Doing our part to fight eating disorders

1356758_cutleryFebruary is National Eating Disorder Awareness month. According to the National Eating Disorder Association, one out of every five women suffers from disordered eating or an eating disorder.

Like many women, body image is a really sensitive subject for me. As someone who developed a poor body image from a very young age, I am no stranger to disordered eating. Hollywood seems to glamorize weight loss and thin celebrities. Women seem to compete amongst each other. The western culture’s message screams: the thinner you are, the more self-control and power you show.

There are three main types of eating disorders. Anorexia nervosa is when someone severely restricts their food intake because they are afraid of gaining weight. Bulimia nervosa is an illness in which a person binges on food and then purges to relieve anxiety. Binge eating disorder is when a person will typically overeat large quantities of food in order to deal with negative emotions.

The eating disorder is usually a symptom of self-esteem issues. Because eating disorder victims feel worthless, they attempt to lose weight because they believe they will be valuable once they achieve a desired weight.

The solution seems easy: just eat a sandwich, quit purging or stop eating emotionally. But eating disorders are a mental illness. People hear a voice inside their head continuously telling them that they are not good enough. Eating a sandwich does not silence that voice. And once a coping mechanism has been established, however unhealthy, it is hard to break that cycle.

The media has become our scapegoat. We blame the models on the covers of glossy magazines for little girls starving themselves across the country. Every time someone dies or has a complication from diet pills, we get angry at the media. We forget, however, that the media caters to the mass majority. We are a part of that mass majority.

We need to practice more kindness towards one another and understand that there is no ideal body shape. Stop with the hate and judgment. No matter how insignificant you might feel your words are, they can drastically make a negative impact on someone.

If you feel someone you know has an eating disorder, be kind and encourage them to get help or talk to a professional. The sooner we start listening to one another, the easier it will be help each other.