Almost everyone has been touched by an eating disorder in some way. They have the highest mortality rate out of any mental illness. And yes, eating disorders are a mental illness and a disease.
Which is exactly why we need to start talking about them.
I have had the honor to be the communications intern for the Oklahoma Eating Disorder Association. This experience has opened my eyes to the issues surrounding eating disorders and how much they are shunned in the public sphere.
It may not be an easy or "fun" topic to discuss but it's serious. The thing with eating disorders is that they are quiet. They develop behind closed doors and slowly begin to turn into something bigger.
The three main types of eating disorders are anorexia, bulimia and binge eating. People can have multiple eating disorders or a combination of all three.
Body image plays a huge role in eating disorders. About 80 percent of 11-year-olds are terrified of being fat.
When did our body image start taking over our lives at such a young age? The pressure is everywhere, creating a stronger and more prominent issue.
Like other mental diseases you can't be "cured." Fighting an eating disorder is an ongoing battle. But people can't begin the fight without the support from others and that all starts with a conversation.
That's what the National Eating Disorder Association, NEDA, is all about. They help start the conversation and provide options in their local area to help those seeking support.
Fighting an eating disorder is a difficult path, but doing it alone is even more treacherous. A support system is one of the most important things to have when facing this disease. People need to know they are not alone.
As someone who is that support system for someone facing this disease, I've found that the best thing you can do is to ensure they're getting help and constantly remind them you're there through their tough journey.
Eating disorders are a real problem, especially in the United States. They don't discriminate, either. An 80-year-old grandfather can have an eating disorder.
Just because someone looks healthy, doesn't mean they are. In fact, 13.5 percent of athletes suffer from eating disorders.
It's time to start talking and bring awareness to this very real, and very serious, issue.