my family stood by me and helped push me forward when I didn't feel like trying anymore. I'm grateful I'm still here to live a fulfilling life, and I'm grateful that I've found someone who loves me for me...even when I have those "fat" days. There's so much to look forward to.
I encourage you all to become aware of the influences on body image and how they affect people. I encourage you to watch your words because you don't get to see the impact they have one someone; it may make the difference in whether or not someone will get help; it may be what sets a person into a downward spiral. I challenge everyone to try to love who you are and the skin that you're in--it may not be what you think you're supposed to look like but remember, what you see on tv and in magazines isn't real. Be healthy and enjoy life. You only have one.
**All information was obtained from the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders and The National Eating Disorders Association.
Hi! I’m Meagan, designer for The Prickly Pear. I’ve created this blog to not only showcase my work and other crafty information, but also to give you an inside look into my life.