NEDA Week Raises Awareness for Eating Disorders

Editors’ Note: This article contains discussion about eating disorders. If this may be triggering, or at all unhelpful to your journey, please skip this article. 

     This February marks an important event: the annual NEDAwareness Week or National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Between February 21 and 27, the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) works to spread awareness and information while reducing stigma and misconceptions about eating disorders. This year’s theme is “See The Change, Be The Change,” as voted on by the board members. The goal of this event, with the theme in mind, is to recognize evolution in the eating disorder field, and to further this change through advocacy, awareness, and community building. 

     NEDA is the largest nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting individuals who struggle with eating disorders and their loved ones. They aim to aid prevention methods, provide information and quality care, and further research for cures. Their vision includes “a world without eating disorders.” You may have seen their name appear in mass media as of late as a result of the rise of the Body Positivity Movement, increasing awareness of eating disorders. 

     A simple click to their website unlocks an incredible amount of information on all aspects of the mental illness. Ranging from basic information and terms to the warning signs, partnered with prevention methods and how they relate to identity, every question can be answered. This is partnered with a 24/7 help center that can direct clients to other programs that can help. Furthermore, they offer confidential screening services so that clients can determine what level of help they need. 

     These kinds of services are critical, especially when looking at recently collected data. NEDA (a government funded and credible service) reports that eating disorders affect 9 percent of the population worldwide, and about 28.8 million Americans will have an eating disorder. Eating disorders are also considered one of the most deadly mental illnesses.

     Eating disorders, commonly referred to as “EDs,” can affect anyone, regardless of age, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, or background, but there does appear to be a hereditary component. Women are twice as likely to develop eating disorders. However, more than 10 million men will suffer from eating disorders at some point in their lives. There are nine officially recognized and diagnosable eating disorders, each with their own set of symptoms. Yet, they all have a shareable factor: disordered thinking in regards to food. Eating disorders are serious, but they are treatable mental and physical illnesses. 

     One of the main goals of NEDA week is to raise awareness about certain warning signs. Although no one besides certified psychologists can diagnose an eating disorder, it is worthwhile to look out for our friends and family as the mental illness is incredibly more treatable when caught earlier. Some warning signs include changed behavior or attitude about food, extreme concern with body size and appearance, new practices with foods or diets, fluctuations in weight, gastrointestinal issues, extremely cold, and fainting. While these are symptoms that can occur with any illness, when combined and to the extreme point of interfering with one’s day to day habits, it may be time to look for external help. 

     Also, NEDA wants to stop misconceptions about eating disorders. A major one is that anyone with an eating disorder has anorexia, or doesn’t eat, causing them to be underweight. This is incredibly false, as only 9 percent of people with eating disorders ever report being underweight according to the BMI scale. Many times, eating disorders cause weight gain, and can most definitely affect people of any body size. Also, it is important to know that eating disorders are not a choice, but rather a condition that develops over time from bio-psycho-social circumstances. While parents or family members are sometimes accused of causing eating disorders, research has shown that while familial approaches can induce the appearance of the illness, they are not ultimately the cause. 

     Perhaps the most important, eating disorders are not glamorous. Many times, celebrities advertise their intense diets or portray the beautif-ied side of disordered eating. However, the side effects prove these are illnesses no one wants. It is an unfortunate result of glorified body types and the platform many celebrities have. In order to combat these misconceptions, consider doing some more research on the true ins and outs of eating disorders. 

     NEDA aims to provide resources not only for those who suffer from eating disorders, but also for those who care about these individuals as well. Students are encouraged to reach out to the school social workers or counselors if they have any questions or if they are seeking additional support.