#NEDAwareness for National Eating Disorders Awareness Week
February 25, 20193 min read
In honor of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, we spoke to Joslyn Smith of the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). Joslyn does federal policy and communications work for NEDA, the largestnonprofit organization dedicated to supporting individuals and families affected by eating disorders.
1) Tell us about NEDA's "Come As You Are" campaign.
Our theme this year,Come As You Are, highlights NEDA’s movement towards inclusivity in the greater eating disorders community and our goal of unifying the field of eating disorders. We hope to send a message to individuals at all stages of body acceptance and eating disorders recovery that their stories are valid. We invite everyone, especially those whose stories have not been widely recognized, to have the opportunity to speak out, share their experiences, and connect with others.
We aim to start conversations with a variety of communities that struggle at comparable rates to those traditionally thought of as struggling with eating disorders. We hope to offer them an opportunity to share their stories, see themselves in others’ stories, and recognize that their experiences are valid and welcome, no matter where they are in relationship to food or their bodies.
2) What's a common misconception about eating disorders?
There are numerous misconceptions about eating disorders, many of which start with the stereotype of who struggles: a thin, white, young, upper class female. This year’s theme,Come As You Are, is intentionally countering this stereotype and creating a welcoming space for everyone with an eating disorder or body image concerns. Anyone can have an eating disorder. You can not tell by looking at a person whether they have an eating disorder or have severe their eating disorder might be. Anyone in any size body can and does struggle with any eating disorder. My personal experience illustrates this: I live in a higher weight body, and I’ve struggled with Atypical Anorexia. Likewise, people of any gender identity and expression have eating disorders. In fact, the prevalence of eating disorders in the LGBTQI+ and racial minority populations is higher than in the general population. Countering common misconceptions about eating disorders can be a life and death issue for many people. This is not a once a year effort for NEDA. It’s ongoing.
3) How does mental wellness tie into eating disorders?
As bio-psycho-social disorders, eating disorders are intrinsically connected with mental wellness. Issues impacting mental health can influence the likelihood that one will develop an eating disorder. Working with a mental health provider, in collaboration with medical and nutritional treatment, is of paramount importance in treating most eating disorders. And a continued focus on, and commitment to, mental health will play a key role in working toward and maintaining recovery from an eating disorder. I also think it’s important to note that the mental wellness of families and communities, not just solely the mental health of those with eating disorders, needs to be prioritized to best support prevention, treatment, and recovery efforts for people with eating disorders.
4) What's the first step to take in either helping yourself or others who may be struggling with an eating disorder?
Questioning whether you or someone you know could be struggling with an eating disorder or body image concerns is a good first step. If you are concerned you might be struggling, consider using NEDA’s screening tool (found atmyneda.org/screening). If you are worried about a friend or a loved one, it is appropriate to express your concerns in a loving and supportive way. If the person for whom you’re concerned is under 18, a trusted adult needs to know immediately. And remember, it is important to focus on specific signs and symptoms that concern you, rather than the person’s weight or appearance. Whether your concern is for yourself or for a friend or loved one, you can always reach out to our Helpline for help and resources (myneda.org/helpline).