Today marks the start of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (NEDAW), and what is a very important week for a lot of reasons, and yet one that also worries me as people attempt to put their stories out there and raise awareness. Over the week I will publish various posts, and hopefully link to others.
What information bloggers and those who have experience of an eating disorder put out there is incredibly important. Each post, each message carries with it the power to influence other peoples ideas and understanding. This is also the case for writers or journalists of any description.
There are certain things that in my personal opinion are unhelpful, and that at the start of a week like this one, are important to highlight:
- Images of underweight individuals – Images of yourself as someone having had an eating disorder is dangerous for even yourself, but any image attached to a story about eating disorders is also so. It just gives out the message that people have to be severely underweight to have an eating disorder and this is not the case. Raising awareness should primarily be about raising awareness of the fact it is a mental illness that is based on how people feel, and not on how they look. This can also encourage the problematic issue of ‘pro-ana’.
- The focus being solely on one particular type of eating disorder – This is especially the case with Anorexia Nervosa. It is important to increase the awareness of all types of eating disorders including those less well known so that the people experiencing other types of an eating disorder can receive or seek help.
- The focus being on food, weight, body image and behaviours – Again, this distracts from the real problems behind eating disorders, and can also trigger a sense of competitiveness between those with one..
- Talking about personal information – Discussing weight, food intake and particular disordered behaviours can lead to comparison between those who do have eating disorders, and takes away from the real reasons once again.
- Blaming the media – Although the media have a role to play, most people have other reasons and causes to their eating disorder and blaming the media ignores these. Although body image plays a role in eating disorders, there are much more deep rooted psychological issues involved.
- Focusing on one particular person in real life, or within the media – Knowing someone, being someone or seeing someone with an eating disorder doesn’t mean you understand how it feels for different people; everyones experiences are individual.
- Forgetting the point of this week – to make others aware.
Everything should be about increasing the awareness of eating disorders, and doing so in as close to an honest and real representation as possible. This should be in order to increase understanding so that it benefits people – to help individuals with an eating disorder to seek help, to reduce the stigma and to help people without an eating disorder to recognise eating disorders in other people.