In 2014, I was in the early days of my recovery from an eating disorder, and although it is a very personal experience, I wanted to share my story to help provide hope to others that recovery from an eating disorder is possible. I chose to work with the National Eating Disorders Association’s advocacy program to lead a legislative campaign in my home state of Pennsylvania because I believe that advocates and those in public service can foster change by working creatively to communicate the needs of individuals. I reached out to former Pennsylvania State Representative Steve Santarsiero to introduce a bill requiring public schools to provide parents of students from grades 5-12 with educational information on eating disorders. The legislation has been reintroduced this year by Pennsylvania State Representative Perry Warren of District 8.
Eating disorders are serious conditions that are potentially life-threatening and negatively impact physical and emotional health. Many individuals, families, and communities are unaware of the pressures, attitudes, and behaviors that increase risk for developing an eating disorder. Countless cases of eating disorders go undetected; less than one-third of youth with eating disorders will receive treatment. Eating disorder experts have found that prompt intensive treatment significantly improves the chances of recovery, indicating the importance for educators, medical providers, parents, and community members to be aware of the warning signs and the symptoms of eating disorders.
It is essential for school educators and parents to have information regarding eating disorders to be able to know warning signs and how best to help their students and children. Many schools focus on healthy eating to prevent obesity, yet they put little focus into the ramifications this can have on an individual with a pre-disposition to eating disorders. Due to the society’s view of thinness and healthy eating, many eating disorders go dangerously unrecognized. Eating disorders do not discriminate; they can affect people of any race, age, and economic status. Additionally, you can’t tell if someone has an eating disorder just by looking at them, which is something that needs to be stressed more. Parents need to know that weight should not be the only sign of an eating disorder.
My work over the past three years with this legislative campaign has been fulfilling, and I know I have helped bring awareness to legislators, parents, and educators, which, in turn, will help those struggling with eating disorders. Eating disorders need to be on the forefront of schools’ and parents’ minds and I strongly believe this legislation can do that. My experience strengthened my recovery greatly. It helped me stand up to my eating disorder, and believe recovery was not only possible, but also worth it. Every legislator I get to speak to is one more person who is educated on eating disorders and one more person who can help end the suffering of individuals.
The National Eating Disorders Association will be hosting an advocacy day on June 6th to urge legislators to co-sponsor Representative Warren’s bill to help move it forward. We need support from as many people in the state as possible, so I encourage you to join us as we continue the fight to make a difference in Pennsylvania! Register today.