[Trigger Warning: this post will be discussing disordered eating, eating and body image]
Did you know that February 1st to 7th is Eating Disorder Awareness Week? If you didn’t, don’t feel discourage – the fact of the matter is, you’re probably not alone and that’s okay! This is exactly why Eating Disorder Awareness Week is around. Sadly, there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding eating disorders and a lot of shame, stigma and silence attached to those who may be living with a disorder (in some capacity) but afraid to discuss it, come forward or live in silence because of it.
It’s hard to believe, but eating disorders can affect anyone: men and women – no matter of race, creed, age or religion. According to stats from 2002, approximately 1.5% of young women in Canada aged 15 to 24 have an eating disorder and approximately 1 million Canadians have been diagnosed. Each and every single day in the media, we’re bombarded with messaging about chronic dieting, over-exercising and other manifestations of how the ideal body image should look and be presented and how we can live up to those standards and it plagues many, many women. However, one of the biggest misconceptions we must understand and face about eating disorders is that disordered eating goes far beyond ‘extreme dieting’. Dr. Jorge Pinzon describes disordered eating as “a mental health conditions – that is associated with an intense concern about weight, shape, and body image”. Imagine the daily pressure you may put on yourself and intensify those.
The reasons why we need to keep talking about eating disorders and disordered eating is because mental health matters. So many times, people suffer in silence without speaking out and getting the attention and help that they need or deserve. Many people have common misunderstandings of what disordered eating looks like, automatically assuming that those suffering will be malnourish or thin or look unwell. However, just a few months ago VICE’s sister channel Broadly published a great article title, “When You’re Both Overweight and Anorexic” where Jacqui Valdez (whom the article is about) admits, “It’s hard for me to claim I had an eating disorder.” But when you read her story, you realize that disordered eating doesn’t see size. Moreover, just recently a study was found on the Journal of Adolescent Health that more and more trans-youth are developing disordered eating (four times more over) than their female peers.
There are a lot of misconceptions out there including eating disorders are a choice (not true), you can tell by looking at someone if they have an eating disorder (not true) or eating disorders only effect one gender. Look, here is the deal: this is why Eating Disorder Awareness Week is around and this is why I’m here to tell you about it. The fact of the matter is: disordered eating can take away a lot from you – no matter who you are. If you are the person going through the situation, you feel a loss of control and if you’re a person trying to support someone – you may feel like you’ve lost the sense of how to care for your loved one. What you need to understand is that by supporting and understand and being become aware of how to be there for someone suffering from disordered eating does not make you any less body positive or any less feminist. On the contrary: this makes you even more so.
You see the biggest things about being body positive is this: supporting all bodies and recognizing that eating disorders and fatphobia are very intimately connected. I came across a really great article on Everyday Feminism titled “Dealing with Fatphobia while in Eating Disorder Recovery” that asks us to ‘give ourselves permission to think critically‘ and understand that ‘recovery is possible‘.
This week, join in the conversation and help raise awareness of eating disorders – even if it starts just with your own discovery and learning. You can start by attending this spoken word event put together by the National Eating Disorder Information Centre, with funds going back into the centre or you can start by learning more about what places like the National Eating Disorder Information Centre does on a day-to-day basis and how you can help.