February is all about causes related to heart health. Last Thursday was CHD (Congenital Heart Disease) awareness day, a time to note that many infants die of heart defects simply because parents are not taught what to keep an eye out for in terms of symptoms or condition changes. Laura Bush made February “Wear Red” Month to help combat heart disease in women.
There’s another cause that tries to pull attention in February, however, and you may not have heard as much about it. February is Eating Disorder Awareness Month.
What qualifies as an eating disorder?
Technically, the following are usually defined as being eating disorders:
- — Anorexia Nervosa
- — Bulimia Nervosa
- — Binge-Eating
Another issue that many struggle with that does not get as much attention is over-exercise to lose weight. Similar to bulimia, people with this disorder will eat a little and then over-exercise because they feel they need to lose the weight.
Eating Disorder Statistics
How much of a problem is this in our society? I found a site called EatingDisorderHope.com and they offer the following statistics:
- — Between 1-4% of women will experience anorexia at some point in their lives
- — Anorexia is the deadliest mental disease; approximately 4% of the people with this disease will die as a result
- — The statistics for bulimia are quite similar, but only 6% of Bulimia patients will ever seek help or treatment
- — Binge-eating is less common, and up to 43% of binge eaters will obtain treatment
- — According to the site, 10,000 women are confronted with an eating disorder in comparison with 1 million men
Why is our society so afflicted with these eating disorder problems? In a country of wealth, why do we have people who are purposely starving themselves?
There are probably many explanations. Stores consistently showcase clothing in smaller and smaller sizes, and few things can impact a person’s confidence more than not fitting into the same types of clothes other people are wearing. Industries like the fashion and acting industries pressure people to be not just thin but ultra-thin. People see how the overweight are bullied and treated with cruelty. Who would want that?
Let’s also not forget that like so many things, society has placed a stigma on not being “perfect,” whether it is your figure, your skin, your height, or anything else. Without proper guidance, love, support, and hope, it is very easy indeed for a person to fall down the slippery slope of feeling that they are not good enough. For these people, anorexia or bulimia can seem like effective “do it yourself” remedies.
What can we do about this?
It might seem like these “awareness” months are silly, but they do give us opportunities to think about how we can raise awareness regarding these important issues. So what can we do about eating disorders in our society?
First and foremost, we need to make sure we are not so hard on ourselves. We don’t all have a round of trainers, make-up specialists, and 6 hours a day for being air-brushed to perfection, right? Even without all of that, we’re fine the way we are. Striving for health is the key, not striving for size negative-7 pants.
Second, we must be more supportive of each other. When was the last time you told someone they looked pretty or handsome? When was the last time you complimented someone who seemed in need of positive reinforcement? These are not “cures” for eating disorders, but for a person who may be suffering from low self-esteem or depression, these little comments, that don’t take much time, can make a world of difference.
Finally, there is a more tangible way you can make a difference. Numerous centers for combatting eating disorders are fundraising online. Find one in your area, or find one that has a mission statement that particularly resonates with you. Make a contribution that will help those who are helping people with eating disorders.
Eating disorders affect millions of people every year. Maybe they have impacted you or someone you love. Take a moment to reflect on how we can combat these issues.