Growing up and seeing centimeter-wide Disney princess waists, successful anorexic models and tons of retouched women on magazine covers, many people develop eating disorders out of unmet and overwhelming beauty expectations. Because less has been more in our society for a long time, people are encouraged to starve themselves. Sacrificing a healthy lifestyle is often seen as the secret to someone’s personal happiness, and that scares me.
The National Eating Disorders Association, commonly referred to as NEDA, has been fighting the stigma and getting others involved for 33 years now. Since my first “NEDA Feeding Hope” walk in NYC back in 2012, I have found the organization to be inspiring and worth getting involved with. It was eye-opening for me as an insecure seventh grader to see that I was not the only one dealing with my own body-hate issues. At these annual NEDA walks, it’s amazing how many people you can see who are there for each other. These events instilled in me a sense of hope, and I bet we would all feel that way if we recognized how evil this sickness can be.
Through their walks, I’ve learned some shocking statistics. According to the NEDA, 5.2% of girls from a group of 496 girls they’ve followed for eight years until they were 20 “met the criteria for DSMS anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder.” I thought these statistics were especially alarming because of how many times there may have been people with eating disorders around me that have gone unnoticed. Many times, people will even be unaware that they are dealing with one because of little to no education about the symptoms. This is why NEDA is passionate about the cause.
On a more personal note, I think it’s worth discussing how girls would bring up negative comments about their bodies in casual conversations growing up. As early as middle school, I would hear the skinniest girls around me talking about how “fat” they were, and I would roll my eyes. Looking back at it today, I wish I would’ve recognized that these were cases of body dysmorphia around me, and that we were in serious trouble if many people thought this way.
Though it may appear that the media has romanticized eating disorders in the past with films like “To The Bone” with Lily Collins, there are many media-famous role-models today that we should continue to look up to, such as body-image activist Ashley Graham and NEDA ambassador Iskra Lawrence.
Elite Daily delves into an Instagram post back in 2016, when Graham captioned “Someone once told me my thighs were ‘cellulite city.’ But now I realize these thighs tell a story of victory and courage. I will not let others dictate what they think my body should look like for their own comfort, and neither should you.”
We should all be living by this point of view because, though there are many important issues out there that have yet to be resolved, we cannot take much care of what is around us if we don’t have ourselves and our health in check. Eating Disorders Awareness Week is about an issue that isn’t temporary, so it shouldn’t only be a week long. People are still putting their health at stake all year round, and treatment for this is something we should be advocating for more than seven days a year. In the meantime, we should be celebrating successful people of all different body types so that younger folks out there aren’t getting the wrong idea.
There is still much to do.
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Clara Gomes is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org