Each year the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) raises awareness around a highlighted week every February. NEDA Week has been instrumental in increasing the conversation around eating disorders and allowing individuals to learn, discuss, and advocate. This year, the theme is See The Change, Be The Change. This theme encompasses over 20 years of influence that NEDA has had on society and government. The theme also allows us to understand how the understating of eating disorders has evolved for both individuals, families, and professionals alike.
Promoting awareness and encouraging conversations has benefited individuals who struggle with feeling alone or are unable to connect with social supports. This can be due to the common myths or perspectives about eating disorders which does not always highlight the diversity and complexity of such illnesses. Often the questions arise: What are the types of eating disorders? How to tell if your loved one is suffering? What should I say or not say to someone in recovery? These questions are just some of many that loved ones want answers to. The NEDA website has wonderful resources on not only these questions but also guides to creating awareness.
For NEDA week this year, I decided to ask my twin sister Morgan if I could interview her on this topic. Morgan has been in recovery from an eating disorder for numerous years. She has experienced relapses and difficulties, but has always fought hard to choose recovery.
Q: So how can people understand what eating disorders look like?
Morgan: “Eating disorders can happen to anyone…no matter their background, age, body type, etc. I think that is the first thing people need to understand. Eating disorders have a spectrum, I personally suffered from Anorexia Nervosa, which involved restricting the amount of food I was eating. There are other common disorders such as Bulimia and Binge Eating Disorder. One of the parts I remember about treatment was being in a therapy group with individuals suffering from a range of disorders…there was one common thing among us though, our desire to recover.”
Q: What types of symptoms or behaviors should people recognize?
Morgan: “well there are a ton…I would say how someone behaves around food. I know that I would just not eat and throw away my lunch or make excuses that I wasn’t hungry…maybe someone else exercises an extreme amount or another person hides food or consumes a large amount of food in a short period of time. One thing I would say that is common is lying and concealing the behaviors or making excuses…that is a key indicator that maybe your loved one is suffering.
Q: What about recovery? How would you explain this journey to an outsider?
Morgan: “whew…where to begin…um recovery is not easy. I remember how during the height of my disorder and relapses…recovery felt like an everyday/all day challenge. It was a battle. The uncomfortability, the emotions, surviving and trying to continue living life…it’s so hard. Someone in recovery from an eating disorder is a bada**..whoops…but no they are so strong and inspiring. For me, I thought a lot about how I did not want to continue feeling this way nor did I want to pass on these behaviors to my future children. Support is key. Finding your why…why are you maintaining recovery and forgiving yourself…I had to forgive myself for allowing my mind and anxiety to take over me in such a way. I also had to ask for forgiveness to my body, which may sound weird, but I had put it through so much and needed to apologize and promise to take care of it better.
Q: NEDA Week 2022’s title is “See The Change, Be The Change”….what can others do to help bring awareness to eating disorders?
Morgan: “I think the theme of this year is really needed. Fighting for understanding and support and recognition of these disorders is so important. How to raise awareness? Well I would say educate yourself…look at credible resources.
As previously mentioned, the NEDA website highlights various resources on eating disorder education, awareness, and advocacy. It can also be helpful to provide personal stories of struggle and recovery to not feel alone and to also know that recovery is possible. I often reflect during NEDA week and try to utilize quotes or imagery that encompasses a sense of support. My favorite quote has been, “When you feel like giving up on recovery, remember why you’ve held on for so long”. I want clients, families, and friends to understand that having a conversation about eating disorders is beneficial to growth and healing. I also want clients to feel empowered in their story and to use such awareness events to feel seen and heard.
For more information on NEDA Week 2022 please visit the association website:
Special thanks to my twin sister for being a voice within the mental health community and using her story to help others. Thanks!
Written by Maya Jefferson, LCSW
Maya is a therapist who is passionate about the working in the mental health feild. She has a special interested in disordered eating, body image and working with women of color who are seeking mental health treatment. She approaches therapy with a down-to-earth feel that is both compassionate and actionable. In her free time you can find her playing guitar, singing and reading.
If you’re interested in setting up an appointment with Maya, Contact her today.
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