I am bored.
I am bored of Eating Disorders Awareness Week and how it’s just turned into ‘show off your dramatic story with pictures’ week.
That’s not the point. The point is to educate people about eating disorders. The point is to educate people so that they can spot them in themselves or others at a stage that’s early enough for minimal help to be beneficial.
The point is to remind the worlds that people living with eating disorders are not freaks and weirdos and that we’re safe to have real, normal jobs in the real world.
I flick through Instagram and Facebook at this time of year and it’s full of facts and figures about how long people have fasted for; how many calories people have eaten in a day; the number of admissions to hospital they’ve had. I’m not laying blame whilst boosting my own sense of worthiness: I’ve done it myself in the past. Does it raise awareness of eating disorders? Does it heck. It tells other people how sick you were, but it doesn’t tell anyone anything useful about diagnosis, or treatment or how to cope if someone in their family is showing signs of Anorexia or Bulimia.
What it actually makes people feel is worried, or frightened, or that the problems they’re facing aren’t serious enough to warrant any sort of treatment. If you tell people about your ‘journey’ by outlining the low points – or the low points, but exaggerated – all that happens is that they begin to believe that they are not worthy of help because they’re ‘not bad enough’. If we tell people about what they are to look out for, or urge them to visit their GP or talk to a teacher or a friend, then that practical advice is helpful and raises awareness of eating disorders. Isn’t that what we’re trying to do?
So, this Eating Disorders Awareness Week, please do not rely on the word ‘fragile’; on metaphors comparing yourself to a dying leaf. Please do not mention the number of kilograms you have lost or gained, or the BMI you hit ‘at your worst’. Please do not talk about the tiny amount of food you once ate in a day, or the calories you allowed yourself. Please do not post photos of yourself at your ‘worst’ and now – everyone with an eating disorder knows that it’s difficult for people with eating disorders to look at, and that it conveys no ‘awareness’ to people who have no experience with eating disorders. Please don’t fall prey to the competition that comes with describing being in hospital or wearing children’s clothes.
Instead, share a recovery tip; explain what the very first symptom of your eating disorder was; give people the courage to believe that people do get better; give the numbers of helplines people can ring if they need support.
Please don’t brag or boast or glamorise: it’s an illness, not a lifestyle choice.
PS. As usual this was written with no-one specific in mind. I am not attacking anybody in particular, just addressing a growing trend I have noticed.