February 24 to March 2, 2019 is NEDA Awareness Week. This is an annual movement to spark conversations about eating disorders (ED’s). This year’s theme, Come as You Are, highlights their movement towards inclusivity in the greater eating disorder community and aims to unify the field of eating disorders. Come as You Are sends a message to individuals at all stages of body acceptance and eating disorder recovery that their stories are valid.
Every year I admire the inclusivity NEDA strives for, but I see this year as something truly special. The way they approached this annual movement this time around has me confident that some big changes are coming in our society. Here is a direct quote from NEDA’s website:
“We aim to start conversations with a variety of communities that struggle at comparable rates to those traditionally thought of as struggling with eating disorders. We hope to offer them an opportunity to share their stories, see themselves in others’ stories, and recognize that their experiences are valid and welcome, no matter where they are in relationship to food or their bodies. So this NEDAwareness Week, come as you are, not as you think you should be.” – NEDA
Powerful stuff. That’s what will move mountains and diminish the stereotypes that surround disordered eating, dismorphic body image, and bad self-talk in general. Over the years, society has created the idea that ‘skinny = perfection’ and it’s that same society, but now younger and increasingly more media literate, that will turn that around to say ‘everyone is perfect in their own way.’ I have faith in our generation that we will accomplish just that and show ED’s who’s boss.
For the time being, there are things that we can and should do to spark this change. Whether ED’s effect you directly or not, I’m sure you know someone who is effected and that your support would mean the world to them. Here are a few ways that we can conciously make an effort to change the way we and our society sees body image:
Having the proper knowledge about ED’s is crucial in reversing the culture. Take the time to educate yourself using NEDA’s online resources. Their website is a hub for all things ED: explanations of each ED, finding treatment, personal stories from their collaborative blog, recovery & relapse, statistics, and more.
Practice Media Literacy
A lot of negative self-talk and ED symptoms stem directly from the societal pressure online. We are constantly consuming media, some of which makes us feel inferior to others who have the socially desired body or lifestyle. This is when the comparison comes in and if we practice media literacy, we can start to talk ourselves out of it. Think if everyone did this … the online world would slowly shift and we would take back control of our bodies and minds.
Social Media Transparency
Seeing others be transparent about their ED’s on social media has been one of the biggest factors in my ED recovery. For a long time, I thought that I was the only one who felt like this or took such action to appease my mind. But I found some incredible influencers (Story of Korey, for example) on social media who were open and honest about their recovery journies, that they inspired mine. I think that a lot of people find a certain level of comfort online and are more open to share to a large group compared to an individual in person. This seems counter intuitive, but their stories have such an impact and can reach a large audience through being transparent on their platforms. I know, for me at least, that being honest about tough subjects on social media gives me a peace of mind that potentially I made someone else feel like thier story is valid. That’s not to say they need to share too, only share if you’re comfortable. But I do encourage that you find someone online as an ally to reinforce positive behavior and show you that it’s okay to be vulnerable and that self-acceptance/recovery is possible.
I love how Aerie has contributed to this effort with their #AerieREAL campaign. This year, are continuing their movement where they will donate $1 (now up to $25,000!!) for everyone who posts an untouched swimsuit photo under the #LoveTheSwimYoureIn during NEDA Awareness Week.
Image Credit: Aerie
Reaching Out for Support
A huge breaking point in ending the stigma surrounding ED’s may sound scary, but it will open so many doors: reach out for help. Seeking support is not a sign of weakeness, it’s a sign of strength. It takes a lot to be honest about something that takes such a heavy toll on your life, but confiding in someone you love will lessen those intense feelings and give you somewhere to turn when things get tough. Over time, if more and more individuals effected by ED’s reach out, the taboo surrounding the topic will slowly fade and future generations will be more comfortable to reach out as a result.
Proper Diagnosis and Treatment
In addition to the above suggestion, a great thing that someone with an ED can do for themselves is seek professional help and be properly diagnosed. This paves the way for proper treatment for your specific case because everyone’s is different. The road to recovery opens the door to be physically healthier and mentally more confident of your body just the way it is. I took the initiative and sought professional help last fall and it has been the greatest decision. I gained the tools to combat negative thoughts and behavior. Setting yourself up for the best possibility of recovery will also reinforce this healthy behavior onto society by you becoming a success story and having the potential to advocate for the healthy approach to ED’s and showing others that recovery may not have been easy, but it was possible.
Last year, I wrote an article addressing some stereotypes that surround ED’s. It was our most read article of the year. That spoke volumes to me and showed how ED’s greatly impact our demographic, our readers, and those we love in our community here at SVC and beyond. I decided to emphasize things from a different perspective this year, but last year’s words remain just as pertinent. You can read it here: https://www.hercampus.com/school/st-vincent/national-eating-disorder-awareness-week-2018
This year, our Her Campus chapter is taking things a step further than an article. Join us on Wednesday February 27th in the Carey Center to raise awareness for NEDA. We have become an official NEDA partner, so we will have tons of resources available to you directly from them as well as our very own Wellness Center. We are also hosting an activity to promote body positivity! Be sure to follow our Instagram @hcstvincent to keep up with our online awareness efforts and campaigns throughout the week. Email me ([email protected]) if you’d like to contribute.
National Eating Disorder Hotline: (800) 931-2237
Crisis Text Line: CONNECT to 741741