Eating disorders are often difficult to talk about, which is why this National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, it's time to raise awareness by holding serious discussions about these conditions.
Whether you're a parent concerned for a child, a friend or someone who just wants to make a difference, there are many ways to shine a spotlight on eating disorders to help those in need and celebrate people who have made a recovery. Here's what you need to know to start a fruitful conversation:
"Eating disorders are serious illnesses."
What is an eating disorder?
Eating disorders are serious illnesses. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, they typically involve extreme emotions and behaviors surrounding body image, dieting and exercise.
NEDA said common afflictions include binge eating disorder, bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa.
Who do eating disorders affect?
Eating disorders can affect anyone, no matter their age, gender, socioeconomic status or ethnicity. NEDA stated that nearly 30 million Americans struggle with an eating disorder at some point in their lives.
What are the warning signs?
If you think a loved one might be struggling with an eating disorder, Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders said to be on the lookout for basic warning signs and symptoms such as:
- Eating tiny food portions.
- Skipping meals.
- Gorging on food in secret.
- No longer enjoying favorite foods and meals.
- Displaying vocal fears of weight gain.
- Compulsively exercising.
Parents should encourage their child to fill out this online screening if they notice the above symptoms.
Eating disorders sound like a scary illness, but the truth is, recovery is entirely possible.
How do I help?
During National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, there are many ways for family, friends and acquaintances to spark serious discussions on eating disorders.
If your child is fighting an eating disorder, plan to provide as much support as possible to help them recover. But also realize that recovering isn't easy, which is why you should pick up NEDA's Parent Toolkit.
This guide will provide helpful insight ranging from how to encourage your child to seek help to information you'll need on treatment centers and insurance.
As a friend, use NEDAwareness Week to research more ways to help an individual recover from an eating disorder.
Focus on differentiating facts from myths because legitimate information will help dispel any false notions about the affected individual. When talking with a friend fighting an eating disorder, keep the following conversation tips in mind, U.S. News & World Report recommended:
- Honesty: Tell the person you're concerned about his or her health.
- Compliment: Complimenting your friend on his or her intrinsic qualities – like their ability to make people laugh – can help boost her or his self-esteem at a time when they're feeling unsure and depressed.
- Caring, but firm: Tell your friend you care and want to help in the recovery process. Remain firm and don't make promises you can't keep.
You can still get involved during NEDAwareness Week even if you don't personally know anyone fighting an eating disorder.
Spread the word on social media by sharing graphics and information using the hashtag #NEDAwareness. Stay involved by finding or hosting an event in your area. Events can range from 5K walks to social outings.
If you are part of a local or national organization, partner with NEDA to spread the word about the organization's online eating disorder screening tool.
This NEDAwareness week, help spread the word about eating disorders. And if you know anyone fighting one, provide support any way you can.
If you know someone who is dealing with an eating disorder, call Fairwinds Treatment Center. Dr. Pauline Powers specializes in eating disorder treatment and embodies the same values Fairwinds Treatment Center has had for over 25 years: focusing on the whole patient. Here, you can rest assured that your loved one is in capable, compassionate hands.