Yesterday officially began NEDA Awareness Week! For those of you who don’t know, NEDA Awareness Week is a Week to educate and promote awareness for eating disorder. This years theme is early prevention. Early prevention is just as important for eating disorder as it is for any other illness. Stepping in early can keep symptoms from worsening and heighten the chance of recovery. This year NEDA is offering an 3-minute online screening test for those who believe they may be suffering from an eating disorder or their loved ones believe they may be. I encourage all of you to visit NEDA’s website and find out how you can participate in NEDA Awareness Week. This is the link to the NEDA Awareness Week Website and to go to NEDA’s regular website please go to my Recovery Resources Page (it is the first link under Websites).
Kicking off the week, I am going to talk about one of the hardest parts of recovery. Actually admitting you have a problem and getting diagnosed. Those with eating disorders (as do many with addictions) have a hard time accepting that they may have an illness.
I remember when the word “eating disorder” was first thrown around by my parents. I almost laughed out loud at the fact that they thought I (Ivy Souter) had an eating disorder. In my mind I was saying, “There is no way I have an eating disorder. I’m not thin enough. I never have been. I mean it’s not like I don’t eat at all. I don’t throw up either.” All of these things combined to: I don’t have a problem. At the time, I was very uneducated about eating disorders not understanding how distorted my body image actually was. And the two facts that: to have an eating disorder you don’t have to be extremely thin and people who suffer from anorexia, specifically, don’t usually restrict all of their food intake. The truth was ,though, I was underweight and I did have an eating disorder. I was diagnosed by my doctor, while sitting on a hospital bed, with anorexia. But by then with all the talk of me having an eating disorder growing into a roar, I already knew what was going to come out of her mouth.
So I am here talking to anyone with any remote intuition that they or someone they love may have an eating disorder. Please don’t brush it off. I know, at this time, you may not believe it, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have one. You can take NEDA’s screening then see your primary care doctor for an official diagnosis or go to your primary care doctor immediately. Just because you don’t look like all those girls with eating disorders, does not mean that you are not very sick.
If you are someone with a loved one you believe has an eating disorder try to communicate with them non-judgmentally and maybe not in such a direct way. Ask them how they have been feeling and what has been going on in their life. If you do it in a loving and consoling way, they are more likely to feel able to be open with you. I know you may be scared, but confronting them in an anxious and accusatory way will only make them shut down and become defensive.
NEDA has some great information about eating disorders and how to talk to someone you love if you think they may suffer. Reading about that before talking to your loved one may be a good idea. I believe that education is the first and one of the biggest steps to fighting eating disorders. So please, go to NEDA’s website and educate yourself today!