Last week, while attempting to write this post, I got stuck in the what the heck do I want to say? What’s my purpose in writing this? What point am I trying to make?
This past Saturday marked the final day of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. You may have noticed #nedawarenessweek in social media. You may have noticed blogs devoted to the topic. You may have noticed pictures on Instagram. And then again, maybe you didn’t notice anything at all.
And while I knew I needed to acknowledge National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to say. But I did know I needed to say something. I spent a lot of time thinking. And writing. And deleting.
So here I am, a week later. And this is what I’ve finally come up with.
First and foremost, an eating disorder is an illness…a mental illness. Just like depression. Just like anxiety. Just like addiction.
Nobody asks for depression. Nobody asks for anxiety. Nobody asks for addiction.
And nobody asks for an eating disorder.
You just don’t wake up one day and decide to become anorexic or bulimic. It’s not a choice to be made.
Eating disorders are actually caused by a rather complex interaction of genetic, psychological, and social factors. In other words, you are predisposed to developing an eating disorder through circumstances well beyond your control.
Secondly, statistically speaking, you are likely to know someone who has an eating disorder. If you are a parent of a high school age child, you probably do. If you are a high school teacher, or coach, you most definitely do.
So what can you do?
Get help as soon as possible. Treatment is most successful when intervention is early.The problem is, by the time you can “see” an eating disorder, it’s often pretty late in the game.
So be aware of the risk factors. Although they do not cause an eating disorder, they can be contributing factors. Those who are prone to anxiety, perfectionism, and obsessive-compulsive thoughts and behaviors are more likely to develop eating disorders.
And be aware of the symptoms. But remember the symptoms are just symptoms. They are not the cause. The problem isn’t eating or not eating. Overexercising or not exercising. Or even binging or purging.
Granted we can’t do anything about genetic or psychological factors, but we can control social factors. We need to stop glorifying thinness and placing value on obtaining the perfect body. We need to focus on health rather than looks.
And finally, recovery is not a destination. There is a danger in adopting this mindset. Recovery is an ongoing process. One that you can’t take for granted.