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Imperfect Awareness – National Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2020

Imperfect Awareness – National Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2020

This week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (NEDAW), 2020. The theme is a continuation of last year’s NEDAW, but slightly expanded: “Come as You Are: Hindsight is 20/20.”

The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) is the leader of NEDAW and hopes that this year’s theme will inspire people to reflect on “positive steps you’ve taken — including those stemming from setbacks or challenges — toward accepting yourself and others.” The hashtag, #ComeAsYouAre wants people to help “build a movement to raise awareness and support those affected by eating disorders!”

The Two Goals NEDAW 2020: Celebrate positive steps taken and help raise awareness to support those affected by eating disorders. Celebrating positive steps seems like a no-brainer because celebrating positive steps is always a good idea and never gets old. However, one might think that in 2020 we wouldn’t still need to raise awareness about eating disorders. But we do.

SOME OF THE REASONS WHY WE NEED AWARENESS:

  • Inconsistent and out of date statistics about eating disorders
  • Lack of morbidity and mortality data on eating disorders
  • Insufficient of research funding for eating disorders
  • Need for more evidence-based treatment for eating disorders
  • Weight stigma, weight bullying and weight shaming persist
  • Precursors to developing eating disorders, such as dieting, continue
  • Meanspo and Thinspo rage on
  • People are still dying from these treatable disorders

WHY NUMBERS MATTER

Gathering numbers may seem a bit innocuous and unimportant. But studying rates of eating disorders and their inherently high-mortality rate, as well as studying the causes of eating disorders, the rate and reasons behind deaths resultant of eating disorders, and what treatments are effective and ineffective all play important roles in not only in raising awareness and creating greater understanding of the magnitude and horrific nature of eating disorders, but can also help those developing policy, which oftentimes drives the financial support of research.

Advocacy, gathering numbers and all that goes into raising awareness, calls to my mind the image of involute, intricate, serpenticone shells.

HOW SHARING STORIES HELPS

  • Sharing and raising awareness can be cathartic
  • Shared suffering has an enigmatic way of feeling supportive
  • Sharing helps others know they’re not alone
  • Sharing can foster greater understanding and destigmatize the disorders
  • Sharing helps others find help and access to community

RAISING AWARENESS IS NOT ALWAYS EASY OR PERFECT

Is there ever a time when raising awareness is imperfect or goes wrong? Some argue that “before and after” pictures posted on social media during NEDAW, fosters the development of eating disorders through a puzzling drive of comparison. Some argue those pictures inadvertently glamourize eating disorders. Some argue that stories of suffering and healing that are posted during NEDAW, ones that describe the very real suffering, include “triggering” information such as numbers, calories, foods, diet tips, etc. And there is controversy surrounding what is responsible and who is responsible for “triggers” felt by others. Without a doubt, throughout NEDAW’s past, we have learned that raising awareness of these disorders, disorders that remain stigmatized in so many ways, including the persisting misconception that these are diseases of choice, raising awareness can be very difficult and delicate. Does that mean we should stop raising awareness? No. We must persist. We must continue forward. We must learn and do better.

Take for example that the Anna Westin Act passed after 16-years of raising awareness through advocacy. Awareness matters and it can be responsibly accomplished. Let’s make this NEDAW an opportunity to raise awareness in ways that are as nonjudgmental as possible and with special reverence to those who are at risk, triggered and stigmatized. Let’s do so this NEDAW and in NEDAW’s to come, in ways that evolve as we learn more. Let’s do so until no one else dies from lack of treatment, from lack of support, from lack of hope.

When I visualize eating disorder awareness as the involute circles within a serpenticone shell, I also visualize this quote: “Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another and feeling with the heart of another.” (Alfred Adler) In that spirit, may our collective awareness this NEDAW not only celebrate positive steps forward and continue to build a movement that supports those impacted by eating disorders, but may it help direct policy and further research all the while creating deeper and sustained empathy for all those impacted by eating disorders: those who suffer, those who treat, those who research, those who are care-giving, those left behind after a loved one has died, and all those whose lives were cut short by a disease that stole their involute souls.

At Kantor & Kantor, LLP, our hearts go out to all those impacted by an eating disorder and we remind you that you are never alone. And please visit www.nationaleatingdisorders.org to learn more about NEDAW.

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