Every February, the National Eating Disorders Association hosts National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, a week-long event aimed at informing the public about the prevalence and severity of eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. It is the mission of NEDA to support all those affected by eating disorders and work in the interest of prevention and proper treatment.
What is Eating Disorders Awareness Week?
National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is one week set aside in February to educate the public and aid those struggling with disordered eating. The aim is to reduce the stigma attached to eating disorders in an effort to prevent these diseases, as well as make it easier for those with eating disorders to obtain treatment. Everyone from laymen to professionals are encouraged to volunteer to spread the word and raise awareness.
Why Eating Disorder Awareness?
Eating disorders are serious, life-threatening diseases with greater prevalence than most people realize. An estimated 11 million people in the United States alone-10 million women and 1 million men-struggle with anorexia and bulimia. Despite this, research and treatment for eating disorders continues to be grossly under-funded. Insurance companies often cease to cover treatment once a person reaches a so-called “healthy weight,” leaving underlying causes unaddressed and risk of relapses high.
These diseases start young; a whopping 40% of new anorexia cases are diagnosed among girls ages 15-19. If left untreated they can become worse over time, resulting in permanent physical damage or even death. With the continuing public focus on body image and dieting, it is unlikely that the prevalence of eating disorders will drop without help. Eating Disorders Awareness Week is one way to bring the horrifying truth of these diseases to light and educate an ignorant public.
How to Get Involved
The best way to get involved in National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is to be there for someone who is suffering from an eating disorder. Let them know that you’re willing to listen or aid them in finding help. You may think that you don’t know anybody struggling with these types of problems, but the reality is that four in ten Americans either has or knows someone who has an eating disorder. Sometimes a compassionate friend with a willing ear is all it takes to get through to a sufferer.
NEDA encourages volunteers to do “just one thing.” It can be something as small as a Facebook status update mentioning Eating Disorders Awareness Week or a large as a full-scale local event. The key is to get involved any way possible. Eating disorders are real and deadly diseases that need treatment in order for full recovery to be achieved. This February, consider doing one thing to spread the word about eating disorders. You could be the one voice that helps someone break free from years of painful struggle.
“Statistics: Eating Disorders and Their Precursors.” National Eating Disorders Association. 10 Feb. 2010. 29 Oct. 2010