This week, Feb. 23 through March 1, is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Up to 24 million people in the U.S. of all ages and genders are affected by eating disorders, and eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, according to anad.org.
Despite this, only one out of 10 people who suffer from an eating disorder get treatment. Because of statistics like this, the goal of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (NEDawareness week) is to “ultimately increase outreach and awareness of eating disorders and body image issues, while reducing the stigma surrounding eating disorders and improving access to treatment resources,” according to nedawareness.org.
In honor of NEDawareness week, NEDA (The National Eating Disorder Association) wants everyone to do one thing to help spread awareness of and knowledge about eating disorders. Some of the ideas NEDA suggests are hosting a movie screening, creating a life-size Barbie doll to represent “unrealistic beauty ideals,” and simply posting about NEDawareness week on social media. See NEDA’s full list of ideas here.
Eating disorders include anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. According to NEDA, “extreme emotions, attitudes, and behaviors surrounding weight and food issues” are often a part of an eating disorder.
It may not always be obvious that someone has an eating disorder. Someone suffering from an eating disorder may hide their illness very well and can be of any weight. Some signs of an eating disorder include frequent comments about being overweight, developing food rituals, and signs of binge eating or purging behavior.
There are many factors that can contribute to the development of an eating disorder. Psychological, interpersonal, social, and biological factors can all play a part. Though the media is not solely to blame, it can contribute by creating impossible beauty ideals, which can cause stress, self-esteem issues, and other problems. Below is a video that shows how drastically a model’s body is altered using make-up and Photoshop that demonstrates one way in which the media often distorts our concept of beauty.
As the use of Photoshop and other means to alter people’s appearances in media has grown, so has backlash. There are various grassroots campaigns, and some companies have launched Photoshop-free campaigns, including, recently, American Eagle. Dove created a campaign that focuses on real beauty and goes directly in the face of the Photoshopping trend. Here’s one their videos:
Eating disorders can affect anyone and can have a devastating affect on a person’s life. They are also a common problem that can get better with help and that no one should be ashamed of. It is important that if you think you may have an eating disorder, you get help. It is also important that if you think someone you know may have an eating disorder, you talk to them in a friendly, calm, and understanding way and that you make sure you understand the nature of the situation and have a knowledge of eating disorders. So, this week, in honor of NEDawareness week, do one thing to raise awareness of eating disorders, and for more information visit nedawareness.org.
Kevin Randolph is a member of the Bloomsburg University class of 2016 and is majoring in Mass Communications and Languages and Cultures.