Following NEDA week in America last week, this week is the turn of the UK with EDAW (Eating Disorders Awareness Week).
It is not right but it is sadly the case that these eating disorder awareness weeks make me cautious about turning on the news or opening a newspaper or magazine in case I see articles, aimed to inform the public about eating disorders and bring awareness to this hideous illness, which get it so very wrong.
Still today, the media will trivialise the reality of how serious eating disorders are and perpetuate stereotypes.
Glamourising reports showing the emaciated young woman who is now miraculously ‘recovered’ because she’s gained a few pounds…. with the dreaded before and after images are still found and still doing too much public damage.
We see numbers reported that the press love to use… lowest weights, how few calories a person survived on a day, etc etc – all intended to shock (but perhaps also entertain) the public over their morning slice of toast.
Then there are the young and almost certainly still sick individuals showing off their ‘recovery’ through marathon running or some other such disordered means, falsely portrayed as an image of ‘health’.
And don’t get me started on the ‘professionals’ talking about how terribly hard we all are to treat and the fact many of us will never and can never recover!
Eating disorders awareness week could be an incredible opportunity to get the true stories of what eating disorders are out to the public.
They could be a valuable chance to show the fact that those of us affected come in all genders, ages, races and most importantly we come in all shapes and sizes.
An opportunity to ensure the public know that having a life threatening eating disorder rarely looks like just an apple a day… And definitely that a person can be near death in a body size that people would not deem ‘underweight’.
It’s educating that eating disorder symptoms are far beyond how much (or little) a person eats…. it’s the rules and the rigidity in the how and what.
It’s the crippling movement and exercise compulsions and hence why marathon running in recovery is 99% of the time a sign that a person is far from recovered!
Most of all we need these weeks not to glamourise but to show just how disabling and life limiting in so many ways living with an eating disorder is… and usually invisibly so to the onlookers.
We need the public to understand why so many deaths from eating disorders are attributed to suicide.
And we need these weeks to raise our desperate plight to get the treatment we need and deserve.
So please, EDAW 2020… this year, let’s get this right!