Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2020
February 1st-7th is Eating Disorder Awareness Week. This week is important to me on a personal and professional level. As a helping professional, I see this week as an opportunity to create community, educate and advocate for an understanding about the complex world of disordered eating and the need for more services in this department. Eating disorders kill people every day but we live in a world that has devastatingly created a culture of acceptance for only those who who meet a very specific aesthetic requirement-a direct culprit in perpetuating disordered eating. We have failed to create a safe space for every BODY on this planet and this needs to change. Eating disorders are not a personal failure, they are a complex illness which are biologically, psychologically, culturally and socially influenced.
As a professional, I have had countless interactions with clients seeking support for their struggles with disordered eating. This need for support typically comes from a space of exhaustion, severe health concerns as a side effect or being distressed. The general population typically have a limited awareness of eating disorders and the complexities of what they entail. The narrative that I hear from clients is that eating disorders are a disease that is often seen as being limited to the thin, privileged, and shallow: this is not the case and directly contributes to the stigma.
Eating disorders do not discriminate and are perpetuated by the shame and stigma that greet them every day.
How many times per day have you personally engaged in, or overheard a conversation where someone is discussing feeling guilty about the food they ate, the weight they need to lose or the need to workout as punishment for eating what they want? I hear this ALL THE TIME. Now imagine you are a person struggling with disordered eating. You already think about food 24/7 and constantly feel shame for what you do or don't eat. You're thinking about reaching out for help but your support network is talking about the fact that they need to lose weight or how lucky they would be to have your body. Do you feel safe enough to have this conversation with them? Do you feel like you have the right to get help?
On a personal level, I have experienced living with disordered eating at various ends of the spectrum.
I have restricted extensively to mitigate the risk of gaining weight but also binged as a way of coping with complex emotions. This cycle is shame-based and extremely difficult to break out of but what I will say is that we, as human beings, are very fortunate to live in the bodies that we do. Our bodies are strong and resilient. I, along with millions of others put in hard work on the daily to remind myself that my body is so beautifully precious, just like every other body on the planet and is worthy of being respected as such - regardless of my body size, weight or shape.
In a world that has reduced the worthiness of human beings to being based on their aesthetics, I invite you to be a rebel and take a step back when making judgments about someone's appearance. The person may be fighting a battle that you are unaware of. Please remind yourself of the following:
Disordered eating cannot just be turned on and off
Disordered eating is an illness
Disordered eating requires a daily commitment to do things differently
Disordered eating does not deserve to be shamed, it deserves compassion and we must work together to dismantle the stigma
So what can you do to be an ally in your community to those who are struggling with disordered eating?
You can say fuck it to diet culture
You can stop body shaming and call-out those who do
You can use body positive language
You can celebrate all bodies because they are amazing and help us do so much
You can donate to your local non-profit that works to support those with an eating disorder
You can educate yourself by checking all or one of the following Canadian resources: nedic.ca, bodybrave.ca, edfc.ca, edac-atac.ca, nied.ca to learn more about eating disorders and supports available.
If you are someone who needs support, please explore the additional resources on www.beepositivecounselling.com, and on Instagram @beepositivecounselling. If you need direct help, please connect with me at email@example.com.