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National Eating Disorders Awareness Week: Do You Know Someone Suffering from an ED?

By Rheyanne Weaver HERWriter
Mental Health related image Photo: Getty Images

However, once you are certain that the person may be struggling, the kind thing to do is to reach out in an empathetic way, with care and concern, and offer to help them find resources for help.”

It can be uncomfortable confronting another person about such a private type of issue, but it’s important to remember that your intervention could save a life.

“If you remember that ED’s have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, it is vital to know that you could be saving someone’s life,” Grefe said. “These are treatable illnesses, but the earlier we steer people to appropriate treatment, the better the chance of success in recovery.”

Ragen Chastain, a professional speaker, writer of the blog danceswithfat.wordpress.com, said in an email that she recovered from an eating disorder and is a self-proclaimed “fat woman” who believes in “health at every size.”

“Eating disorders thrive in a society where we are encouraged to be ashamed of being, and terrified of becoming, fat,” Chastain said. “We must focus on health, not body size. As a nation we will never become a successful role model for public health until we stop being a failed role model for public thinness.”

She suggests talking about these issues with other people.

“We can open a dialog about how our culture’s obsession with thinness is hurting everyone,” Chastain said. “We can search our own lexicon and eradicate any language that shames or stigmatizes bodies, including our own. We can point to the mountain of evidence that shows that fitness is a far better indicator for health than body weight. We can stop conflating weight and health. We can be for healthy people without being against fat ones.”

Jenni Schaefer, a NEDA ambassador who herself struggled with an eating disorder, and the author of “Life Without Ed,” said in an email that she is already seeing some changes due to efforts of NEDA and activists.

“People are beginning to understand more than ever that eating disorders are real, life-threatening illnesses - not choices,” Schaefer said.

“What people still don't seem to grasp is the general idea of body acceptance.

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

Add a Comment7 Comments

Ann Olson Blogger

Thank you for posting this. As a survivor it frightens me how many disordered eating behaviors are promoted through the media. Let's stop punishing our bodies...our bodies don't deserve it.

January 20, 2012 - 2:46pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

Amen. The latest craze of "The war on Obesity" has lead to "size" and "health" being considered one and the same, to no one's benefit. This is a potentially dangerous oversimplification that leaves much to be overlooked and/or ignored. Eating disorders are only one of the issues that fall between the cracks, but certainly one of the most serious. Making healthy choices in regards to diet and exercise become easier when you know you will be loved no matter what size you are. Shame is not an effective motivator for healthy change.

January 20, 2012 - 1:14pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

It's incredible how little emphasis our society puts on self-acceptance.

Throughout our lives, we will suffer, change, and grow, but we ourselves (mind and body) remain. Whatever you are recovering from, be it injury, trauma, abuse, addiction, eating disorder, body dysmorphia, etc., self-acceptance is needed. Self-acceptance does not entail "giving up" or stagnating but rather a commitment to kindness and self-care of the most important kind.

January 20, 2012 - 8:09am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Well said.

January 21, 2012 - 12:55pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

When fitness and health are actually the yard stick by which we measure fitness and health in our society, the pressure on young men and women to force their bodies to fit a shape and size image won't be present - imagine what healthy, happy, productive young adults this would create!

January 20, 2012 - 7:28am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

I'm so glad to see more attention being paid to the issue of disordered eating and its causes. If we, as a culture, could focus on *health* instead of size, I think we'd *all* be a lot better off -- whatever size we are.

January 20, 2012 - 5:45am
The Real Cie

Body dissatisfaction isn't a new problem but I do think it is increasing. Most models are photoshopped to impossible perfection, and even the very slender ones are sometimes photoshopped to make them even more slender. Women with average/midsize bodies are decried as "fat" and some people see being fat as literally worse than having cancer. Our views as a society are terribly erroneous and destructive.
I do have an eating disorder myself. I currently am not forcing myself to vomit but I often react to personal criticism by first binging and then starving myself for several days afterwards. I think that the fact that I became bulimic at 13 and the extreme dieting that I did throughout my teens, twenties, and thirties wrecked my metabolism. Now in my late forties, I'm trying to accept myself as I am and not see exercising as a means to losing weight but as a means to gaining strength, lung capacity, and other positive things. I actually like to exercise but tend to avoid it because I equate not losing weight with failure. It's a very difficult battle.

January 20, 2012 - 1:30am
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