Television has led many children, including myself, to grow up believing that in the perfect lives of the American families we were watching, breakfast was always a grand family event that consisted of perfectly scrambled eggs and pancakes so mountainous they had a perfect whipped cream peak. Family, smiles, and warmth surround the table. This is, unfortunately, anything but typical. In the US alone, 11 million children are food insecure, many without the option to have breakfast at all.
This week, February 22 to February 28, is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, an annual campaign to raise awareness surrounding eating disorders. During this week, the National Eating Disorder Association calls for “Every Body to Have a Seat at the Table”. This invite is to everyone, however, the extension towards marginalized communities calls for us to shine a light on the ever-present link between food insecurity and disordered eating.
The US Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as “a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food”. This is a serious and prevalent issue in the country as 13.7 million American households battled food insecurity before the pandemic began. Living with uncertainty in which you cannot be assured of where or when you will get your next meal is stressful, exposing those affected to a greater risk of mental illnesses, including eating disorders. This could lead to the formation of an unhealthy relationship with food, including hoarding, being anxious around food, and binge-eating. People who have experienced food deprivation often experience the feeling of needing to engage in binge-eating as the fear of not having another meal is ingrained into their mind. Studies suggest that these disordered thoughts will stay with them throughout their lives.
Various factors lead to eating disorders, not all surrounding the concept of weight. The effects of the pandemic have pushed over 8 million Americans into poverty, and at the same time, eating disorders have risen, calling for this issue to be highlighted now. Isolation and the stress of the pandemic have impacted everyone’s mental health. The sitcom-style of life that television brought us to believe was the ideal that we needed to strive towards is actually not at all necessary. You have a seat at the table regardless of your situation. If you or someone you know is struggling, contact the NEDA helpline.