National Eating Disorders Association

Organizations from across the country have joined together in partnership to advance the field of eating disorders and build a community of support and hope.  This collaboration has served one fundamental purpose: to provide a unified voice for the individuals and families we support.  Mobilized around our missions to advocate, to educate, and to heal, the NEDA Network is a community of eating disorders organizations connecting national, regional, and local communities with critical resources.   

On behalf of the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), I want to thank everyone for a meaningful and empowering National Eating Disorders Awareness (NEDAwareness) Week 2020.

At the beginning of the week, we posted a question on Instagram Stories asking, “What advice would you give yourself and others this NEDAwareness Week?” As those responses were coming in, I had the honor of kicking off NEDAwareness Week with a few pieces of advice from the NEDA team:

1. No Before and After Photos 

The Yoga and Body Image Coalition is a 2020 Featured NEDAwareness Week Partner. YBIC’s mission is to work with all of the ways yoga and body image intersect to create greater access and dignity for all. As part of NEDAwareness Week, YBIC invited its community members to “share their stories about how the practice of yoga has played an integral role in their healing and recovery from eating disorders” for its blog.

Eating is emotional. Food is used to celebrate special occasions and to comfort us during sadness and loss. We associate specific foods with certain holidays, and smelling foods that are familiar to us from childhood can bring up special memories or feelings. As babies, we used eating as a way to soothe us when upset and we are often given food as a reward for an accomplishment. Eating and food are emotional. And yet, when it comes to what we have defined as “emotional eating” it is almost always talked about in a negative way. 

Like most people who received graduate training in psychology, I received limited information about eating disorders. I was taught that eating disorders afflicted only white, college-educated, cisgender, straight women. My experience told a different story—I was wrestling with my own eating disorder, one in which I was preoccupied with restriction, nutrition, and exercise, but did not meet full criteria for any diagnoses in the DSM.

I am happy to learn about NEDA’s First In-District Advocacy Day taking place today. Over 400 advocates signed up to meet the district staff of their Member of Congress to raise awareness and effect policy change for eating disorders. That’s a lot of people who care about eating disorders using their voices to promote the need for better federal eating disorders policy! 

This time last year, I’d really only just begun to accept the fact that I have an eating disorder. Not a “weird food thing,” not “disordered behaviors,” not a “strong dislike of food” — I have an eating disorder, and with it, a long road ahead to repair my relationship to food and to my body.

I spent the majority of the last 10 years convinced that my eating disorder was a thing of the past. In a culture that reinforces and even praises disordered eating behaviors, I thought my quasi-recovered state was the best I could hope for. After all, the rest of the world is engaging in restriction, “clean eating,” and vilifying entire food groups so it was hard to recognize my relationship with food as problematic when our culture encourages and reinforces disordered eating.

I teach teachers about the body image challenges children face in our culture, giving them tools to address the epidemic of body image problems kids suffer today. Many of these problems are attributed to the recent explosion of visual social media, like Instagram and Snapchat. In the seven years I’ve been researching, speaking, and writing about today’s body image issues, I’ve switched my focus from teaching kids how to cope with this culture, to actively changing the culture to accept all human shapes and sizes.

If someone would've told me ten years ago that I would no longer be in pursuit of weight loss today, I wouldn't have believed it.


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