We live in a society where girls as young as age 6 are worried about their body image and becoming "too fat."
Eating disorders are one of the most common mental health issues, affecting nearly 20 million women and 10 million men in the United States at some point in their lives. Yet many people continue to associate eating disorders with a sign of instability and weakness. People often make eating disorders into a joke. This negative connotation often causes people to fear seeking treatment and keep the disorder to themselves. The main issue with secrecy is that it is drastically harming their bodies and lives before it's too late. Eating disorders lead to serious health issues including slow heart rate, low blood pressure, dehydration, kidney failure, muscle loss, or even death.
People who suffer from an eating disorder, whether it be anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, or EDNOS, do not choose to be this way. There are many factors that cause a person's cognition to morph like this such as social pressures, mental or physical abuse, family history, other psychological illnesses, etc. All in all, these people do not choose to act in the way they do. In fact, many people suffering from an eating disorder know deep down that it's bad, but they push it off because it gives them a feeling of satisfaction and pleasure.
If you do not understand eating disorders or other mental illnesses I advise you to become more informed before you write these people off as "weak." People facing mental illnesses are some of the strongest people out there because they are at war with themselves and have to push themselves harder than other people. Unlike other addictions, there is nothing you can just simply "cut out." In recovery for an eating disorder they must choose to trust themselves. They must relearn normalcy in eating, an activity which fuels our lives. It is not something you recover from overnight. It often takes years to fully get back to a "normal" state of mind.
February 21st marked the beginning of the 19th annual National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Some really awesome things that happened in response to this year's National Eating Disorder Awareness Week were the launch of Aerie's Strong, Beautiful, ME campaign in support of NEDAwareness Week and Project HEAL's launch of the #WhatMakesMeBeautiful campaign.
Aerie is one of the few brands that are committed to promoting body-positivity and real-beauty. They are looking to make a real change in the fashion industry by vowing to no longer retouch models. During the Strong, Beautiful, ME campaign Aerie will sale limited edition t-shirts and donate 100% of the profits to the National Eating Disorder Association. Claire Mysko, CEO of NEDA, says, “Walking into stores that are promoting a healthy body image is a huge step for helping all women develop high self-esteem. Body-negativity is so prevalent in our society, but Aerie is taking a stand and making an impressive impact.”
Project HEAL is a non-profit organization that provides financial and emotional support for people suffering from an eating disorder. They announced their new project, #WhatMakesMeBeautiful, on Sunday, February 21st. This campaign is set to redefine beauty. They took several real woman and asked them what makes them beautiful. It's really awesome to see each person's unique idea of what makes them beautiful. It isn't all about appearances. Liana Rosenman, cofounder of Project HEAL, said, "I have never met a woman who doesn’t struggle with some sort of insecurity, no matter what she looks like — myself included. But upon further introspection, I realized that the most beautiful people in my life are those with big hearts, fiery minds, and warm spirits. And as I went on to discover, that is far from an unpopular opinion."
While beauty norms worldwide are causing many women and men to feel insecure about their bodies, some organizations are taking a stand to promote body positivity. Beauty is more than just an external feature. You know how they say, "Don't judge a book by it's cover." Well the same goes for people. There's no such thing as the perfect book, cover or content, but that doesn't mean it isn't a good book. There is more to you than just your cover. You are the writer of your content. Make it beautiful.
National Eating Disorder Week may be over, but that should not stop you from spreading kindness and acceptance to all shapes and sizes.