How To Show Up During Eating Disorder Awareness Week

Posted by Maryvale on Feb 20, 2024 12:44:22 PM


This week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, a time to confront pervasive issues around how food and body image issues impact people, especially teenage girls and women. Eating disorders are increasingly common among children and teens and can have devastating effects that start during youth and last a lifetime. Observing Eating Disorder Awareness Week provides an opportunity for families and communities to come together, raise awareness, and support those affected by eating disorders.


Don’t Forget That Eating Disorders are Life-Threatening

It is important to note that while it seems like eating disorders are everywhere, they are serious and have enormous consequences, including lasting illness and, in some cases, death. Recognizing eating disorders’ harmful impact on a young person’s health is crucial. Virtually every organ system in the body is harmed by eating disorders. Severe eating disorders can cause lasting damage to a person’s skin, bones, and muscle fibers and compromise the immune system, leading to frequent colds, cases of flu, and more severe infections. Without intervention and treatment, up to 20% of eating disorder cases can result in death. 


How To Confront a Teen with an Eating Disorder

To help bridge the communication gap between teens and adults, it is critical for adults to approach conversations around eating disorders with compassion and empathy. Try to understand their perspective rather than diving in and accusing a teen of doing something wrong. Do they feel alienated by their peers? Are they setting unrealistic expectations for themselves? Has pop culture created an impossible set of beauty ideals for them to aspire to? Find ways to level with them and to appreciate their experience. 


Understanding different eating disorders and why they happen can help guide parents through intervention or relapse. Parents can take responsibility for scheduling appointments with dieticians and pediatricians to reinforce healthy ideas around food, nutrition, and body image when it feels right.


Essential Topics and Activities for Eating Disorder Awareness Week

If you are not in a situation that requires critical care or intervention, the best way to observe this important week is through prevention and education. Here are some core topics to bring to young people as they navigate their relationship with their bodies:


  • Promote a Positive Body Image: Encouraging a healthy body image and self-esteem from an early age can be a powerful preventive measure. Help children and teens see the beauty in all sorts of body shapes and sizes.
  • Learn About Nutrition: We all know how it feels to have an empty tummy! Schools, communities, and families should prioritize education about healthy foods and the risks associated with extreme dieting and disordered eating.
  • Empower Teens with Media Literacy: Teaching media literacy helps teens critically evaluate unrealistic beauty standards portrayed in the media, fostering a more realistic and positive self-perception.
  • Use Inclusive Language: Be intentional about using inclusive and positive language surrounding body image. Encourage community members to be mindful of the words they use, fostering an environment of empathy and understanding. Avoid making comparisons between one type of body vs. another. Focus on the attributes a person can enjoy about their body – perhaps they like the way they look in a certain outfit, or they feel strong after eating a healthy meal. 
  • Do Your Part to Create Safe Spaces: Establish safe spaces within communities where individuals can share their experiences, concerns, and triumphs related to eating disorders. Encourage active listening and empathy.
  • Be Clear About How To Seek Help: Promote messages that destigmatize seeking help for mental health issues. Encourage open conversations about mental health within families, schools, and communities. Offer actionable steps for teens who are questioning whether or not they are ready to seek help.

In the journey toward adolescent self-discovery, addressing eating disorders with transparency and openness is a crucial step in fostering physical and mental well-being. By engaging in these initiatives, families and communities can actively contribute to the destigmatization of eating disorders, create supportive environments, and foster a culture of empathy. Showing up during Eating Disorder Awareness Week is not just about raising awareness but also about building a foundation for ongoing support and education – an approach that is close to our hearts at Maryvale. Join us in advocating for a world where every young person feels valued, confident, and capable of embracing their unique beauty.

Topics: eating disorder