National Eating Disorders Association

The first time I heard about eating disorders, I was in middle school. Our health class watched a film on the dangers of extreme dieting, and the implications it could have on mental and physical health. I watched intently as the film portrayed the typical narrative of a middle-class Caucasian girl who was on a dangerous path toward starvation. At the time, it was inconceivable to me that I could ever develop an eating disorder. I was just an average sized African-American girl who loved food. 

Today marks PACER’s 2017 Unity Day! Now is a time to unite for kindness, acceptance, and inclusion, and pledge to create a world without bullying. When we stand together, no one stands alone!

Below, three of our writers shared their experiences with bullying, as well as tips on how to protect yourself. 

Three out of my 16 years of life were spent in my eating disorder. It was a silent battle—I appeared as smiley as ever, even through the weeks of being too nauseated to eat, let alone function properly. It wasn’t that I was unloved; I’ve always had a loving, supportive family and solid friends around me. It was for this very reason that I couldn’t share my struggles. I loved and cared for them so deeply that I was willing to keep my pain to myself instead of bringing pain to them.

Leon Silvers is a psychotherapist, founder, and director of Silvers Psychotherapy, a group therapy practice in NYC. He specializes in working with clients with eating disorders, substance abuse, trauma, and LGBT issues.

I've noticed a tremendous inconsistency throughout my years of eating disorder treatment. When I was in treatment for anorexia nervosa purging type, one of the first parts of my recovery was weight restoration. I felt like before I even got into the work of dissecting how/where my eating disorder started, I was required to gain weight.

People often assume that dance training is at odds with the ideals of body positivity. I can understand why – at the professional level, dance has a longstanding reputation of requiring a very narrow ideal body shape and size and dance class can often focus on physical shortcomings. That said, I am a dance teacher, and I believe in the power of body positivity. I believe in its power to inspire young people and to train better, stronger dancers.

Eating disorders disproportionately affect members of the LGBTQ+ community and bullying can serve as one factor in the development of an eating disorder. As a whole, LGBTQ+ young people are more likely to experience bullying at school, sexual harassment, cyberbullying, and property damage. 

The value of relationships cannot be understated. The relationship the patient has with their bodies and their health care providers are two of the most crucial. So many have felt isolated and ashamed and being able to step into a truly "judgment-free zone" with a provider can be life changing. When a patient leaves the office with an inclusive, engaging care plan, there is a visible lightness about them! With that lightness comes long-term positive changes in health. 

Here are four ways that you, as a provider, can create a safe space for patients: 

On October 9, NEDA surveyed over 333 people about how accurately they felt the media portrayed people’s bodies. Of these people, 68% of respondents chose “Very inaccurately,” 24% chose “Fairly inaccurately,” 7% chose “Fairly accurately,” and 1% chose “Very accurately.” 

Everyone has something good inside. Some hide it, some neglect it, but it is there. -Mother Teresa

I still think "self confidence" is one of the most important life skills. Self confidence means that I know my worth and innate goodness even if I've disappointed myself or others. And even if genetics, culture, personal experiences, and environment test me, I'll focus on being good to my self because it matters.