It’s Eating Disorder Awareness Week which brings with it inevitable reflection for many of us who have experienced EDs. It’s natural for us to want to use our own stories as a means of creating awareness. This can be very useful, but it is worth spending the time thinking about how to do it in a constructive way and think about what kind of awareness our actions might actually create.
- Posting an underweight to healthy weight before and after picture reinforces the misconception that you need to be underweight to have an eating disorder (you don’t)
- These pictures are also likely (but not always) to be ‘most dramatic’ for those with anorexia- this reinforces the idea that anorexia is the primary/most common eating disorder (it’s not)
- These pictures don’t create any awareness that EDs can be experienced by those in larger bodies (they can)
- Even pictures of people of moving from ‘small’ body to larger body, or ‘regular’ size body to larger body or ‘large ‘body to larger body (basically all combinations!) suggest that EDs are just about bodies and weight (they’re not)
- Giving details of weight, severity, calories restricted etc fuels the comparative nature of EDs for those still suffering, and could suggest to someone reading that you have to be eating a certain amount, or weight a certain amount or have experienced certain symptoms to be concerned (you don’t – EDs present in all sorts of ways)
- Glamourising severity (however determined) may make people who developed EDs but received early intervention which worked and prevented them developing more serious presentations more reluctant in sharing their story. This therefore undoes the work that EDAW is trying to achieve- we need more stories of how early intervention worked, not less. Severity is not a badge of honour, recovery is.
- Discussing the illness without discussing recovery does not create any awareness of how difficult recovery is, and how much support might be needed from family/ friends/ general society. Tell people about what helped, about how structured eating was necessary, about how talking about behaviours such as binging/ purging reduces shame, about how you need accountability from your support system, or whatever it is that is helpful for you. Try not to make this only food focused.
- Similarly to above, discuss what helps in terms of services. Being inpatient is one kind of treatment, please don’t equate this to severity and glamourise it. Discuss how you found a knowledgeable GP/ primary care doctor (after a few goes probably!). Discuss how regular appointments helped keep you on track. Discuss how recovery can be messy and stop and start. Discuss how voluntary organisations provide additional support (e.g. groups) not available elsewhere. Discuss the self-help literature which helped (and not those which might harm). And if you haven’t received any of this – discuss how this is frustrating and ask how you might be able to contribute to change.
- Equating recovery with muscles/ strength (i.e. photos from the gym or at home) again equates the illness with the body only, and suggests that the primary benefit of recovery is a muscular figure which diminishes all the other amazing benefits that come with recovery, not to mention the fact that many people don’t want to, or can’t achieve this physique.
Eating Disorders are horrific illnesses, those of us suffering and those caring for us know that. This week is an opportunity for us to share that with the world, but with that comes responsibility for what type of awareness we create. Please think carefully.
Okay morning rant over! I’ll also link to last year’s rant! When the before and after don’t look so different