February 26 — March 4 is National Eating Disorder Awareness (NEDA) Week. The theme for this year’s NEDA awareness week is “Let’s Get Real,” which has a goal of one thing — to “expand” the conversation we have. By expanding this conversation, I think it will help create awareness in our society about the impact that eating disorders have on us, as well as our perception of body image.
In case you didn’t know, eating disorders span further than just anorexia and bulimia. According to the NEDA website, there are eleven eating disorders. This includes lesser known ones including: binge eating disorder, laxative abuse, and orthoxia (an obsession with proper eating).
Wow, who knew there were so many?
Therefore, what’s really frightening in my opinion is that according to the NEDA awareness page, nearly 30 million Americans will suffer from a “full blown” eating disorder. Many more, the site says, will struggle with a “battle food and negative body image issues,” which can have a permanent impact on our lives without a doubt.
And, despite the magnitude of the problem, there’s still a stigma that exists. Our society is based on appearance and image. This comes from the images coming from magazines and Hollywood — that anyone above a size two is considered to be “fat.”
Well, not everyone can be a size two.
And, you know what? That’s perfectly okay. I am not a size two — I’m a ten. Which is, pretty average. I also am pretty healthy, despite a pretty intense sweet tooth and a love for sugary coffee drinks.
However, I always didn’t feel this way. In high school, it’s safe to say that I was a little heavy. But, back then, I really didn’t eat that healthy nor did I exercise outside of gym class. Bad combo there. Needless to say, I was the subject of ridicule for many of my peers since I was a tiny bit overweight.
In my sophomore year, I decided that was the year I was going to get “skinny.” So, I began to eat lots of salads and worked out for about a half of an hour a day. I soon lost 20 pounds and managed to get down to a pair of size six jeans.
In the process of doing so though, I became obsessed with getting skinny and losing weight — so obsessed that it was unhealthy. And, I wasn’t happy, because every time I weighed myself, it just wasn’t good enough.
One day, I stopped “dieting.” And, I never looked back. And, I’m happy, because I’m healthy and enjoying food rather than being afraid of it.
Now, I want to make one thing clear — while I don’t have an eating disorder nor did I ever — I still think it’s important to recognize that we all have tricky images with body image and relationships with food. I think it’s also important to recognize that we’re all of different sizes and shapes, and as long as we’re healthy and happy, than that’s all that matters.
Therefore, it’s important to learn and become more aware of all eating disorders that exist. It’s also important to recognize that everyone may have a strange relationship with food. We should do this outside of this week, because healthy body image is something that we should celebrate all year long. And, on top of that, we should also aspire to learn the stories of those who struggle with these disorders, and empathize with that they went through and struggle with on a daily basis.