National Eating Disorders Association

As the largest information clearinghouse about eating disorders and related issues, the National Eating Disorders Association recognizes that the media is one of our most important allies in the effort to raise awareness about the dangers of eating disorders. For this reason, we strive to work with the media to produce accurate, insightful and informative pieces that will resonate with the public.  

Eating disorders are complex illnesses that affect all kinds of people, regardless of gender, age, size, ethnicity, or background, and they need to be treated carefully in media coverage.  Avoiding numbers, stereotypes, and before/after comparisons is critical. 

Tips for covering eating disorders issues with sensitivity 

  • Try to strike a balance between "serious" and "hopeless," and always encourage people to seek help for themselves or loved ones who are suffering. Recovery is long and often challenging but it is achievable and there are many options available.
  • Include information and treatment resources wherever possible - The National Eating Disorders Association website, screening tool, toll-free National Eating Disorders Helpline (800-931-2237), and 24/7 Crisis Support via text (send NEDA to 741741) are great resources. 
  • If you need more information, ask! The National Eating Disorders Association has the latest resources-and in many cases, we may be able to point you to treatment professionals or prevention volunteers in your coverage area.
  • Please note: We cannot connect media to people who are currently struggling with an eating disorder for ethical and legal reasons. However, if you are interested in speaking with an expert and/or someone in recovery from an eating disorder, please contact Vicki Greenleaf at [email protected].

Several common coverage mistakes can unintentionally cause serious harm.

When you cover eating disorders, please:  

  • Don't focus on graphic images or descriptions of the bodies of eating disorder sufferers. Research proves that coverage dramatizing dangerous thinness can provoke a "race to the bottom" among other sufferers (i.e., “They are  thinner than I am and she's still alive, so I should lose more weight; or I’m not that sick, so I don’t really have a problem).
  • Don't play the numbers game. "She ate X calories a day" or "He took as many as X laxatives at a time" can turn a well-intentioned article into a recipe for disaster.
  • Watch out for the appearance-ideal.  Eating disorders and their sufferers shouldn't be glamorized or, worse yet, presented as people with "astounding will-power" or "incredible self-control." 
  • Be careful with narratives of "bravely fighting the illness alone." Perhaps your subject did, but most don't - the vast majority of those who beat eating disorders do it with the ongoing help of trained medical professionals. Consider how you would write about someone "bravely fighting" alcohol or drug addiction without proper intervention and professional care.  

Thank you for your commitment to accurate, sensitive, and responsible coverage!

For additional questions, please contact [email protected]