Today marks a very important day. For me and for so many others. World Eating Disorders Action Day.
Even before this day even begins, going online leads to a very important pledge people can take. It’s pledging that yes, eating disorders are serious, potentially life-threatening illnesses that affect people across the globe regardless of age, size, weight, ability, race/ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, gender, documentation, and socioeconomic status. That we need to break down the stigmas surrounding them and speak out for those in need, for those who may be silenced by the illness.
From this pledge, there are nine truths that often fuel the misconceptions surrounding eating disorders. Misconceptions further our distance and understanding of it, thereby fueling misinformation. So, these truths are as follows:
Many people with eating disorders look healthy, yet may be extremely ill.
Families are not to blame, and can be the patients’ and providers’ best allies in treatment.
An eating disorder diagnosis is a health crisis that disrupts personal and family functioning.
Eating disorders are not choices, but serious biologically influenced illnesses.
Eating disorders affect people of all genders, ages, races, ethnicities, body shapes and weights, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic statuses.
Eating disorders carry an increased risk for both suicide and medical complications.
Genes and environment play important roles in the development of eating disorders.
Genes alone do not predict who will develop eating disorders.
Full recovery from an eating disorder is possible. Early detection and intervention are important.
And yes. All of these are true. From there, we hope to achieve some goals to promote these truths.
- All front line providers (including pediatricians, primary care doctors, dentists, emergency room and school health providers) educated in the identification, diagnosis and referral to appropriate services of eating disorders.
- Accessible and affordable evidence-based treatment, with early diagnosis and intervention a priority.
- Public education about eating disorders to be accurate, research based, readily available and geared to end stigma about eating disorders.
- An end to mandatory weighing and BMI screening in schools, and development of evidence-based health programs.
- Increased awareness of diversity in eating disorders, as eating disorders affect a wide cross section of the world’s population, including people of all ages, sizes, weights, genders, sexual orientations, ethnicities, nationalities, and documentation status.
- Community and family eating disorders treatment support programs to be available for all.
- Research-based interventions to be delivered in schools and universities on the facts about eating disorders, and how peers and staff can best support patients and families during treatment.
- Government agencies to include eating disorders services as part of health systems, public education campaigns, and regulatory bodies.
On this day, I shout from every rooftop for change. For progress. Not just in the United States, but around the world. This isn’t an isolated problem by any means. Its influence on the world population is staggering, and that is a scary thought. Just knowing that so many others have, are, and will be suffering with the same thoughts and landslides that I have makes my heart ache.
Eating disorders are so complicated. I don’t expect everyone to pick up on its consequences and immediately empathize. Heck, I still learn new things constantly about myself and my own nagging voices. We all have so much more to learn, how an eating disorder begins, its unique behaviors, its consequences on our anatomy and head space. This is an epidemic that one day cannot sufficiently support, but it’s an amazing place to start.
There are resources out there available, and the moment the warning signs and risk factors arise, we need to know when to intervene. However, not only are we still lacking in the number of knowledgeable resources out there specifically designed for eating disorder recovery, but the stereotypes we assume of therapy and in-patient hospitals builds up barriers and shame. Not to mention this deficit has on loved ones, an often forgotten group that goes through just as much pain.
While I speak as a forever-recovering young person, we all need to stand behind this cause. There’s so much to worry about in this world, so many issues we face, but some of the worst are the ones that slip by without us really noticing. Not until now, when eating disorders are some of the most common mental illnesses out there. And even then, it’s still a side priority. Maybe we’ll eventually get there. When lives are at risk, there is no time to waste. Every life is all too precious. We won’t be able to tackle the other issues the world faces if our own people are trapped in their own self-destructive heads.
Events around the world are honoring this day, emphasizing the mission that we ourselves or our loved ones don’t have to face an eating disorder alone, no matter who you are. And we need to keep researching and learning more to create a comprehensive treatment method that embodies the reality that full recovery IS possible. A difficult mountain to climb, but a climb that is well worth the effort.
I hope you stand with me and so many others today, using our voices for good. After the day pasts, I hope you will still stand strong with us as we keep fighting until the battle is truly won.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie