For those of you who didn’t know, this week was National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. I have been thinking of what to write about for days because this is such a sensitive topic. Mainly, I wanted to find the right words rather than telling society to screw itself for making so many individuals believe that they have to harm their bodies to fit the unrealistic standard of beautiful.
Everybody has looked in the mirror at least once in their lives and saw something they didn’t like. That’s okay, we all have our off days, but more than half of the population has either suffered from an eating disorder or knows somebody who has. In America, the statistic is every 4 out of 10 people. This means that all of these men and woman hate their bodies so much, that harming themselves to “fix it” is what they resort to. These numbers are heartbreaking for so many reasons.
Eating disorders are defined by abnormal eating habits that may involve either insufficient or excessive food intake to the detriment of an individual’s physical and mental health. Unfortunately, so many people are unaware of what an eating disorder is. Here are some quick statistics I found about other illnesses that affect individuals’ lives. To my knowledge, these three things are talked about extensively more than eating disorders.
1 in 4 Americans 18 and older suffer from a mental illness
1 in 35 American suffer from mental retardation
1 in 88 American (children) are diagnosed with autism
Compare these three statistics to the one about eating disorders: “over half the population has either suffered from an eating disorder or knows somebody who has”. Does this match up? Don’t get me wrong, I think research, awareness, and help for all of the above illnesses is necessary, but I do not understand why the same research, awareness, and help isn’t giving to eating disorders. According to these unofficial statistics, eating disorders affect twice as many people as mental illnesses do, twenty-five times as many people as mental retardation, and fifty times as many people as autism. This is unbelievable! Especially when the mortality rate for eating disorders is constantly increasing. Here are some rough statistics:
4% from anorexia nervosa
3.9% from bulimia nervosa
5.2% from eating disorder not otherwise specified
Combined, the mortality rate for eating disorders is approximately 13% of the affected population. This is unacceptable. So, what is the purpose of me spitting out all of these random statistics that I read about on the internet over the past couple of days in my “free time”? I am acknowledging the seriousness of eating disorders and I am sharing my research. If more people did this, maybe those statistics wouldn’t be so high. Maybe that 16 year-old girl would think she is beautiful even if she doesn’t look like a model in Seventeen. Maybe the model wouldn’t think that she has to stop eating for a few days before her photoshoot. Maybe society would finally understand that everyone is beautiful in their own way.
So what can we do? There are three simple steps that I think can jumpstart change (in many situations, not only eating disorders). These are some of the things I try to think about in my daily routine, which may be insignificant, but here they are. The first step is talking about it. Eating disorders go unnoticed and undiagnosed way too often. Even after diagnosis, there are many people who do not believe it is a serious concern and will refuse to support loved ones in their recovery process. Second, spread positivity. I know this sounds cliché, but it is so important. Smile at a stranger, compliment somebody’s make-up, applaud a classmate on a good grade, or comment on a guy’s outfit. Whatever it is, it will make somebody happy. Third, and most important, change society’s idea of beauty. We are society. We define it. We can change it.
“You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” –Kathryn Stockett, The Help