On Sunday, the annual National Eating Disorders Awareness Week started and until March 1, the association will once again try to reduce the worldwide stigma surrounding eating disorders. This year’s theme is focused on educating people to recognize the signs of eating disorders at an early stage.
Every year, the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) asks people to help raise awareness by organizing a variety of events, such as exhibits, movie screens, presentations and health fairs. This year, Elizabeth Nicholl, senior at Central Michigan University, is determined to raise awareness at her campus for the first time. Her curiosity developed after her classmate Kelly Markatos died of an eating disorder. Nicholl said, “It broke my heart to know that one of my classmates had died of an eating disorder. My curiosity started as a personal project, but then I wondered if I could do something on a local level to help raise awareness.” After asking for information at her university, she found nothing but old handouts and outdated information. Nicholl saw this as opportunity and updated three different brochures, which she hopes will also be available outside of her university. In addition, she has planned educational and stress-relieving activities for her fellow students during Eating Disorders Awareness Week.
President and CEO of NEDA, Lynn Grefe, is thankful that an increasing number of people is participating the Eating Disorders Awareness Week to help reduce the worldwide stigma. “What you do not know, can hurt you or someone you love. It is time to educate ourselves and each other so we can recognize the signs of an eating disorder and to point out that there is help available. Eating disorders are life-threatening illnesses,” Grefe says. In the past years, NEDA has expanded its annual campaign to all states in the U.S. and 30 other countries. They hope to continue to expand in the coming years.
This year’s events include The Great Jeans Giveaway, where people are encouraged to throw away jeans that do not fit and to be comfortable in their bodies. Another event, called Scale Smashing, encourages people to examine their relationship with the scale and start a dialog and on the evening of February 25, the Empire State Building in New York City will be lit in green and blue, NEDA’s signature colors.
Dr. Aaron Krasner says, “Eating disorders are a complicated illness. We do not fully understand the pathophysiology of them, but we are pretty sure there are genetic and environmental components.” According to Krasner, it is difficult to prevent or cure an eating disorder. He says, “There is not one remedy that will work for every patient nor is there one particular strategy to prevent it. This goes for all psychiatric illnesses, but especially for eating disorders.”
There are an estimated 24 million people who suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S. and studies have shown that eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses, whether the patient suffers from anorexia, bulimia or even binge eating disorders. While the Eating Disorders Awareness Week only occurs once every year, the NEDA is determined to reduce the worldwide stigma on a daily basis. The association helps people from all over the world to find information and appropriate treatment through its toll-free, live help line and through its website.
By Diana Herst