NEDA Awareness Week: Let’s Get Real

February 26- March 4 is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. The theme this year: Let’s Get Real is so timely and very necessary to get the word out about eating disorders and help those suffering get the help they truly need.  I’m ready to bust some myths about eating disorders and help bring awareness to 30 million Americans struggling with a full-blown eating disorder along with the millions of others who struggle with body image, over exercise, emotional eating, and chronic dieting.


Myth 1: If I’m not ultra-thin and frail then I don’t really have an eating disorder and don’t deserve help.

The Truth: People suffering from eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes, colors and genders, ages and backgrounds. We have been told by sensationalized books, movie, and tv shows that only those who are very skinny are suffering the most but that is simply not true. A person can silently be suffering from an eating disorder but look just like the rest of her friends. This can be even harder on a person desperately needing help because no one knows to reach out to support him. The eating disorder then can keep its hand on the control button convincing the person since no one is taking notice, they need to dive deeper into unhealthy habits. Here’s the truth, you don’t need to suffer alone, you deserve help, and eating disorders do not discriminate.

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Myth 2: I haven’t experienced any trauma in my life and have a supportive family, so I need to figure out my eating disorder on my own.

The Truth: Many times, eating disorders manifest to cope with trauma or unhealthy family relationships. However, just as often, eating disorders creep in when we don’t experience trauma and have lots of support. This myth leads us to believe that we truly aren’t struggling, and we just need to figure it out on our own. I’m here to tell you that this is not the case. An eating disorder’s function is complex and full of layers. It can function to numb unpleasant feelings or provide a sense of comfort when someone feels  alone or going through a big transition. It can start as a simple diet and turn into something much bigger than ever anticipated. It can be a way to quiet and constant voice pressuring a person to be perfect, only to see the voice get louder over time. It can be a combination of these things or something totally different. No matter the function of an eating disorder or how long someone has been struggling, no one needs to do it alone and there are professionals that can help.

Myth 3: I binge because I don’t have enough willpower and self-control.

The Truth: Bingeing is not your fault. This unhealthy behavior is serving a function in your life. It’s not due to a lack of willpower. In fact, sometimes it occurs when we try to control and restrict our lives so much that eventually it is impossible to continue, and a binge occurs. The feelings of guilt and shame associated with the binge convince us to restrict again and “do better” but in reality, this pattern of thought is only playing into the eating disorders hand. Just as I mentioned in the above truth, the binge is serving a purpose in your life and the work is to figure out what that is and to replace it with healthy coping mechanisms. Until the reasons the eating disorder has a place in your life are revealed, it will be hard to take steps forward in recovery. However, it is not due to your lack of self-control.

The work of recovery is difficult but so worth it. We cannot hate ourselves into changing, it takes patience, forgiveness, and grace. Eating disorders thrive in secrecy but by debunking these myths and speaking the truth about eating disorders we can create awareness, hope, and a path to recovery.

Amy Smith