National Eating Disorders Association
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Understanding Eating Disorders

National Minority Mental Health Month may be winding down, but the conversation about mental health in marginalized communities doesn’t — and shouldn’t — stop. Mental health issues don’t discriminate. Although eating disorders have historically been associated with young, cisgender, straight, white, upper-class females, they can affect anyone. They don’t choose any one race, ethnicity, class, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability, or any other classification. While anyone can have an eating disorder, minorities tend to face unique obstacles when dealing with mental health issues.

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If you ask my friends in NYC to describe me, you’ll be painted a picture of a boss lady taking on the city as a full-time professor, writer, and consultant, in addition to being a fitness influencer. They’ll also tell you I’m a people person, excitable, and will always make time to help you move apartments and celebrate your birthday.   

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The focus in the eating disorders field is usually on diagnoses, symptoms, and related impairment. There has been little research, or even discussion, about negative traits that were present during the illness, which can be positive during and after eating disorder recovery. This is particularly important because, for most people, these traits will persist throughout their lives. In addition, Walter Kaye, MD, has noted that these traits may confer advantages in professions.

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For so long, I existed in what I thought was a gray area. The entity I can now recognize as diet culture was guiding me for my whole life, or at least beginning from the moment I understood that hating my body was commonplace. As a child, I considered the images and perspectives from TV, movies, magazines, and real-life conversations and decided that diets were good. Being on a diet would make me good. Exercising would make me good, and it would all make me smaller.

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NEDA’s first Regional Conference will take place Saturday, May 12 at Drexel University. #NEDACon is designed to bring together individuals and loved ones who are experiencing eating disorders or wanting to learn more about eating and body image issues.

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If struggling with an eating disorder has ever left you feeling isolated or “different” than the people around you, or if you’ve ever looked around and realized that you’re recovering into a culture that can be unsupportive and even hostile to the healthy attitudes and habits you’re working to adopt, then give yourself the gift of attending a NEDA conference.

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Two and a half years ago, I arrived in sunny San Diego, not knowing a single soul in the area and certainly not knowing what I would experience over the next few days. 

I was in town for the annual NEDA Conference, the first one I had ever attended. I remember feeling exceedingly nervous -- would I find people to talk to? Would I learn anything? I had no basis as to what I would experience. Luckily, I had an amazing time, and consider the conference one of the most valuable experiences of my personal and professional life to date. 

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When I first started writing this post, my intention was to highlight how eating disorders affect the Muslim community in ways that differ from people of other faiths (or no faith). However, the more I looked into it and the more I thought about what I’ve been through, I realized that I would be doing you, the reader, a disservice. Instead, I want to delve deeper into the Muslim community (a rare occurrence in this context) and explain how Muslims deal with facets of eating disorders that we don't think that they do. 

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Where Do I Start?

You've decided it's time to seek help and we're so glad you did. NEDA is here to support you on your journey. These resources can help you take the first step to getting the help you deserve. 

Where Do I Start?What are the warning signs and symptoms of an eating disorder?

When my daughter was a toddler, she was what we considered a “picky eater.” As she got older and her picky eating habits got more severe, we began to seriously worry. She didn’t just clamp her mouth shut or shake her head “no” when new foods were set out for dinner. She would gag or choke if she tried anything new. Meals became a battle, with us trying to get her to eat something healthy, and her continuing to refuse.

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