Eating Disorder Awareness Week (EDAW) is an annual campaign created by the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) in order to bring awareness to the realities of eating disorders and bring support to those struggling. This year EDAW is February 27th - March 5th.
Bringing awareness to eating disorders is extremely important and necessary. About 9% of the United States population will have an eating disorder in their lifetime, that's roughly 28.8 million people. Most of society does not even know much about eating disorders, yet they are among the deadliest mental illnesses, second to opioid overdose. Despite how prevalent eating disorders are in our society, they aren't talked about enough. Thankfully, this has really started to change and there are ways we can help move this change along.
Below are a few ways you can participate in Eating Disorder Awareness Week this year.
One thing I've seen as an eating disorder therapist is typically people don't know anything about eating disorders until you have to know something about eating disorders. This isn't necessarily an uncommon or outlandish concept, most illness of any kind are like this, but that doesn't mean it should be like this.
Educating yourself on eating disorders is not only looking things up about Anorexia Nervosa or Binge Eating Disorder, it's also about challenging your own thoughts on weight stigma, the constant push for thinness and the potentially harmful relationship society has with exercise. You can read books, learn from recovery focused websites (listed below) and have conversations with individuals in your life. More people are struggling with their relationship with food, emotions and exercise than we think.
Advocating for better education around mental health has seen a big push since the Covid-19 Pandemic which is a wonderful step in the right direction. We can additionally advocate for better nutrition education in schools that are based in the premise of food is fuel and not participating in crash diets. Bringing awareness to eating disorders also brings awareness to trauma, coping tools, treatment options and overall, expanding someones knowledge of mental health.
Advocating for better treatment options is very much needed. There are many financial and systemic barriers in the way of people receiving proper care. Project Heal's mission is to breakdown these barriers and help people receive the care they need and deserve.
Many organizations have volunteer opportunities. Volunteering is a way to give back to the community, learn and expand society's knowledge on these different organizations and their missions. Below are some volunteer opportunities for different eating disorder organizations.
Helpline Volunteer -- NEDA
Recovery Mentor -- ANAD
Ambassador -- Project Heal
Volunteer -- Alliance for Eating Disorders
Organizations collect donations to contribute to the continued research about eating disorders and creating scholarships for individuals who need treatment. Donations also add support to the organizations overall mission on education, awareness and breaking down barriers to support.
NEDA does walks all over the country throughout the year. There is one being held in Westchester County at Rye Neck High School this spring. The date has not been posted just yet, but we will make sure to update this blog when we know it. If you cannot attend the walk, you can also donate!
This is not an exhaustive list of things you can do this year for Eating Disorder Awareness Week nor does it scratch the surface of what these organizations (and many others) do to increase support for those struggling with eating disorders, but it's a start. If you have any questions regarding the information listed above, please don't hesitate to reach out!
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder/disordered eating, please reach out for the help you deserve. You are worthy and recovery is possible.
Stephanie Polizzi is a licensed psychotherapist (LMHC) in Scarsdale, NY at Peaceful Living Mental Health Counseling, serving clients living in NY, NJ and FL.
Stephanie specializes in working with children, teens and adults struggling with anxiety,eating disorders, behavioral challenges, life transitions and trauma.