There are so many misconceptions about eating disorders: they are a rich, young white girl’s disease, that you can diagnose them just by looking at someone, that guys don’t have to worry about them.
And, yet, what researchers, treatment professionals, and those who are in treatment or recovery would tell you about eating disorders is that they are incredibly complex. They cannot be contained in pithy myths or assumptions and our out-dated and small understanding of them is limiting our ability to prevent and treat them.
We have to do better. And doing better starts with knowing more. Which is why I was excited to learn about an awareness and advocacy effort started by Cate of ASPIRE (Adults Support Peers In Recovery from Eating disorders) in Australia. Cate’s idea was to raise awareness about eating disorders while raising funds to support research.
Here is what Cate said about her inspiration and effort:
I would like to see a challenge that has 3 main outcomes: firstly, truly raises awareness – ie: educates. It’s lovely to get EDs talked about, but not if the same old myths and inaccuracies are being rehashed. Let’s get some facts and figures out there and break down the stigma attached to EDs. Secondly it has to have nothing to do with food or exercise. Given my history of exercise addiction, the thought of suggesting someone run to raise awareness somehow strikes me as uncomfortably ironic. And thirdly, of course to raise money – but for whom? Charlotte’s Helix would have to be my pick. It’s a charity set up to support AN25K – an international scientific research effort investigating the genetics behind EDs.
So here’s what I’m suggesting:
1. SHOW YOUR SUPPORT
Literally SHOW it! Write it on your arm and wear it there for the day.
eep your arm message short and on point. Steer clear of body love aphorisms as the intention is to raise awareness specifically for EDs. Other suggested messages might be:
- Stop Eating Disorder Shame
- Eating Disorders – The Deadliest Mental Illness
- Eating Disorders Affect Anyone and Everyone
- You Can’t Tell Who Has An Eating Disorder By Looking
- Eating Disorders Affect Men Too
- There’s No Age Limit To An Eating Disorder
- Eating Disorders are Nobody’s Fault
Then of course spend the day explaining to every person you pass what your message means. And don’t forget to tell them some scientific facts and figures. If we want EDs to be taken seriously, we have to send a serious message. Tell them things such as:
- In the US 10 million women and 1 million men have eating disorders.
- In Australia around 2 million people suffer from an eating disorder.
- Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of all other mental illnesses.
- In the US research dollars for Alzheimer’s is around $88 per affected individual – for eating disorders it is around $0.93 per affected individual.
- In Australia there are only 22 public hospital beds designated to ED sufferers nation wide: Vic (15 beds), Qld (5 beds) and NSW (2 beds).
- Despite recovery being possible, around 20% of ED sufferers never recover
And don’t forget to tweet, instagram and FB your message. Use the hashtag: #EDShowYourSupport
In honour of the 20% of eating disorder sufferers who will die from their illness, please donate $20 to Charlotte’s Helix.
Keep the conversation going by challenging a friend to Show Their Support too. It definitely doesn’t have to be someone with an eating disorder. Anyone can help raise awareness – and the more that do the faster understanding will spread.
So when Cate challenged me to show my support, I was, of course, in. I decided that the best day for me to show my support was on a Friday, when I teach Body Image Class so I could share the experience with my students. In fact, one of my students “tattooed” my message to my skin because I decided it would be best to write it around my wrist since I so often have a cardigan on and that would hide the message if I wrote it on my forearm.
I was able to have a good conversation with my class about the message as well as a friend who I met out for lunch and the woman who checked me out at Target.
And I was also able to make a worthwhile donation to the cause. I wanted to donate to Charlotte’s Helix because eating disorder research is so important, but I couldn’t figure out how to make the donation work from the US (it kept asking me where I lived in England when I tried to put my donation through and even when I chose a fairly tale location, it rejected my donation) so I opted to donate to the National Eating Disorders Association.
While I would love for everyone to support this education and advocacy effort, I also want to honor Cate’s request and directly challenge someone to show her support. So I am challenging the amazing Anna Guest-Jelley of Curvy Yoga to show her support!
If you decide to take the challenge, I hope you’ll share your experience here!