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National Eating Disorder Awareness Week

No, the title of this post is not the most uplifting thought in the world. But it's an issue that's plaguing my peers and isn't going away any time soon. Scratch that, it's not just an issue, or something that haunts insecure teenagers with nothing better to think about than themselves. Eating disorders are life threatening illnesses caused by dangerous pressures and behaviors that need to be addressed.

I see this every day at my school in a vast spectrum of ways. I saw it just the other day in the bathroom at school (such a cliche but shit seriously does go down in the bathroom...). This girl that I don't know very well came up beside me at the mirror. She's a talented athlete and somebody I considered, at least from a far, to be confident and sure of herself. "Oh my god, I look so fat today," said this girl, probably around 5'6" and 115 pounds. "You definitely don't," I assured her. She smiled, but she smiled in the same way that I smile when I feel fat and somebody assures me that I'm not. Yeah right, you think, so the fact that I wouldn't look out of place in a maternity clothing store is all in my head? I don't think so. I can't even say why she felt this way, or how serious it was - but even in somebody I considered to be confident, the bad body image was there. And that is definitely not even on the bad end of cases I've seen.

We've all felt fat. I have definitely felt fat, but have never gotten to the place where I feel so desperate and overwhelmed that I've turned to an eating disorder. But the real problem is, on some level this is a universal experience.

I've decided to contribute to this week by raising awareness on this site. So many people don't understand what having an eating disorder means or truly entails. Ignorance breads stigmas, stigmas don't help anybody. So here is some information about eating disorders: (all information from the National Eating Disorders Association)

Terms and Definitions

Anorexia Nervosa Anorexia Nervosa is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss.

Binge Eating Disorder Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is a type of eating disorder not otherwise specified and is characterized by recurrent binge eating without the regular use of compensatory measures to counter the binge eating.

Bulimia Nervosa Bulimia Nervosa is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by a cycle of bingeing and compensatory behaviors such as self-induced vomiting designed to undo or compensate for the effects of binge eating.

Factors That Contribute to Eating Disorders

While eating disorders may begin with preoccupations with food and weight, they are most often about much more than food. NEDA acknowledges there may be a difference of opinion among experts and the literature on this topic and we encourage readers to explore the topic further, using all means available to them. Such factors include psychological issues such as low self-esteem, depression, anxiety or loneliness; relationship issues such as a history of being teased, sexual abuse, or troubled personal relationships; social factors such as cultural pressures and norms, and even biological factors such as genetics and chemical imbalances (scientists are still researching these possibilities).

To learn more, click here.

Quick Facts

In the U.S. eating disorders are more common than Alzheimer's disease (10 million people with eating disorders as compared to 4 million with Alzheimer's). Yet funding for eating disorder research is approximately 75% less than that for Alzheimer's.

The average direct medical costs for treating eating disorder patients in the United States alone is currently between $5-6 billion per year, where as the global cost of any psychotic medication is $7 billion per year.

Anorexia nervosa has the highest premature mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder. The majority of deaths are due to physiological complications.

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I know this issue is incredibly personal, but I find the best way to learn about something is to hear it through stories - first hand accounts and perspectives. If anybody is brave enough, I think it'd be great if we could share stories about this issue. I think talking about it is truly the best way to spread awareness.



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Julie Zeilinger
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