National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is February 22-28th and this year, the theme is “I Had No Idea.” During this week, the National Eating Disorders Association “aims to promote public and media attention to the seriousness of eating disorders and improve education about the biological underpinnings, environmental triggers, warning signs and how to help those struggling.”
National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is the largest public outreach campaign about eating disorders in the United States. At REbeL, we believe it’s critical to join in the efforts to raise awareness and provide education about these all-too-common, yet often misunderstood, illnesses.
In keeping with the theme of the week, I had no idea . . .
That when I started a diet in 4th grade, it would morph into an eating disorder that would consume my mind and body for the next ten years.
That the abuse I was inflicting on my body daily would have long-lasting effects.
That exercise doesn’t have to be about miles run and steps taken and calories burned.
I had no idea . . .
That, back in college, the eating disorders education and prevention to which I was exposed—talking about low weights and eating disordered behaviors while viewing photos of celebrities with anorexia—was likely doing more harm than good.
Until I went to graduate school, that anorexia is the most deadly of all psychiatric illnesses.
Growing up in a small Nebraska town, that 30 million individuals in the United States have eating disorders. And that eating disorders don’t discriminate.
I had no idea what life would be like without an eating disorder. And I had no idea how beauty-full it could be.
Now I know . . .
That eating disorders have a genetic basis and our environment can often “flip the switch.”
That exercise can have nothing to do with numbers but can instead be about the ways in which moving makes me feel strong, empowered, and centered.
Now I know . . .
That my body is pretty phenomenal—it lets me know when it needs nourishment and when it’s satisfied, when it needs to rest and when it’s ready to walk or stretch or play. My body has been the temporary home to my three boys—and really, what could be more amazing than that?
That we can do much more in terms of prevention, education, and awareness. I founded REbeL because I know that we have to change the way we talk about food, exercise, our bodies, and fight the stigma of mental illnesses along the way.
Now I know that quality, effective treatment is available and recovery is very possible.
And above all, now I know that we can make a difference for all who might be where I once was.
Dr. Laura Eickman
I had no idea if I could live without my eating disorder, but now I know that I wasn’t really living with it.
National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Let’s work together so that fewer people have to say, “I had no idea . . .”
1 Information included in this post was obtained from the National Eating Disorders Association website (www.nationaleatingdisorders.org); accessed February 18, 2015.